For Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, his ouster as senate deputy speaker is equivalent to a fall from the skies to the gutter, coming three years after he lost his position as Senate majority leader.
In Jubilee’s first term, when Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were more or less siamese twins, Kindiki, who was then the Senate majority leader, epitomized the benefits of being in the right party at the right time.
He was a member of the grouping former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto christened as the ‘Sky Team’ because of their fondness of using choppers to travel up and down the country, to send signals to all that they would be in power for 20 years as their man, Ruto, was destined to succeed Uhuru in 2022.
But the Sky Team died a natural death days to the 2017 elections, after its members were accused of not only being out of touch with the common voter but also acting as brokers for multi-billion shillings government tenders to Chinese firms at a fee.
The team was also accused of fleecing parastatal bosses, cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries to award tenders to their favoured local and foreign firms in the name of raising money for 2017 polls.
Besides Kindiki, other members of the Sky Team, most of who were members of the defunct United Republican Party were former national assembly majority leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township MP), then Kericho Senator and now Energy cabinet secretary Charles Keter, former senate majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen (now Elgeyo Marakwet senator) and Meru senator MP Mithika Linturi.
Before then, the Tharaka Nithi senator, who was among a battery of international and local lawyers who represented the deputy president at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, where the DP faced crimes against humanity charges, had everything going his way, with indications he would be the first resident of Mount Kenya East to occupy a national post – that of a deputy president.
As senate majority leader, Kindiki was the most senior politician in the larger Meru region which coupled with being a firm supporter of Ruto sent signals that he was being groomed to be Ruto’s running mate in 2022.
Indeed, at one time during a visit to Kathangacine in Tharaka Nithi county, Ruto almost let the cat out of the bag when he fell short of naming Kindiki as his preferred running mate in 2022 when he likened his rise to political power to the senator’s.
Ruto electrified the crowd by stating that as Eldoret North MP, he faced opposition just as the Tharaka Nithi senator was facing from detractors who included then Meru governor Peter Munya, but he managed to overcome the challenges and rose to become the deputy president.
The residents at the event held their breath, waiting for the DP to utter the words that would effectively dim hopes of any other person dreaming of the plum job, which they assumed was for Kindiki.
This was the time then Munya, now Agriculture cabinet secretary, was under pressure from his supporters to run for the presidency or go for a running mate slot to stop a Tharaka from dreaming of leading the Meru community.
Come the 2017 elections, Kindiki lost the position of senate majority leader but scooped that of deputy speaker, again placing him at a focal point in Uhuru succession.
For some time, Kindiki opted to carry out his duties behind media cameras at a time the deputy president faced an onslaught from his own boss, Uhuru, who also extended the blitz to the DP’s allies in and outside parliament.
For Kindiki, his day of reckoning came when he made no-show at the senate parliamentary group meeting at State House on May 11 convened by the president.
It was after this defiance that Uhuru sanctioned the removal of the senator and committee chairpersons allied to Ruto from parliamentary slots as the rift between him and his deputy widened.
Kindiki was then sitting in the powerful five-member speaker’s panel and was the second in command in the senate after speaker Kenneth Lusaka.
After his removal, Kindiki’s solace was only that most of the greater Meru elected leaders opted to side with him.
And now as he ponders his next move, it is not lost to observers that the larger Meru community and Mount Kenya East, which comprises Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties, is feeling the loss and betrayal by their Central Kenya counterparts.
Going by the protests especially on social media, which were fast and furious and the Facebook rants by many including leaders, it is clear that Kindiki’s ouster will play a significant role in influencing the community’s political direction in 2022.
Indeed, the revered Njuri Ncheke council of elders, aware of the political ramifications of ousting Kindiki, had offered to intervene to save him but it was too late as the president had made up his mind to axe him.
The Meru and Tharaka Nithi residents had also set aside their historical differences to side with Kindiki, with many grumbling the president should have spared him in the purge directed at Ruto loyalists within Jubilee.
Kindiki, who had declared his ambition to be president, was emerging as the right heir of Uhuru’s baton in Mt Kenya.
Indeed, between 2015 and 2017, Kindiki, as senate majority leader, embarked on consolidating Mt Kenya East as a political bloc with the blessings of Uhuru.
He used to visit all the right places and saying all the right things, with Mt Kenya East paying keen attention.
The senator even declared he was positioning himself as Ruto’s running mate in 2022, a declaration he made in the presence of Njuki at Kathwana in October 2017.
But his demotion as senate majority leader where he was replaced by Murkomen saw his slow down on his campaign to be Ruto’s running mate.
Prior to the 2017 polls, he had contemplated going for the gubernatorial seat but opted to defend his senatorial seat, leaving Njuki to battle it out with then incumbent governor Samuel Ragwe of Narc Kenya.
For the better part of 2019 and until his ouster, Prof Kindiki largely remained silent and invisible even as Ruto loyalists under Tangatanga intensified their opposition to the handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Until his ouster, he had not publically pronounced himself on the Building Bridges Initiative matter, neither attended any of the rallies organised around the initiative.
But even after his ouster, his options are still aplenty as he could decide to throw himself in Ruto’s brigade, hoping to be chosen the running mate.
He could also decide to mount a campaign to unseat Njuki as governor or he could decide to use the wave generated by his ouster to define himself and revive his national political career independently.
He could also position himself as a sober, independent mind who could easily take up the Chief Justice or Attorney General’s position or any national position like a cabinet secretary slot when the opportunity strikes.
But before then, he will have to fight village battles like the current one where he has collided with Njuki over the expansion of Kathwana municipality from 25 to 333 square kilometres.
Addressing residents of Mariani Ward in Chuka subcounty over the weekend, Kindiki faulted the decision by the county leadership to ‘forcibly’ include Mariani ward in the municipality without conducting public participation to hear the views