Former minister Joseph Nyaga is poised for a major political comeback following concerted efforts by Mt Kenya region grassroots leaders to front a unifying point man for the region in the dominant union between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, with the singular focus on the 2022 general elections. Already, word has it that William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi strategists are trying to reach out to Nyaga to strike a political alliance. Sources intimate that the former minister emerged a favourite as the populous regions’ rallying point after an almost unanimous endorsement by the entire leadership of the numerous small pentecostal and indigenous church denominations in the region which operate under one umbrella body. The churches are credited with anchoring Uhuru’s candidature in the 2013 and 2017 general elections which he won on both occasions. The choice of Nyaga, a son of the former long-serving minister the late Jeremiah Nyaga is expected to be unveiled in due course. This latest development follows a series of consultations and meetings by stakeholders in various parts of the region.
Highly vocal voices in this development are the indigenous African independent churches, the Bethswell ministries and the Akorino church which have in the past coronated Nyaga as the Mt Kenya political spokesman. It is said that over half of the mainstream churches are in agreement with the move due to concerns of their members. Tellingly also, the famous councils of elders of the main communities:- Agikuyu, Ameru, Embu, Tharaka and Mbeere have been lobbied and have no objections. Those overlooked as Nyagah emerged favourite include troubled Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru, Muranga’s Mwangi Wa Iria (founder leader of Civic Renewal Front- party), Tharaka Nithi senator Kithure Kindiki, Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua, Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi, Kenya Social Congress party leader Peter Kenneth, sacked Agriculture minister Mwangi Kiunjuri from Laikipia and former Kiambu governors William Kabogo and Ferdinand Waititu who have been angling to rise to the leadership of the region’s politics, all who were assessed and found wanting in various aspects needed to unify and pacify the region’s voters to still vote together come the 2022 presidential elections.
Whereas Kenneth, Karua, Murungi and Kindiki have been dismissed as elitist and poor grassroots mobilizers, the Kiambu duo of Kabogo and Waititu was found unsuitable because they are too abrasive and divisive, plus they come from Uhuru’s home county which will alienate other voters in the region. On the other hand, Kiunjuri was rated as a non-performer given his lackluster record as a minister in both Kibaki and Uhuru cabinets. Wa Iria was found a weak leader only known in Murang’a county hence unappealing in the other counties. Embattled Waiguru was set aside to clear her name over the many corruption and integrity issues facing her since her days as cabinet secretary for Devolution and Planning. Apart from the various individual attributes and competencies used to downgrade the suitabilities of the other wannabes, the issue of equality and subethnic balance in the vote-rich region took centre stage in all the consultative meetings that have been going on since late last year. Venues for the meetings included: Nairobi, Nakuru, Nanyuki, Meru, Maua, Marimanti, Embu, Mwea and Kitengela.
The balancing matter came up strongly after it was pointed out that the Kikuyu have been biggest beneficiaries of the support from the Meru, Embu, Mbeere and Tharaka over the years and have produced the last two consecutive presidencies (Kibaki and Uhuru) a factor that can in due course be exploited by opponents to split the region’s political unity irreparably. The church leaders at the helm of the discussions guided that the Kikuyu take a back seat and hand over the position of regional point man in government to any worthy leader from the other subethnic groups. This, even as they acknowledged that the current president will remain as the region’s overall leader but may not be in an active government position, hence the need for an alternate leader to be in government. The current constitution restricts Uhuru to a strict regime of ten years in office (two terms each of five years) after which he retires. Prospects of him getting a reprieve to stay longer in office are wholly dependent on the ongoing constitutional reform efforts through the BBI, but there are no guarantees. That is how the name of Nyaga was arrived at.
Those who zeroed in on him acknowledged that he is well known nationally and is respected for his non-controversial political style and his record as a development conscious leader who when he served as Minister for Agriculture, Cooperatives, Transport he ensured that the region’s economic mainstays thrived, unlike the recent trend when under the watch of the likes of Kiunjuri the region’s fortunes mainly in Agriculture virtually collapsed. They noted that Nyaga can easily and readily be accepted by other national political heavyweights from other parts of the country, notably Raila Odinga whom he worked with very well in the ODM pentagon that shook the country’s politics in 2007 elections before working together in the subsequent Grand Coalition Government cabinet (2008-2013). The religious leaders observed that whereas they firmly want Nyaga to commit the region to support the BBI and stay firmly behind Uhuru and Raila, they are awake to the fact that politics is dynamic and if need arises to work with other leaders across the country, many will find a protector and true partner in the former cabinet minister.
They singled out William Ruto as a leader who may seek protection from a mature leader like Nyaga thus building more harmony and cohesion amongst Kenyans. They also pointed out that other emerging regional kingpins like Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya will easily f o r g e g o o d working relations with Nyaga. Sources within the caucuses that came up with this pro-Nyaga move intimate that they consulted widely including seeking an opinion from other influential and politically engaged religious groups in other parts of the country and their input was considered seriously. One such was the advice of the Legio Maria Church in Raila’s support base of Nyanza and Western who strongly supported the elevation of Nyaga to captain the Mt Kenya region. Nyaga comes from the Mbeere community just like the current speaker of the national assembly Justin Muturi.
He is a scion of an influential political family. His father was a freedom fighter who served for many years in the cabinets of former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi. His younger brother Norman Nyaga served as MP for Kamukunji constituency in Nairobi and a chief whip in the national assembly while his brother-in-law Mutava Musyimi served was a long-serving secretary-general of the National Council of Churches of Kenya and later MP and chairman of the parliament departmental committee for the budget. His re-emergence may reconfigure the politics of the Mt Kenya block which has been shaken by the bitter fallout between Uhuru and Ruto that led to the two antagonistic Jubilee camps of Tanga Tanga (pro-Ruto) and Kieleweke (Pro-Uhuru) that threaten to split the vote down the middle and undermine the region’s influence on the 2022 elections.