The endorsement of house speaker Justin Muturi by William Ruto for the Embu gubernatorial seat in 2022 polls has changed the political equation in the region.
Initially, there were reports on the ground that Muturi was among Mount Kenya political giants Ruto was fishing for a running mate, but the endorsement now leaves him out of the equation. In upper Mount Kenya region of Embu and Meru, Muturi by virtue of being the number three powerful man in the country, commands respect.
In case something happens to both Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy leaving the presidency vacant, Muturi will occupy the plum presidency seat although others say the hot seat on the hill is not a soft landing.
The DP endorsed Muturi for the Embu gubernatorial seat in 2022 polls during a prayer service for Manyatta MP John Muchiri in Kigari, Embu where he noted that the latter has enough experience.
Ruto who was accompanied by Mount Kenya leaders among them Kiambu county boss Ferdinand Waititu and nominated MPs Cecily Mbarire and Charles Kariuki, Mbeere North said he will blame area MPs should the speaker fail to secure ‘what he is looking for’, though Muturi is yet to publicly declare his bid for the seat currently under Martin Wambora.
The move came at a time key allies of Uhuru are strategically aligning themselves in various camps as they prepare for a life without him at the helm after the 2022 general election.
Muturi also endorsed Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022 during the thanksgiving prayer service, hence departing from the position held by his boss, Uhuru, who appears wary of the DP’s power plan.
Others say that Muturi’s decision to back Ruto manifests deep division within Uhuru key allies with one behind Ruto and other against Ruto going for the presidency. Muturi is close to Uhuru and was even an official of Kanu the party Uhuru made his first attempt on the presidency on in 2002.
During the burial of the speaker’s mother, Uhuru surprised many when he claimed that the departed was close to him and used to visit the home enjoying a meal. Uhuru is said to have stood with Muturi when a section in Jubilee were pushing to have Devolution cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa named speaker replacing Muturi in parliament. Instead, former Bungoma governor Kenneth Lusaka, a key ally of Ruto and a Bukusu like Wamalwa, was to land senate speaker slot.
The speaker’s decision to back Ruto came shortly after former Jubilee vice-chair David Murathe dismissed the DP’s presidential bid and started courting Amani National Party leader Musalia Mudavadi. Murathe just like Muturi is close to Uhuru.
During the church service, Ruto praised Muturi for his experience in national leadership, telling the congregation that the county was favoured to be the home of the third most powerful person in the government after Uhuru and himself.
He, however, stated that there would be no direct nomination and all aspiring flagbearers for different positions would have to battle it out. Word has it that Ruto, using Muturi a lawyer by profession, has been trying to reach a truce with Uhuru in his succession game.
Just like Murathe and Njee Muturi, the former solicitor general and now a senior State House official, the speaker happens to be Uhuru drinking buddy who can access State House at his own will. Muturi, who was also in attendance at Ruto church function, praised the deputy president.
Muturi has been Uhuru’s confidant for many years and earned nomination to become speaker of the national assembly in 2013 when the latter was elected president.
He has shifted support to the Ruto camp after it became apparent that Uhuru is planning a future without the DP and without allies who stood by him when his coalition swept into power in 2013.
The speaker has also held a series of meetings with Ruto who has assured him of support to be elected Embu governor or continue to serve as speaker well beyond 2022 in exchange for support of the DP’s legislative agenda.
Ruto also wants Muturi and leader of majority in parliament Aden Duale to help navigate constitutional amendment bills introduced to the house that seek to restructure the executive through the introduction of the position of an executive prime minister which is widely believed to be the position Uhuru seeks to occupy after expiry of his presidency in 2022. Another is via the referendum.
The deal to create a prime minister’s office is suspected to be part of the power deal between Uhuru and Raila as presidential candidate in 2022. Ruto has openly opposed any plans to dilute the powers of the presidency through creation of the PM’s office
It is imperative to note, Muturi and Duale are chair and deputy chair the powerful 12 member house business committee that sets the agenda to be transacted by members during each parliamentary session. Here the deputy president remains in total control of any business presented in the house.
Muturi began his political career when he was first elected to the 8th parliament in 1999 through a by-election to represent the then Siakago constituency now Mbeere North.
In the 2002 general election, Muturi was re-elected to the 9th parliament to represent the same constituency on a Kanu ticket.
In 2008, Muturi was elected the party’s national organising secretary for a term of five years.
During the same period, he became one of the closest confidants of Uhuru who was by then the official opposition leader.
During his second term in parliament between 2003 and 2007, Muturi served as the opposition chief whip.
Ruto’s endorsement of Muturi comes barely a year after Wambora assured Baringo senator and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi of the support of Embu people in his 2022 political ambitions.
Speaking at a conference of secondary school heads from Baringo county at a hotel in Embu mid last year, Wambora said Gideon was the most popular senator in Embu.
“Gideon is the most popular senator to Embu people. Even when you have ambitions in 2022, Embu people will be behind you,” assured Wambora.
He praised the Baringo senator for standing with him when he was impeached twice in 2014.
“Gideon really fought hard for me during my impeachment. He told senators that they did not know what they were doing. I’m grateful for him for fighting for me,” he said.
Gideon on his part described Wambora as a great friend, an honest man of high integrity whom he stood with during the ouster motion even when other senators disapproved his stand.
Wambora earned the trust of former president Daniel arap Moi when he served as Baringo district commissioner in the Kanu era and later a permanent secretary of Roads and Transport.
Wambora who has survived multiple impeachment attempts is now eyeing a cabinet secretary post if Gideon forms the next government.
Former Embu senator Lenny Kivuti has also vowed to seek the governor’s seat again in 2022. Kivuti unsuccessfully contested against Wambora’s re-election in 2017 but he was beaten by a small margin of 985 votes.
He then challenged Wambora’s victory in court but the Supreme Court upheld Wambora’s win, saying he won fairly.
After losing the petition at the Supreme Court, the former senator promised to support Wambora in his second and final term to work for the Embu people without interruption.
In the 2017 elections, Kivuti contested for the gubernatorial seat on Maendeleo Chap Chap headed by Machakos governor Alfred Mutua. Kivuti is likely to be with Gideon’s side. Kivuti was a key player in Cyrus Jirongo then led YK92.
He is currently aligning himself to the Kieleweke team that is opposed to Ruto.
On the gubernatorial race also will be Jubilee nominated MP Cecily Mbarire.
She is the former Runyenjes MP and unsuccessfully contested for the Embu governor seat in last year’s polls but lost in the Jubilee party primaries.
Mbarire, a close ally of Uhuru is expected to go for the seat using a party the head of state will throw his support in.
Also to be in the race is former PS in the Transport ministry Cyrus Njiru.
Njiru is currently the interim vice chairman of the Transformation National Alliance Party (TNA) formed by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
Njiru is associated with the Kuria party formed by Jubilee members fearing Jubilee’s imminent collapse.
TNA vice chairman said Jubilee has failed completely to deliver on the many promises Uhuru made in both the 2013 and 2017 general elections.
Njiru served in the giant Transport ministry during Mwai Kibaki’s tenure and unsuccessfully ran for Embu governor in 2017.
In the 2017 polls, Njiru emerged a distant fourth in a race won by Wambora followed by Kivuti and Kithinji Kiragu. Those who trailed were Njiru followed Leonard Muriuki and Njagi Kumantha.