Eager not to fall into the same trap as that of his mentor Daniel Moi and predecessor Mwai Kibaki where their preferred presidential candidates were beaten hands down, Uhuru Kenyatta has formed a special team to advise him on his succession.
The special team comprises Director General of the National Intelligence Service, Phillip Kamweru, president’s kid brother Muhoho Kenyatta, his uncle George Muhoho, Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho, former Kenya Defence Forces chief Julius Karangi and former presidential adviser Nancy Gitau.
Uhuru’s mother, Mama Ngina, is also joining the team whenever they have a burning issue to discuss. First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Uhuru political buddy David Murathe, are also in the loop. Unconfirmed reports have it that ODM leader Raila Odinga is also in the team. Those claiming Raila is a key player cite functions influential people surrounding Uhuru have attended in Luo Nyanza.
Raila recently was at a function with uncle Muhoho who is Mama Ngina’s brother. Raila has also hosted at his Bondo home, bro Muhoho the financial key holder of the purse. The former PM who has unlimited access to State House and has held talks with Uhuru in Kisumu while enjoying hard drinks and food, sidelining their security details.
It is this team that has advised the president to reach out to all the political leaders across the poltical divide as he strives to realise his Big Four Agenda.
The succession team has earmarked key political influencers to be reached out. Among them are party leaders, trade unionists, church leaders, business associations and powerful women leaders.
Already Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Gideon Moi are in talks with State House. Uhuru during the launch of Huduma registration assigned Raila, Mudavadi and Kalonzo state duties that saw his bitter deputy William Ruto skip the function. Powerful governors who can influence regional politics are also to be accommodated. Of great influence is Mombasa governor Hassan Joho and his Makueni counterpart Kivutha Kibwana.
Where leadership vacuum exists, a new centre of power is to be created. A case is Gusii land where the Internal Security cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i factor is emerging to replace aged Simeon Nyachae.
Since Matiang’i was named super minister, the regional politics that was favouring Ruto has significantly shifted.
Within the trade unions, the team has set eyes on Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli more so, after he managed to control and bring back splinter unions back to the umbrella body. Knut, Dockworkers Union, Civil Servants Union had broken ranks with Cotu at the instigation of powerful forces in Jubilee administration.
They have all trooped back to Cotu after failing to outsmart the seasoned and internationally recognised trade unionists.
Infact, insiders say that Uhuru and Raila handlers were surprised when Atwoli out of the blue started to push for referendum ahead of 2022, a move that has gained momentum across board. In Luhyaland, Atwoli is pushing for the community’s unity.
Another key player in the advisory team is reaching to is Richard Ngatia the president of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry whom they hope to use to mobilise backing from traders locally and internationally.
The succession team is also reaching out to women leaders under Embrace Alliance that has powerful connections within the corridors of power.
Surprisingly, the team has sidelined pro-Ruto Inua Wamama Initiative and the deputy president wife Rachel’s Table Banking Initiative. Rachel of late has been missing in action with her table banking idea struggling to survive ever since the state ordered parsastatal bosses not to donate funds towards its operations.
Others say that Ruto’s decision to reach out Uhuru and Raila is upon discovery a plot has been hatched to isolate him not only in national politics but also in own Kalenjin backyard by Uhuru secret succession team.
During the burial of Joyce Laboso, Ruto declared support of the handshake. The DP is also said to have discovered that the state had planted spies around him to be used to mess his 2022 presidential bid especially, after the assassination claims.
In Rift Valley Kalenjinland, new faces are emerging in Chama Cha Mashimani of Isaac Ruto, David Langat, Bundotich Buzeki and the versatile Zakayo Cheruyoit.
The idea is to join Gideon’s Kanu to tame Ruto in the region. Aware of the move, the DP strategists have planned a number of events in the region to consolidate his power that is under threat as rebel governors, senators and MPs have of late been openly hitting at the second in command.
Whereas the embrace outfit had an opportunity to give views at Building Bridges Initiative, pro-Ruto women skipped the event. Information we have is the Uhuru’s secret succession advisory team was behind the embrace team presentation.
The embrace team had who is who in the Kenyan women laedership while at BBI. They were led by governors Charity Ngilu, Anne Waiguru, Rachael Shebesh, Gladys Wanga, octogenerian Nyiva Mwendwa, Zipporah Kittony and Sabina Chege among others.
With funding from State House, the embrace outfit called for expanded executive and more seats for women.
The succession team has told Uhuru not to openly back any aspirant at the moment, but to give all an equal chance to sell themselves to the masses.
They have recommended to the president that he adopts the Building Bridges Initiative report that will call for expansion of the executive so as to accommodate political heavyweights across the country in the next government.
The BBI, which is the brainchild of Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga, is finetuning its report before handing it to the appointing authority for implementation.
The report, according to insiders, proposes the creation of a premier, two deputy premiers and two vice presidents.
Insiders add that the team has also advised the president to ensure the budget for the referendum is factored in the next financial year.
After the referendum, Uhuru will reorganise his government where all the ethnic chiefs will be accommodated as he seeks to cement a legacy of a united Kenya.
The pro-referendum camp will campaign under the banner Holy Alliance that aims to unite Kenya.
In tasking the team to advise him, the president wants to avoid a situation where he backs a candidate only for the rivals to gang up against him, resulting in a resounding defeat.
Uhuru wants to avoid the situation Moi found himself in when he plucked him from nowhere and bulldozed him to be the then ruling party, Kanu as presidential candidate in 2002.
Ahead of the 2002 elections, all efforts by Moi to reconcile the Kanu rebels opposed to Uhuru as his successor, who included Raila, Kalonzo, George Saitoti, Joseph Kamotho, William ole Ntimama and Moody Awori, among others, ended in disarray.
A similar scenario unfolded when Kibaki tried to throw his weight behind then deputy prime minister Mudavadi as his successor in 2012.
According to sources, on December 4 2012 Mudavadi and presidential aspirant Uhuru received a message from a close relative for him to meet Kibaki at State House, Nairobi.
At the crack of dawn, Uhuru was at State House accompanied by two close aides. He was ushered in to find Kibaki seated with a top civil servant, two top security heads and a senior State House official.
Sources privy to the meeting say Kibaki had not much to say except the welcome greetings, after which he asked Uhuru to listen to the gentlemen assembled and then he could give his response.
The four gentlemen took turns to speak and made it clear in very polite language that Uhuru’s presidential bid faced too many hurdles to stand any chance of him winning.
They told him that if he pushed on with his campaigns, it would give advantage to his main rival, then prime minister Raila and the best option would be to relinquish the bid to another candidate and then ask his Central Kenya bedrock to support him.
Their first line of argument centred on Uhuru’s then pending case at the International Crime Court.
The four maintained that a Uhuru presidency would not augur well for Kenya’s economy as well as diplomatic standing, given that leading development partners in the West had openly expressed reservations against him and running mate, ICC co-accused Ruto.
Next, they argued that Uhuru would be a hard sell as successor to the incumbent, Kibaki since both hailed from Central.
A third argument was that the UhuRuto ticket might attract hostility from other communities since the past three Kenyan presidents came from their communities.
Their recommendation was that Uhuru and his running mate Ruto step aside for Mudavadi.
The argument powerfully articulated by the senior State House ally of Kibaki was that Mudavadi was a neutral candidate who could easily appeal to the whole country.
The final pitch by the four gentlemen was that Uhuru was to try and prevail upon Ruto to take up the position of majority leader in the national assembly, in a ticket where Mudavadi would be the presidential candidate and Uhuru the running mate.
It was at that juncture that Uhuru spoke for the first time. He said, while he needed time to digest all that had been said, he could right away answer to the last bit which was; in case of a Mudavadi candidacy, then Ruto would still be the number two while Uhuru would take majority leader.
Mudavadi’s political party, UDF, had been formed by Kibaki’s allies led by Nick Wanjohi.
But Mudavadi would later recount the dramatic events in 2012 when Uhuru and Ruto duped him that they would support his bid for presidency in 2013.
Insiders say Uhuru, still haunted by his betrayal to Mudavadi, and likely betrayal to Ruto, wants to craft a succession arrangement that will not divide the country along tribal lines.
The president has tasked the team to research on the strengths and weaknesses of all the presidential aspirants, including Gideon, and recommend the positions they can take in the next government for inclusivity.
Other sources however say that the team’s real motive is to ensure that whoever succeeds Uhuru is not going to rock the boat and will see continuation of a conducive business climate for the Kenyatta family concerns that Uhuru presidency has seen boosted in major fashion. It is against this background that Uhuru has cleverly roped in Raila with business deals such as Kisumu port that Raila family now owns so that “Raila lives in a glass house and therefore stops throwing stones”.
The team will inform the president on the best aspirant for the presidency, and those to take premier, deputy premier and deputy president positions.
Gitau who has been a senior political adviser in charge of the Office of Political Affairs at the Executive Office of the presidency, is the brains behind it.
Already, several MPs allied to the DP are plotting to wage a vicious fight against the state and forces opposed to their 2022 candidate.
They have also vowed to take the battle to the seat of the president, Harambee House, by moving a bill in parliament to scrap the confidential vote managed by the Interior ministry, which they claim is funding the anti-Ruto campaigns.
Behind the plan to move a Bill to scrap the confidential vote is a perception in the Ruto camp that Kibicho is personally overseeing and using the kitty to fund the anti-DP campaigns.
Confidential vote refers to monies allocated to the security apparatus that are normally not subjected to audit.
Not spared is Gitau who has been in the news over wrangling in the presidency, accused by allies of Ruto of being one of the Kibaki-era officials who “fixed” Ruto by providing information leading to his indictment by ICC