Who will deputise who?Leaders in limbo over DP position

Monday, April 26th, 2021 10:08 |
Raila Odinga (left) and Deputy President William Ruto
Opposition chief consult at a past event. Photo/PD/FILE
Raila Odinga (left) and Deputy President William Ruto

The 2022 presidential contest has triggered a fierce scramble for the deputy presidency as politicians from various political formations and regions position themselves for the coveted post.

The push for the constitutional reforms has also ignited ferocious lobbying for leadership positions expected to come with an expanded Executive.

The apparent jostling among allies of Deputy President William Ruto from Mt Kenya region for the running mate position in 2022 is playing out in virtually all major Mwangi Kiunjuri

His name has been dropped with many eyeing Mt Kenya vote
Hassan Joho Coast region is pushing to have one of its own occupy the seat
political parties, with presidential hopefuls struggling to assemble all-inclusive alliances.

Politicians from the mountain region, like their counterparts from other areas, are also jostling for top slots in the next dispensation, which include a prime minister and two deputies should the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) project go through at the anticipated referendum.

Presidential contenders who include Ruto, opposition leader Raila Odinga and the alliance of Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Gideon Moi and Moses Wetang’ula that coalesce around the One Kenya Alliance have been on a charm offensive to woo key political players in populous regions as they seek to galvanis support ahead of the elections.

Mt Kenya, Ukambani, Coast, the former North Eastern province, Gusii and the Maa region have emerged as battlegrounds for potential 2022 presidential competitors who hope to use them as swing votes.

Out of all the regions, Mt Kenya is turning out to be the most sought after, with each of the aspirants rushing to table their offers to local political leaders. This is because President Uhuru Kenyatta will be retiring next year and the region is not expected to field a candidate.

Numerical strength

Former Senate Majority Whip and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata says while the Mt Kenya region is expected to witness high-octane politics, it will play a pivotal role in determining the country’s political direction because of its numerical strength.

“Although most of us from the region are supporting Ruto, our final decision will be pegged on what a particular candidate offers us. We have already given our demands to Ruto, and will do so to others,” Kang’ata says.

Most of the contenders have been making forays to the regions to endear themselves by making promises, mostly on possible alliances. The demands have forced presidential contenders into continuous engagements with various regional kingpins, second-term governors who are agitating for top positions and lawmakers to clinch deals ahead of next year.

Dr Richard Bosire, a Political Science lecturer at the University of Nairobi says that given Kenyan politics is regional and ethnic-based, each contender would be keen to appease each region by having their faces in their respective formations.

“The people of Coast and Ukambani and some other regions are really not serious in taking a stab at the presidency, but having a say in making the king (president) in 2022.

For you to make it to the negotiating table, you must demonstrate that you are vying and have influence in the local politics and, therefore, the ethnic and regional factors will come out strongly,” Bosire told People Daily yesterday.

This, Bosire said, poses a major challenge to the candidates because each region is keenly watching who will be picked, and where a region would feel they have been shortchanged, they will perhaps back a different candidate who will take care of their interests.

Governors and other regional kingpins who will not go for the presidency, he said, are targeting the running mate post, PM or the deputies or cabinet minister, some of who have not only amassed wealth, but also command the regional and county influence and cannot be ignored in the 2022 game plan.

For instance, in Mount Kenya region, in the DP camp, while one of the factions is keen to have former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri as his running mate, another group is fronting Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, who has been hosting some of Ruto’s allies from the region at his Karen home to advance his chances.

Laikipia Senator John Kinyua, an ally of the DP, maintains that Kiunjuri is the best suited to team up with Ruto because he is politically experienced and widely acceptable in Mt Kenya region.

Though the DP has been opposed to BBI, a source close to his camp told People Daily that Ruto also hopes that the expansion of the Executive would satisfy his allies who are keen on monitoring how he will distribute the positions.

In the pro-BBI camp, former MP Peter Kenneth is being pushed by some leaders and wealthy businessmen to be the prime minister candidate in Raila’s camp.

Also in this camp are National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo.

Jubilee deputy secretary general Joshua Kutuny says heightened political activities have been happening behind the scenes as leaders, who are jostling for top positions, seek to work together politically.

“What we have are people teaming up and trying to see if they can work
together. They are jostling for positions. They want to make themselves relevant and put a price tag on themselves, which is the nature of Kenyan politics.

The truth of the matter is that we will have coalitions, one that will be led by Uhuru and Raila on one side and Ruto on the other,” the Cherangany MP said.

Political analyst and University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora opined that the “noise” by Ruto’s surrogates in Mt Kenya over the running mate position is just a beginning of the nightmare, which awaits him and other candidates eying the presidency since they have to appease their bases with appointment promises.

According to Manyora, besides Mt Kenya region, which he argues was the main base the DP hoped to use as his launch pad, other regions where he has been galvanising support through his hustler movement are agitating for top slots in his alliance and should they feel shortchanged, it would escalate his woes.

“The chickens have come home to roost for Ruto. He is now experiencing the nightmare. What he is facing now is the elephant in the room because he presented the hustler nation as seamless, unified and unstoppable, and compared it with others who he branded as tribal and relied on regional kingpins.

The boat is beginning to get holes,” Manyora said. Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, who has insisted that Mt Kenya region, with its approximately eight million votes, will not back any candidate blindly, says that just
like other regions are fighting for space in the next government, Uhuru’s backyard will also cut a pre-election deal.

“I have always said that whoever will become president in 2022 will have to negotiate with the Mt Kenya region - very specifically. This is a fact of politics that needs to be understood. Mt Kenya MPs in Tanga Tanga have always behaved like they don’t believe in regional negotiations.

They have always insisted that we are ‘One Kenya’ and that Ruto has no special offers for any region as he expects to be president of all Kenyans,”
Wambugu said.

In the Coast where Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has sustained his quest for the presidency while maintaining that the region must negotiate its way to the next government, his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi who is also seeking to play a national political role is on course to form a regional party.

“I am determined to unite the region. The time for people to use the Coast as a pedestal to power is over. We need a voice and a platform we will use to bargain with the rest of the country,” Kingi said in a recent media interview.

Exercise caution
The DP’s allies, who include second term Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya and Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, have also forged their own path as they seek to negotiate their way into the next dispensation.

But Bosire warned the DP and other presidential contenders must be careful while identifying a running mate and other political partners should the BBI pass since it could spoil the ground for them depending on the choices they make.

“He (DP) cannot afford to rush in identifying a running mate. The other dilemma is that the rest of the country is watching. Theirs was a twin ticket between someone from Mt Kenya region in the name of Uhuru and Ruto from Rift Valley, and therefore, if he goes for someone from Mt Kenya, it will be tricky for him in galvanising support from other regions what will be rattled by his decision.

In Western Kenya where Raila appears to have fallen out with Mudavadi, divisions are emerging, giving the DP an advantage as he seeks to galvanise support in the region.

Already, Raila has teamed up with former UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi, who has declared his bid for the presidency, a move that has also rattled ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, who in the recent past has been subject of claims of warming up to the DP as he fights for space in national politics once he exits the county in 2022.

In the Ukambani region where Kalonzo is keen to retain his influence, Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and his Makueni counterpart Kivutha Kibwana who have been at loggerheads with him, and who are serving their last terms, have declared their intentions to seek the presidency.

However, pundits opine that their game plan is to up their bargaining powers with other national leaders.

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