Former Director of Public Prosecution Philip Kipchirchir Murgor is the latest entrant into the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in next year’s General Election.
Mr Murgor throws his hat in an already crowded ring eight months to the elections with a promise to save the country from “choking corruption, politics of ethnic exclusion and economic mismanagement”.
He is asking President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto to save the country by not offering themselves for re-election.
“Governing a complex nation like ours, one needs to approach it sober, with honesty and integrity, and dedicate 24 hours a day- seven days a week for 365 days a year. The issue now, is simply whether or not President Kenyatta has lived up to the oath of his office, has been competent, effective, fair and equitable to all citizens of Kenya. The short answer is No!” he says in his assessment of Mr Kenyatta’s four-year administration.
He will be vying on an United Democratic Party (UDM) ticket whose chairman Lt-Gen (rtd) John Koech successfully resisted a takeover bid by Mr Ruto in the run-up to the last elections forcing him to settle for the United Republican Party (URP) which has since been dissolved. The party is currently rebranding and it officials will be unveiled soon.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation on Thursday and accompanied by UDM’s Deputy Secretary-General Moses Kurgat, the suave, fast talking lawyer predicted doom for the country if Kenyans do not choose a new set of leaders equating the rivalry between the ruling Jubilee party and Cord to two speed trains cruising on the same railway from opposing directions.
“This decision hasn’t come easily, but after much consultation with family and friends, I know it is the right and only decision I can make to help get this country back on track. The country is at a tipping point,” he declared.
FEMALE RUNNING MATE
The veteran lawyer, who plans to have a female running mate, says he brings in the freshness the country has been yearning for. And challenging both Mr Kenyatta and opposition politicians like Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Senator Moses Wetang’ula, the former DPP says they have to declare their wealth to convince Kenyans that they are not beneficiaries of loot from public coffers.
“This will prevent overnight rise of chicken traders to billionaires. The same should apply to their running mates,” he said.
He says he has a clean record from when he worked in the public service and hopes his supporters will provide resources to help him sell his agenda countrywide.
This will be new in a country where we are used to seeing politicians splurge cash, some in the form of handouts to voters.
“Ask them where they got their billions. As a DPP, I took no money corruptly, I left none the richer and so I say action will be taken, take it to the bank.
Kibaki (Retired President Mwai Kibaki) in 2002 didn’t spend much of his money. Kenyans supported him owing to the widespread disaffection. I have received a lot of pledges from people who are willing to support us, the encouragement is immense,” he said.
Even though he says he is not politically contaminated, he may be hard-pressed to explain his relationship with the repressive Nyayo regime given his closeness with retired President Daniel Moi whom he successfully represented in the 1992 presidential petition following the disputed results in the first multiparty polls.
He also dismissed the opposition whom he said are not any better.
“What is presented as alternative leadership in the opposition, in most cases, are false optical political illusions: the alternative being suggested is actually the activation and animation of the same old wine in new wineskins. And so the zero-sum, unavailing and divisive logic of tribal hegemony and domination on the one hand and tribal subjugation, and victimhood on the other continue to be the two contesting and overarching themes of our politics.”
OVERHAUL INVESTIGATIVE AGENCIES
He does not have kind words for Mr Ruto. “The DP is a bad deal. God help us if he becomes president,” he said, declining to elaborate, an affirmation that will attract the instant wrath of the second in command and his lieutenants.
And in a scathing indictment of the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and the Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko, a man whom he termed unsuitable to hold that office, Mr Murgor promises to overhaul investigative and prosecutorial agencies should he ascend to the presidency.
Barring formation of alliances and pairing up of those who have already declared that they will be running for president, Mr Murgor’s announcement brings to about seven the number of possible presidential candidate. This includes Thirdway Alliance’s Ekuru Aukot.
The 55-year-old lawyer, who was hounded out of office by the Narc administration in 2005, two years after President Mwai Kibaki appointed him to the position, says it is high time somebody gave Kenyans a viable alternative, away from the usual politicians who have dominated the political architecture for “far too long”.
He says the controversy surrounding the Sh6.4 billion cocaine seized by police in December 2004 and his firm stance in the intervening period that the powerful figures in government he says were responsible for its shipment be charged saw him sacked.
A son of a powerful Kanu figure, Mr Charles Murgor, who was a provincial commissioner and later MP for Eldoret South constituency, he will not be a complete stranger in the political world.
He has set up presidential campaign offices at the Ecobank Towers, in Nairobi.
When Mr Murgor instructed retired President Moi to record a statement over some investigation he was pursuing, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi the scion of the second president described him as a jua kali mercenary for hire. Mr Murgor would later say Mr Moi was responding in anger.
Instructively, the former state counsel will have to contend with a murky terrain which will likely see him branded ‘a project’ especially in the Rift Valley, Mr Ruto home turf.
TWO- HORSE RACE
“I expect the usual nonsensical accusations. In the so called two-horse race, the contenders hope to win in the first round of voting and anything seen as threatening that possibility make them cast aspersions. The Kalenjin nation is that of independent thinkers, proud in a positive way and hate to be taken for granted. They hate the fact that their votes is already cast on one end,” he said in what is pointedly a swipe on the DP.
On the Jubilee power arrangement where supporters of the DP expect central Kenya to rally behind him for the presidency, Mr Murgor said, “Only a daydreamer would be talking of a political event to take place six years from today.”
While those who will rally behind him will see an opportunity to bring in a new broom in the country’s politics, his detractors will read a plot to divide the Kalenjin vote.
The DP has faced onslaught in his Rift Valley backyard led by Mr Moi on one hand and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto on the other. His declaration may therefore appear to create another centre of opposition at a time the DP is expected to rally the entire region to help Mr Kenyatta secure a second term on office.
“My bid is not about ethnic jingoism but about redeeming the country. The last thing I want to engage in is ethnic superiority contest. If we did that, we will not be helping this country,” he said.
However, Prof Winnie Mitullah, the director of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi says that while Mr Murgor has what it takes to be president, he could be overreaching himself.
“A presidential candidate he can be but that is far from winning. He needs to first start from somewhere, say run for governor as he builds his networks. You do not just wake up from the bedroom and head straight to a political podium.”
But his colleague in the legal practice and former Law Society of Kenya chairman Okong’o Omogeni gave him the benefit of doubt.
“I have never known him as a politician to be able to gauge his chances of winning but Kenya being a democratic society, he has every right to run for president,” he said.
Observers say that given the poisoned politics headed by regional kingpins which already has Jubilee and opposition figures coalescing around Cord as main contenders for State House and given their mobilisation based on ethnic blocs, Mr Murgor needs a miracle to shove them all aside to ascend to the mountain top.