When Deputy President William Ruto took over preparations for the Jubilee nominations on the evening of April 21, it did not occur to many that he would preside over mixed fortunes for key allies, particularly in the party’s perceived Mt Kenya and Rift Valley strongholds.
As the ruling party prepares for the August elections, the long shadow of the 2022 succession looms large – and the Deputy President is at the centre of it.
In Kiambu, for example, legislators perceived to be close to Mr Ruto were largely victorious.
They include Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Ms Alice Nga’ng’a (Thika Town), Mr Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), and Mr Jude Njomo (Kiambu Town).
BACK TO DRAWING BOARD
To some, the fall of Governor William Kabogo in the hands of Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu and the collapse of Peter Kenneth’s bid for Nairobi, despite a substantive number of registered voters in the city having roots in his Central Kenya backyard, could be an indicator that politicians from the region who may pose a challenge to the 2022 succession pact may have to go back to the drawing board.
Symbolically, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy on Thursday made an impromptu stopover in Thika hot on the heels of the Jubilee nominations.
Mr Waititu accompanied them and was given an opportunity to speak.
The straight-talking Governor Kabogo had last year stoked controversy by warning that Mr Ruto should not expect to automatically succeed President Kenyatta in 2022 but had to renegotiate with the leadership of Central Kenya.
DAMAGE ALREADY DONE
Although he later attempted to clarify his remarks, and even appeared alongside the Deputy President in some events, the damage had seemingly already been done.
Even though Mr Kabogo alluded to an unseen hand in his loss to Mr Waititu, there is no clear link between his remarks and the 2022 succession politics.
A supporter of Mr Kabogo said the political arsenal targeting the governor in the last few weeks was unusual.
“The high level of choreography in Kiambu’s campaign was beyond ordinary political planning. The seamless propaganda through all key media outlets, and the military precision is beyond the known experience or organisational capabilities of the winning side,” said the politician, who spoke in confidence.
He also pointed to claims repeated on vernacular radio stations about Mr Kabogo’s alleged obscene utterances to women when he was asking them to queue fo cash handouts. The governor, however, denied uttering such words.
It is also significant that the stiffest opposition to Mr Kenneth’s candidature for the Jubilee governor’s ticket for the Nairobi race was by some elected politicians from the Mt Kenya region.
They included Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, Mr Kuria of Gatundu South, Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, among others.
While others considered Mr Kenneth to be a “project” of influential individuals from Central Kenya keen on boosting his standing ahead of 2022, those opposed feared he could disrupt the succession equation.
In a candid interview just before the Jubilee primaries, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau said the results of the Jubilee nominations in Mt Kenya would also point at the possible choices of DP’s running mate in the framework of UhuRuto succession plans.
“The choices for running mate will come from among the ranks of governors. Whoever takes Nairobi, Peter Kenneth included, will be first among equals in the negotiations of who inherits Uhuru’s (President Kenyatta’s) mantle in Central Kenya, which is an important factor in the choice of Mr Ruto’s running mate,” Mr Kamau said.
But there were also areas where key politicians perceived to be in Mr Ruto’s bad books triumphed. In Kirinyaga, Ms Anne Waiguru, who the Deputy President once dismissed as a woman who spoke a lot of English while catwalking instead of explaining the loss of billions of shillings at the National Youth Service, won the governor’s ticket.
In Meru, Mr Ruto has openly supported Ms Kawira Mwangaza, who was beaten by Ms Florence Kajuju for woman representative.
In Rift Valley, critics of the Deputy President like Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) won the nominations against Mr Ruto’s former communications official Emmanuel Talam.
Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi easily won his seat despite having been a notable critic of the DP.
INTERFERING WITH PRIMARIES
In Uasin Gishu, Governor Jackson Mandago, who had accused individuals in the Deputy President’s office of interfering with the primaries, beat businessman Bundotich Kiprop Buzeki. Mr Buzeki is a close ally of the Deputy President.
There were also instances involving the Deputy President’s allies that did not go according to plan.
For example, in early January, Mr Ruto had hosted a delegation from Baringo where he prevailed upon Mr Simon Chelugui to forego the governor’s position and instead get a direct ticket to contest for Senate.
Mr Ruto had wanted a safe passage for Governor Benjamin Cheboi but, come nominations, the governor was floored by Mr Stanley Kiptis.