When Mr William Ruto was silently preparing to take over the Kalenjin community leadership in 2002, retired President Daniel arap Moi was grooming his own son, Gideon, to inherit the mantle.
Mr Ruto is now Deputy President and virtually unchallenged community political supremo, while Gideon Moi had to be content with the seat of Baringo Senator.
KANU VS JUBILEE
As the younger Moi — now the leader of a much-diminished Kanu, which as is a pale shadow of the political behemoth bequeathed by his father — faces an electoral battle to hold on to his seat against the challenge of Jubilee Party candidate Simon Kiprono Chelugui, it is a race with reverberations far beyond the county.
It is still about the Moi-Ruto duel for Kalenjin supremacy, and ultimately a duel over the presidential succession.
READ: Moi, Ruto clash in Rift Valley fight – VIDEO
Mr Ruto is using the General Election to set a base for the 2022 elections where he hopes to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
READ: DP Ruto appeals for Kanu’s support in 2022
Senator Moi, on the other hand, has signalled that he, too, will be in the presidential race in 2022, but obviously his prospects would be dealt a serious blow if he lost the Senate seat to M Chelugui, who is enjoying Mr Ruto’s backing.
Mr Moi was thrust into the political limelight in 2002 when he succeeded his father as MP for Baringo Central.
At that time he and Mr Ruto were close allies supporting Mr Kenyatta’s futile bid to clinch the presidency on a Kanu ticket.
By the next elections, Mr Kenyatta had hitched his political future to supporting President Mwai Kibaki’s re-election, and ensured that Kanu did not field a presidential candidate.
Mr Ruto had himself ditched Kanu for ODM, leaving the once powerful ruling party floundering around leaderless and rudderless under Gideon Moi, who went on to lose the Baringo Central Parliamentary seat.
He bounced back as Baringo Senator in 2013, but Mr Ruto went a few steps better as Deputy President in the successful Jubilee campaign.
Ten years after single-handedly bringing together the community, Mr Ruto now faces the biggest challenge to his kingship from none other than Senator Moi – who has teamed up with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, an erstwhile ally of the DP, to challenge his supremacy in the region.
Mr Moi, on the other hand, finds himself in an awkward position.
Having supported President Kenyatta’s re-election in the August 8 polls, he is on a ‘war path’ with the DP on who will control the Rift Valley vote bloc.
So intense has their rivalry been that the younger Moi, at one point, appeared to be warming up to the Opposition.
In January 11, at the Bomas of Kenya, Kanu’s Secretary General Nick Salat declared that the former ruling party was firmly in the opposition, a decision that was later on rescinded by the party.
“Mimi kama katibu mkuu wa Kanu nawahakikishia kwamba tuko ndani kabisa (As the secretary general of Kanu I want to assure you that we are fully part of Nasa,” he said.
It was believed that had this been allowed to happen, the Opposition would have made tremendous inroads, not only in the North Rift but the entire Rift Valley, thereby denting President Kenyatta’s re-election chances.
A visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s mother, Mama Ngina, to retired President Daniel arap Moi was therefore planned.
Even though details of the meeting between the two were never officially revealed, it is understood that the two discussed how their two sons – President Kenyatta and Senator Moi – could work together more closely.
This made the meeting with Uhuru’s mother very significant.
The race for the Baringo Senate seat is therefore yet again set to rekindle the long standing supremacy battle between the two leaders – Gideon Moi and DP Ruto.
The younger Moi is facing a Jubilee Party candidate who has the blessings of the DP.
The stage is now perfectly set for Mr Moi and Mr Ruto to show who can politically knock down the other and control the Rift Valley vote bloc.
There were claims that the DP prevailed on Mr Chelugui to bow out of the gubernatorial race in favour of the senate seat in order to give the incumbent, Governor Benjamin Cheboi, another one term, a claim Mr Chelugui has always dismissed.
Though Mr Chelugui dropped his earlier interest in the top county seat, Mr Cheboi still went on to lose in the Jubilee nomination to a newcomer Stanley Kiptis.
READ: Baringo governor loses in Jubilee primaries
Senator Moi, the Kanu chairman, will however have to shrug off the absentee tag, as some residents have often accused him of only showing up in the expansive county during electioneering periods and then ‘missing in action’ again after being elected.
“This time round we will put to task all leaders seeking re-election to tell us what they did during their tenure in office,” Mr Nicholas Koros, a resident, said.
Mr Moi, has however laughed off the absentee tag arguing that his work requires him to be in the Senate more, in Nairobi, pushing for more funds to be disbursed to counties, rather than being physically seen in Baringo.
“Kazi yangu si kukaa hapa; yangu ni kukaa Nairobi kuwatetea pesa zije mashinani (my work is not to stay here at home. It is to agitate for more funds to be disbursed to the grassroots),” Mr Moi said in Kabarnet when he launched his re-election bid last month.
The battle is expected to be close, considering the number of votes garnered by Mr Chelugui in the primary held in April, in which he emerged the winner.
Mr Chelugui garnered 85,977 votes, while his closest challenger – Saraphine Chelagat – coming a distant second with 14,577 votes.
Mr Chelugui says the number of votes he garnered in the nomination was ‘serious endorsement’ of his candidature.
“I was not compelled by anyone to vie for the Senate, but I consulted with the leaders and elders from the region and I am the best candidate to unseat Mr Moi,” he said.
It was claimed that the DP made the proposal to Mr Chelugui when he hosted a delegation from Baringo County at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu County in December last year.
Senator Moi says that he has done a lot in making sure the perennial cattle rustling and banditry in the county are a thing of the past, pointing out that he lobbied for the deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in the volatile areas to carry out a massive operation earlier in the year.
READ: Uhuru now deploys KDF to Baringo
He criticised the DP, saying he has made more trips to Baringo than any other part of Kenya, promising numerous Jubilee projects, not because “he loves the people but because he’s only after their votes”.
“Mark my words, once you vote me out and replace me with another candidate in August, you will never ever see Mr Ruto step in Baringo soil … forever,” he said.