With less than a year to the 2022 General-Election, entrepreneurs and business magnates from the Mt Kenya region have emerged as key players in campaign strategies of the four leading presidential aspirants in the forthcoming poll.
Of particular interest to the aspirants are prominent tycoons specifically from Murangá region, whom each of the politicians are racing against time to win on their side.
ODM leader Raila Odinga, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper and Deputy President William Ruto, whom most pundits rank as the leading contenders in the 2022 General Election, have been holding secret meetings with the tycoons in a bid to “assure them that they would protect their interests.”
Just like in the United States, individuals with deep pockets are known to sway Kenya’s elections since 2002, when then President Daniel arap Moi’s candidate; Uhuru Kenyatta was defeated by Mwai Kibaki of the National Rainbow Coalition.
Ultimate power makers
“We are stakeholders in any General Election in this country like any other Kenyan. Our main interest and priority is to see the country moving in the right direction on both economic and political lines,” media mogul SK Macharia, one of the forces behind the meetings between presidential contenders and tycoons in Mt Central Kenya told the People Daily.
Pulling the strings away from the public eye, a cabal of prominent businessmen have been known to bankroll presidential candidates and other aspirants for various seats. Since then, every election time, leading candidates traverse the country endearing themselves to billionaires as well as collecting money from them for campaigns.
Politicians have often taken advantage of the absence of a campaign funding law, to raise funds from business-people through donations and funds drives, with the promise of protecting their interests once they assume the reigns of power.
“Whether one likes it or not, these tycoons become the ultimate power bro- kers. They use their deep pockets and international networks to sway the outcome of an election, because they are always determined to have somebody in power who can protect their interests,” says Prof Munene Macharia, a former lecturer at USIU-Africa.
Macharia says the business moguls usu- ally come in handy because undertaking a presidential campaign in Kenya has become quite an expensive affair due to the logistics involved.
He cites one report that indicated that in the 2013 General Eection, then Raila’s Cord spent an estimated Sh5 billion while Jubilee Party spent more than Sh10 billion to run its presidential campaign.
Recently, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), had capped presidential campaign spending in the next General Election at Sh 4.4 billion.
This was however rejected by legislators. Macharia says because of the high cost of running a presidential campaign, most candidates depend on the deep pockets of business moguls who in return expect protection of their interests.
“All these people have interests to advance and protect. That is why they would go to the extent of supporting and financing all the leading contenders as long as the end justifies the means,” reckons the don.
In this regard, Macharia cites the case of 2002 when some tycoons are said to have financed both Kibaki and Uhuru when they both contested for the presidency.
Raila, whom Central Kenya tycoons, have for a long time viewed as a monster, divisive and vindictive figure likely to “destroy the economy” has held several meetings with the bigwigs from the region as he strives to endear himself to them.
Sometimes in June this year, former Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe invited Raila to a meeting with Mt Kenya businessmen; where speakers openly disclosed their crave for an individual who would create a conducive environment for the business community.
It was during the June 22 meeting at a Hotel in Kiambu that Igathe threw his weight behind Raila, saying he means well for the country. “I invited Raila to this event because I have known him not only as a politician, but also as a businessman, and I believe if he works closely with the business community, he can mean business,” Igathe said.
Igathe, now a bank executive, has vast connections with Mt Kenya tycoons and was a close associate of the late Chris Kirubi.
Sources intimated to the People Daily that since June to date, Raila has held the highest number of meetings with the group at least 10, followed by Mudavadi at least six and Ruto and Kalonzo with four and three respectively.
Yesterday Igathe told the People Daily that their group, under the umbrella of the Council of Eminent Persons has held “fruitful” engagements with almost all leading candidates to gauge their respective packages for the country.
The Council of Eminent Persons is chaired by Joe Kibe; who played a pivotal role in the election of President Uhuru and Kibaki.
Some of the members of the council include Dr Nyamu Njoka (secretary), former Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga who acts as the coordinator and Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia.
ODM chairman John Mbadi, who is also a close ally of Raila, said the former Premier has had several engagements with heavyweight entrepreneurs “to explain to them his policies.”
“These businessmen have an interest and stake in the country’s economy would always want an assurance from all the candidates. They want an environment where everyone would compete fairly for the sake of economic growth,” Mbadi said.
Mbadi says though most of the business moguls from the Mt Kenya region have shown their willingness to throw their weight behind Raila, most of the leaders from the voter-rich area are still weighing their options.
“Previously, the people from Central Kenya thought that their interests would probably be better served by candidates from the region. But this is the first time in Kenya’s history that the region will not have a presidential candidate on the ballot, hence the confusion you see around,” Mbadi; who is Suba South MP said.
Mbadi confesses that it is as a result of the meetings that has seen a change of heart by several leading lights from the region, such as Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and former State House comproller Matere Keriri.
And Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua; a close ally of Ruto, while confessing over the numerous engagements they have had with the moguls, says they have been rather cautious so as not to be held captive at the end.
“Though we have had several night meetings with them because they are scared of being victimised by the government, we are very cautious on our approach lest the same businessmen end up holding us hostage once we assume office,” Gachagua observes.
He adds:“We expect them to support us based on our capability to revive the econ- omy and make Kenya a better country and not on the premise of protection.” Kalonzo’s ally- Kitui senator Enock Wambua on his part concedes that his party boss has maintained his engagements with the group that played a key role in his be- coming the Vice President in 2007.
“As much as the business moguls play an important role in any presidential election, we as Wiper are engaging the people of Central Kenya by revisiting historical facts. Kalonzo was tried and tested during President Kibaki’s reign.”
ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula, confirmed his boss, Mudavadi has also held a series of meetings with various businessmen and other stakeholders ahead of next year’s polls.
“It is true he has been engaging them, but we are not privy to the details because as a party, we mandated him to engage interested parties in private,” said Savula.