THE STAR 09/15/2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s vote-rich Mt Kenya backyard has become the hunting ground for running mates among bigwigs gunning for the presidency.
The Star has established nearly all leading presidential candidates, including ODM leader Raila Odinga, are considering picking a running mate from the Mt Kenya region.
Raila's move appears to dash any chances of a working deal with his former Nasa co-principals who pledge to go all the way to the ballot.
It is a given that Deputy President William Ruto, who has gone flat out to outfox Uhuru on his own turf, will pick a Mt Kenya running mate.
Over the weekend, an analysis by the Star showed that for every three meetings by the DP, one is with a delegation from Mt Kenya.
ANC party boss Musalia Mudavadi last week revealed he could pick a Mt Kenya running mate.
“Mt Kenya will be the hotbed of real politics in coming months because it is likely to produce the running mate for almost all the presidential candidates,” former Githunguri MP Njoroge Baiya said.
He said the 2022 presidential contest will be one or lost on how Mt Kenya votes.
Raila's think tanks appear to consider former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth a clear favourite.
Some influential individuals within the establishment think otherwise.
They instead have proposed Health CS Mutahi Kagwe and Agriculture CS Peter Munya.
The latest entrant to the growing list is Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
On Ruto's side, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who has declared his presidential bid, is among key figures mentioned as possible running mates.
Muturi, previously considered a key ally of the President, has been gravitating towards the DP.
Over the weekend, he claimed Kenya Revenue Authority officials have been unleashed against him using fictitious tax demands among state intimidation tactics.
Other names floated for Ruto include former Agriculture CS and The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri, MPs Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) and Moses Kuria (Gatundu South).
However, Kiunjuri and Kuria lately distanced themselves from the DP and are championing Mt Kenya unity.
Last week, ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula accompanied Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru for questioning at the EACC.
The move triggered speculations that Musalia was courting Waiguru for the number two slot. She called questioning an intimidation tactic as she has left her choice of party open.
On Tuesday, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka also visited Waiguru and asked her to join the One Kenya Alliance as a principal.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda told the Star Mt Kenya region cannot be taken for granted by presidential candidates, saying the bloc must be guaranteed higher stakes.
“We are home to more than 10 million votes spread across the country. This is not a constituency that can be ignored by presidential candidates," Kamanda said.
The former Starehe MP who supports Raila said while there was almost a consensus that Mt Kenya will not be fielding a presidential candidate, it holds the running mate key for hopefuls.
“Presidential elections are about negotiations. The Mt Kenya people have agreed to support Baba next year but what will be in store for the region in Raila’s government would come later,” Kamanda said.
With more than five million voters spread across the nine Mt Kenya counties, including the diaspora Nakuru, the region looks promising for hopefuls.
However, the protagonists face a balancing act to ensure their Mt Kenya choice will not upset their support base or trigger a falling out in their inner circles.
Kenneth has been accompanying Raila to major events in Mt Kenya and held a number of meetings with him.
In October last year, Kenneth, commonly referred to as PK, led a 500-member delegation of elders and leaders from Central to meet Raila at his Bondo home.
Last month, PK was among the heavyweights who hosted Raila at business mogul SK Macharia’s Murang’a home.
Munya briefly joined Raila's Nasa camp in 2017 before jumping ship to support President Kenyatta. Over the years, he has not seen eye to eye with Ruto
However, as he hails from Meru in Mt Kenya East, analysts say this choice could be risky as Uhuru’s Central Kenya could easily revolt.
Kagwe, the influential Health CS and former Nyeri senator is known to be very close to President Kenyatta.
Mt Kenya counties include Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Laikipia as well as Nakuru.
Former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru said Mt Kenya political leaders will be going flat out to ensure that the region gets the best deal from presidential hopefuls.
The BBI co-chairperson emphasised Mt Kenya will settle for nothing short of the number two slot in the next government due to its numerical power.
“It will not be upon the presidential candidates to pick a running mate from Mt Kenya by themselves. We shall sit down as a region and identify an agreeable person through consensus, someone to negotiate with either of the presidential candidates, "Waweru said.
In the Tangatanga camp, there is a growing rebellion by a group of Ruto's Mt Kenya allies over the place of small parties in the DP’s 2022 plan.
Rigathi is considered among the politicians likely to deputise Ruto.
The first-timer is considered a formidable candidate because of his powerful grassroots mobilisation skills. He served as a long-time aid to President Kenyatta until 2006.
The MP has been a constant figure in Ruto’s meetings with politicians and delegations at his Karen residence. He's a strong orator and crowd puller.
There is also Muturi who was controversially enthroned as the spokesman of the Mt Kenya region. He is the senior-most politician from Mt Kenya after the President.
The speaker has said he is pursuing his presidential dream but he has been linked to Ruto’s axis amid reports of negotiations about his role.
Last week, Musalia said he will pick his running mate from Mt Kenya, saying the region is well known for its economic and political power.
Some reports indicate Kirinyaga Governor Waiguru could be headed to Musalia’s camp after falling out with the President's allies.
It has emerged there is a push by the region's leaders to build consensus on unity to raise the stakes ahead of engaging with presidential hopefuls.
‘The candidate will not come from them (presidential candidates) but us (the people of Mt Kenya) who will identify the candidate for them,” Waweru said.
On Monday, a group of leaders including Kenneth, Kuria, Narc Kenya boss Martha Karua and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo held talks on the region’s unity efforts.
It has emerged that part of the plan to rally the region is to revive the one-shilling-one-vote campaign that sought to ensure equitable sharing of the national cake.
The region’s leaders are also aiming to strike a deal with leading candidates on how the region’s constituencies will be increased to bring about fair representation.
The clamour to protect the native political parties with roots from Mt Kenya is also seen as part of the plan to force the 2022 presidential contenders to the negotiating table.
On Tuesday, Kieni MP Kanini Kega said the priority for the region's leaders is not about sharing positions but pushing for the region's interests.
“We will shelve our interests in positions to push for a fair share of resources. Once we get that, we will be comfortable,” Kega said.
The MP is a key ally of President Kenyatta and has declared Raila will be the best bet to protect Mt Kenya's interests.
Gachagua has been cagey, saying Ruto's hustler nation is not currently about the running mate.
"We are busy building a national movement and alliance with all Kenyans," he said, "and discussions about the running mate are premature."
(Edited by V. Graham)