Power brokers around President Uhuru Kenyatta can’t seem to agree on who is best suited to succeed him once he retires next year.
Not even Mr Kenyatta’s own family is spared the jostling, with different members separately torn over whom to back for the top job. Three names are reportedly on the table — Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi. But there is also the option of a “compromise candidate” who may come from outside that league.
Equally, there is a proposal that is fast gaining currency within the system that could offer a compromise, to find a way of accommodating Mr Odinga in whatever formation with the two younger party leaders in it.
But the fact that several ‘fringe aspirants’ from different political parties have also declared their interest in the presidency in what some insiders say is at the encouragement of some power men imply that the options remain open.
Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, former secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Mukhisa Kituyi, Machakos governor Alfred Mutua and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya are among those who have declared their intention to run for the presidency.
The installation of the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as Mount Kenya region spokesman is also seen in this context as the search for a successor continues. The act, sanctioned by influential figures in the deep state has equally divided those around the president.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, an ally of President Kenyatta, dismissed Mr Muturi’s elevation saying there was no such a vacuum in the community.
“We only have one spokesman at a time and for now it is Uhuru Kenyatta. When we met in Sagana, we agreed that we cannot have two leaders at a time. Whatever else you see are people jostling for power and it should be treated as such,” the former Starehe MP said.
“In the Agikuyu culture, a son does not inherit his father or take matrimonial bed when he is alive, it is an abomination.
“Such people are being used by DP William Ruto to undermine the President. We shall not allow that to happen when the head of state is our de facto leader.”
Dr Kituyi recently said: “I just hope that we can build a large enough coalition of nationalists interested in national solutions with purposeful politics that will address what I consider to be the key challenges at the moment.”
There are also credible reports that some of the presidential hopefuls were recently invited to State House, Nairobi, and promised support in their campaigns in a case of having test balloons to gauge how the ground responds to their declarations. The end is to eventually settle on one of them.
The Sunday Nation also learnt of a strong hand of a cabal with deep networks in the system in the formation of One Kenya alliance made of Mr Mudavadi, Mr Moi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula. The thinking, we gathered, is to help the four consolidate support and see how far they get in the event isolating Mr Odinga becomes necessary. The quartet, however, denies being a project.
On the succession politics, Captain (Rtd) Kung’u Muigai — a cousin of the President —says it is natural for humans to use their influence to get what they want.
“You expect those who are in the system to work on ways of remaining there — I mean, retaining power — and those who are out working tirelessly to seize it. We have no problem with that as elders as long as this is done peacefully,” he said.
On why the name of Mr Moi and that of Mr Mudavadi keep coming up as possible State House projects, Capt Muigai said while that was a possibility, the information could also be planted by the same individuals to market their bids.
“There are those who genuinely want Gideon Moi to become president. At the end of the day, it is about interests. Politicians are also tricky people. They are capable of generating such stories to hog limelight,” he said.
The man who chairs a national caucus of elders said they have no preferred presidential aspirant in the next polls.
Unlike front-runners such as Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga, who have their backyards solidly behind them, Senator Moi does not enjoy unwavering support in the vast Rift Valley region he comes from. And to try and ramp up his acceptability across the country, there have been concerted efforts through the national administration to ensure his public engagements are well attended.
Jubilee Party vice-chairman and close friend of the President, David Murathe, belongs to the group rooting for the ODM leader to take the mantle of leadership.
“I support Raila for president. Whose idea is it that only these two communities can lead this country? We are breaking this self-entitlement to allow other communities have an equal chance,” said Mr Murathe.
The historical bond between the Mois and the Kenyattas is said to hugely favour the Kanu chairman Moi. The concern among those opposed to Mr Moi’s ticket though is that he is a hard-sell and so much ground will need to be covered to hoist him.
Dr Ruto, who has drifted away from his boss President Kenyatta, however, believes that like it happened in 2002 when President Daniel arap Moi’s choice of a successor was roundly rejected by voters, in the polls slated for next year, 20 years later, history will repeat itself should President Kenyatta try to impose Mr Moi on Kenyans.
It is not the first time divisions are showing among the President’s men. Late last year, two camps emerged on how to approach the constitutional referendum — one known as Riverside Group or pro-BBI (Building Bridges Initiative) process angled for a non-contested vote and the other, the Gigiri Group, or pro- BBI project, pushed for a contested one.
The Gigiri Group has offices in Gigiri, Nairobi, and is ferociously opposed to the Deputy President’s bid for State House and wanted a referendum that will see President Kenyatta campaign in the Mt Kenya region to regain the ground he is perceived to have ceded to DP Ruto. The group comprises some of the advisers and longtime friends of the President.
The Riverside Group had feared that a contested referendum would hurt their business interests. Chances of such a hotly contested plebiscite have since diminished, as Dr Ruto has refused to lead the No camp.
Sources indicate that the group was not keen on a divisive referendum and wanted the President to stay above the fray as succession politics take centre stage.
The Riverside Group is said to have played a key role in having Captain Muigai lead a group of elders from across the country to meet political leading lights. The elders met with the Deputy President, Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Odinga. This, we gathered, was not well received by the Gigiri Group.
There is also the Mount Kenya foundation, a club of wealthy people, which has the pulse of central Kenya and is keen to decide the country’s next chief executive. Some of its members are fronting ex-Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth to succeed the President while others believe that a ‘friendly’ candidate like Mr Mudavadi can be supported but given a running mate from the region to take care of their interests.
At the disposal of those who are keen to influence who heads the next government are individuals, some politicians, others bureaucrats, business people and ordinary civilians, what is sometimes called system or the deep state.
Franklin Bett, one of the last State House comptrollers in the dying days of the Moi regime, says in a country, nothing is as influential as the system in the statecraft.
“When you fall out with the head of state, the ramifications are enormous. The system makes it its business to deal with you. Friends and business associates drift away as if you have leprosy,” Mr Bett said.
Njee Muturi, Kenya’s eighth Solicitor-General, now Deputy Chief of Staff, is said to be one of the officials with Mr Kenyatta’s ear, as is current State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mwangi and Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, who last week was accused by the ODM of hijacking the BBI process.
Being a longtime confidante of the President’s, Speaker Muturi is also said to belong to the exclusive club consulted on key decisions. The President’s younger brother, Muhoho Kenyatta, Nancy Gitau and other strategic advisers are also engaged from time-to-time.
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