The meeting between Raila Odinga and retired President Daniel Moi has got Kenyans talking.
Some say that it finally puts the famous UhuRao handshake into perspective. Many Kenyans were all puzzled at why the sudden love between Uhuru and Raila but now they believe they know why. The UhuRao handshake was about Gideon Moi, while the newest ‘MoiRao’ handshake, is about William Ruto. The first handshake positions Gideon in the succession race and the other is un-positioning Ruto in the same race. Piecing the jigsaw puzzle, you begin to see a different picture emerging from what we are used to.
It all begun last Saturday at a low-key Kanu event in Baringo County. Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno of Kanu, challenged his party leader Gideon Moi to right away declare his presidential ambitions for 2022 and get on with it.
He said that if he was serious, he should start campaigns immediately and emphasised his point by saying “(and) If you will not contest, then stop disturbing our minds.”
The controversial MP from Narok was speaking during the homecoming ceremony of Tiaty MP William Kamket. Others who supported the call for Gideon to go for the presidency included West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo and nominated MP Saadia Mumin, among others present.
IS GIDEON FIT TO BE PRESIDENT?
The Kenyan presidency has been said to go to the most unlikely, even undeserving individuals. Those with a lackadaisical and half-hearted attitude to the seat will get it. Those who badly want to be President (like Raila Odinga and a few others), have missed it by far. You will recall that Jomo Kenyatta did not really become President — he was made one. The events simply conspired and he found himself being the frontrunner in 1963 despite others strongly favoured for the seat by the departing colonials, such as Oginga Odinga. Same thing for Daniel Moi. He was the least likely to be President but he became one, despite strong claimants such as Mbiyu Koinange being present.
And you know, Mwai Kibaki, too, was made President by the statement ‘Kibaki tosha!’ Uhuru Kenyatta was in turn made President by Daniel Moi. Now, the next most unlikely in those who have expressed their desire, is Gideon. He has all the characteristics of the man waiting to be king, and goes about it as a man who knows it must happen without him lifting so much as a finger to get it. Now that is the right attitude for this job.
Gideon has blown hot and cold in the last few years. He has seemed to watch on the sidelines as other individuals took a stab at the presidency and he is indeed is one of the longest- serving party leaders who has not appeared on the presidential ballot. He took over Kanu after Uhuru ditched the party in December 2012.
And he seems to have been relegated to playing second fiddle following the meteoric rise of Ruto in Rift Valley politics. Gideon doesn’t really seem that bothered by that. Under his leadership, Kanu polled badly in the 2013 General Election, despite being a part of a multiparty coalition that brought together the late Nicholas Biwott’s National Vision Party, the United Democratic Movement and New Ford Kenya and others.
Last year, word had it that Mama Ngina cut a deal with retired President Moi to have Gideon support Uhuru at the polls. It is not clear what was in the deal for Gideon but immediately after Uhuru’s victory, there was talk that Gideon was unable to get his preferred candidates shortlisted into the Uhuru Cabinet. He seemed to go about it unperturbed, never even a whimper of dissent. Does he know that we don’t know?
Despite what you may feel or think about Gideon, you cannot deny he appears quite presidential in demeanor and speech. Perhaps his manner comes from observing his father from a front-row seat for many years.
His father became President when he was an impressionable 14-year-old and left office when he was only months shy of his 40th birthday. That was a long school for Gideon, representing the best days of his life.
But sometimes staying too long in that ivory tower blinds you to the realities of life. As he readied himself to take over his father’s empire, unbeknownst to him, a more street-savvy Ruto was busying himself to claim the same throne. Ruto literally ran roughshod over Moi’s former kingdom, spoiling every conceivable claim Gideon had over it.
But even today, Ruto as Deputy President still cannot wish away Gideon, who is often described as unwilling — even loathe to getting his hands dirty in street battles or scouring the villages for support. After declaring that he would be on the Presidential ballot in 2022, Ng’eno’s exhortation is seen as yet another push to get him to remove his gloves and go for it. But that is probably not what is on his mind at the moment. Methinks he has another route to power in his mind.
GIDEON’S ROUTE TO STATE HOUSE
It is without doubt that the single most popular politician in the greater Rift Valley is William Ruto. However, the recent handshake between Uhuru and Raila has greatly opened the political space in Kenya.
Already NASA has unraveled, bringing the spoils within reach of any politician of note. If Raila is not on the ballot in 2022, then whomever he backs could easily clinch the seat if that person also has better fortunes inside the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin political blocs. Gideon has a good chance with both. He has a good chance with the Kikuyu if Uhuru quietly cuts ties with Ruto and backs Gideon in his quest to repay a similar favour by retired President Moi that put him where he is.
GM, as he is popularly known, has an even better chance if he gets a good endorsement from his relative Musalia Mudavadi for the Western bloc. He can present himself as the only guy who can safeguard Luhya interests, now that Ruto has stepped on the toes of many of their leaders. And this is in spite of the inroads Ruto has been making among the Luhya. Raila, for instance, has a good reason for disfavouring Ruto, whom he blames for his failure at the poll in 2013 and last year. What better way than for Raila to serve revenge — cold and hard by giving Gideon the endorsement in the exact same way Ruto endorsed Uhuru, turning his back on him.
And who doesn’t have a bone to pick with Ruto? He has a bounty of enemies and even more frenemies! Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka all place their political woes at Ruto’s feet, as have scores of other politicians, including recently, Martha Karua.
They would easily sacrifice their ambitions if only to prevent Ruto from becoming President. Ruto is today the perfect scapegoat of practically every failing politician, regardless of whichever side of the political divide they come from. Ousted Senate Minority leader Moses Wetang’ula also has no time for Ruto and could easily warm up to fellow Senator Gideon’s candidacy, if that wouldstop Ruto.
Using his father’s old networks and Kalenjins frustrated by Ruto’s leadership, Gideon could work his way to the top by claiming at least 25 per cent of the Kalenjin vote and twice that number in the Kikuyu vote, particularly if he has the right running mate. That added to the Nyanza and Western, the Kamba and Coast vote, could get him to a good place.
JUBILEE’S FOIBLES IN THE RIFT
Currently, a good number of Rift farmers are fed up with Jubilee’s foibles with their produce. Many teetered on the brink of bankruptcy when the National Cereals and Produce Board failed to purchase the maize in good time ahead of the planting season. Then came the sick attempt to buy the maize from Uganda, ignoring their crop. This was too much to bear for many of the farmers. Some farmers hired trucks to ferry their produce to buying centres and after waiting for days on end, they had to hire the same trucks to return their produce home. Imagine their humiliation.
Then the distribution of fertiliser that went all wrong at the start of the planting season. And you add that to the government’s slow response to the vagaries of the fall armyworm, which is now munching the new crop that the same farmers went into debt to plant. Some farmers in the South Rift have taken to using commercial detergent powder to kill the worms! Generally, Jubilee has poorly handled agriculture, which is the mainstay of many Rift residents.
There was a sigh of relief when Willy Bett was kicked out as Agriculture CS but his successor, Mwangi Kiunjuri, got off to a rough start bungling the fertiliser issue and is yet to redeem himself.
Despite the low numbers in both Houses, Kanu has struggled to keep up a national image. It has a sizeable body of card-carrying die-hard nostalgic members strewn all over the republic. And they will do anything for the party. The Rift Valley in particular has a sizeable group of people, who remember his father Moi in a very positive light.
Kanu’s showing among the Kipsigis in the Kericho Senate race in 2016 (in which it claimed victory), was a wakeup call for DP Ruto that the Rift is not really all that secure. Besides, Ruto has himself numerous shortcomings that have angered his support base. The trappings of high office have afforded him little time to get to the ground and mingle. He has been variously accused of being unreachable. Some have openly told him to allow them to take their issues directly to Uhuru as he has become rather unresponsive.
Besides, his bolshie and utterly insufferable personal assistant Farouk Kibet doesn’t make things easier for him. But whether all that would constitute enough disaffection in the DP to allow Gideon to penetrate the Rift is yet to be seen. But just in the same way the Rift fell for Ruto, it coud easily turn their affection elsewhere.
GM could also exploit the fact that there are a good number of Kikuyus, particularly those from the Rift, who are still discomfited by Ruto’s candidacy. In this, they have a good spokesman in former nominated Senator Paul Njoroge, who has openly cast doubt on the anticipated Kikuyu support for Ruto in 2022.
BUT WILL GIDEON REALLY DO IT?
Politics, as always, is the art of the possible and I might add — also of the impossible. If Gideon is serious about the presidency, he must get real about it. This is his best shot and there could be no other. He must only pray that there is no other strong contender, leaving the battle to him and Ruto. At a rally in Londiani, Raila declared that Ruto cannot be President without him. He was right.
For the time being Ruto doesn’t seem to agree with this and is still keeping Raila at arm’s length. And so this is the time for GM to move in and strike a working arrangement with RAO, while it is yet day and position himself as the compromise national candidate to face Ruto. But the elephant in the room is, will he really do it? As Ng’eno suggested to him, he better get serious now or stop disturbing us.