- Deputy President William Ruto's 2022 presidential ambitions face turbulence given the lack of regional kingpins in his campaign machine.
- Despite having built a hustler nation movement that has rattled his critics, the absence of influential leaders in his camp has exposed his soft underbelly ahead of next year's general election.
Deputy President William Ruto's 2022 presidential run could be jolted by the absence of key regional kingpins in his campaign machine.
Unlike his opponents, Ruto has assembled a team of relatively youthful politicians attempting to play national politics for the first time.
His strategy has largely flopped in several recent by-elections where known regional chiefs have stamped their authority to ward off his penetration of their territories.
On Friday, Ruto's UDA candidate lost the Machakos by-election by a huge margin to Kalonzo Musyoka's Wiper Party.
Ironically, this is the home turf of UDA chairman Johnson Muthama, a key member of the DP's think tank who has vowed to deliver Ukambani to Ruto.
Wiper's Agnes Kavindu—Muthama's estranged wife—garnered 104,352 votes against UDA's Urbanus Ngengele who managed a paltry 19,726 votes.
MPs Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town), Vincent Musyoka (Mwala) are among Ruto's allies from Machakos county.
Two weeks ago, Ruto also lost in Matungu and Kabuchai, both in Western.
The seats were won by Musalia Mudavadi's ANC Party and Moses Wetangu's Ford Kenya respectively.
In Western, Ruto's campaign is driven by among others former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Achesa, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali and Kimilili MP Didmus Baraza.
On Monday, UDA tactically backed off on an earlier decision to field a candidate for the Juja parliamentary by-election as President Uhuru Kenyatta took charge of the campaign.
Uhuru had earlier met former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo to strategise for the polls.
Former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett said the DP is too much exposed and may be vanquished not because he has no national support but because he keeps the company of “suspicious people”.
“When you look at the Coast, the DP may not have a fighting chance given the political fire power of the people like Joho and Kingi. Ruto can successfully penetrate there if he has the support of either of the two,” Bett said.
“It surprises me when some people who, in one way or the other, are battling some cases, run to the DP's camp. That is not building a strategic team for 2022.”
Ruto's main opponents appear to be building their formations around key leaders seen as regional stalwarts in a bid to enhance their 2022 fortunes.
Analysts opine that the absence of heavyweight in the DP's camp could significantly whittle down his plan to drive a successful presidential run.
Except in Ruto's own Kalenjin backyard where he commands the support of all governors except Elgeyo Marakwet's Alex Tolgos, the DP's camp has no solid backing of county bosses in other regions.
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya's support for the DP could be doubtful given that he has never accompanied him to political campaigns across the country.
Before their impeachment, Ruto's Tangatanga brigade enjoyed the backing of ex-Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waitutu and former Nairobi county boss Mike Sonko.
Sonko is battling graft charges, while Waititu appears to have shifted his allegiance to Uhuru's camp.
Most of the country's 47 county chiefs are aligned to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner Raila Odinga.
On Friday, Cherangany MP Joshwa Kuttuny admitted that the DP was walking a 'lonely' journey. The Jubilee deputy secretary general said bigwigs had shunned Ruto's camp ahead of the 2022 polls.
“He [Ruto] has boxed himself into a corner and he should carry his own cross. It is the Tangatanga wing that went on a destructive path fighting everything the President came up with,” he stated
Kuttuny said the DP is to blame for the political tribulations he is undergoing as he started isolating himself by plunging into premature 2022 succession politics.
“That's why you are seeing him walking lonely with only a pocket of MPs who might not even get reelected in 2022,” he said.
However, Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, the DP's pointman from Upper Eastern, disagrees. Mithika told the Star that Ruto's political strategy is driven by ordinary Kenyans who are protesting against dynasty politics.
“If you look at the DP's nature of politics and policies, they are meant to deal with the problems of the common man. That's why some who fear him have assembled and want to block him,” Linturi said.
The senator told the country to ready for major political alignments and realignments ahead of 2022.
“It is still too early to predict how the patterns would go, but what I can assure you is that the DP has built his own strong political army to deliver victory next year,” he said.
While the Ruto camp is filled with politicians considered lightweights, his opponents boast of a cocktail of experienced and influential political titans.
Some of the DP's allies have failed to shake the ground through his affiliate UDA party, denting their campaign to position themselves as regional supremos.
Of the six by-elections held so far, Ruto's United Democratic Alliance has only won the London MCA seat in Nakuru.
Uhuru's Jubilee Party won the Hell's Gate MCA seat in Naivasha and Huruma ward by-election, while ODM retained the Kiamokama ward seat in Kisii county.
The campaigns were driven by the DP's regional point men in what was seen as a game plan to whittle down Jubilee's influence and shake up ODM leader Raila Odinga's bastions.
Raila, for instance, enjoys the support of political heavyweights on the Coast and in Western Kenya and parts of Mt Kenya region.
Raila enjoys the support of Mombasa governor Hassan Joho. He has also roped in Taita Taveta Governor Grantos Samboja in his efforts to consolidate and ring-fence the Coast region.
In the same region, the DP's hustler nation is powered by former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Nyali's Mohamed Ali.
Analysts say the DP's Coast allies cannot match Raila's political brigade.
In Western, Raila enjoys the support of former Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya—a major political heavyweight in the region.
The former Prime Minister also has the support of all Luo Nyanza governors and Kisii's James Ongwae as he builds a political force ahead of next year.
A couple of leaders from Mt Kenya are also working closely with Raila under his handshake deal with President Uhuru ahead of 2022.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Kiambu's James Nyoro are some of the Mt Kenya governors working closely with Raila.
Raila also has the support of influential nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Jubilee vice chairperson David Murathe.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, seen as central to Uhuru's succession matrix, is also aligned to the Raila axis.
This has left Ruto with only former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri as the only key leader from the region standing in his camp.
In Northeastern, Ruto enjoys the backing of former National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale. However, nearly all governors from the region no longer support him.
Mandera's Ali Roba, Garissa's Ali Korane and Wajir's Mohamed Mohamuud drifted to the handshake team, leaving the DP exposed in Northeastern.
Tharaka Nithi governor, who was initially Ruto's ally, Meru's Kiraitu Murungi seem to have drifted to the handshake camp too.
Political analyst Fredrick Odhiambo observed that the DP is walking a political tightrope in his efforts to win over key regions.
“If Ruto was able to bring on board someone like Kalonzo Musyoka and Joho, or even Oparanya, on board, he will be best assured that he will win the presidency next year,” he said.