Matiang'i trump card in Uhuru's 2022 plans

ODM leader Raila Odinga is grooming the Interior Cabinet Secretary for bigger roles

In Summary

• The Interior Cabinet Secretary is treated as the senior-most government official and one who can easily mobilise leaders to a roundtable.

• A meeting of all political leaders from Nyanza is expected in the next few days where the Matiang'i development will be discussed.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i during a meeting at Karen police tation.
FACTOR IN '22 Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i during a meeting at Karen police tation.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has set his sights on a big role in the 2022 succession race, apparently buoyed by ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The Star has established Matiang'i, known as the super minister and Mr Fix It, is working with the former Prime Minister on an elaborate plan starting by uniting Nyanza to vote as a bloc.

Sources privy to the strictly guarded talks told the Star the former Prime Minister could be grooming the CS for bigger roles, including the presidency.

Matiang'i is considered the first among equals in the Cabinet, the super minister who in effect replaced Deputy President William Ruto in overseeing President Uhuru Kenyatta's Projects.

He is considered abrasive, uncompromising and effective.

A meeting of all political leaders from Nyanza is expected in the next few days where the Matiang'i development will be discussed.

There is talk the meeting will seek to harness the unity of Nyanza, including on fielding candidates to avert discord in the region.

A senior state official who asked not to be named told the Star the grand plan is to groom the CS for a face-off with DP Ruto in the 2022 duel.

“He is being viewed as the best candidate for President Kenyatta and Raila’s handshake side,” the official said.

The idea of elevating the Matiang'i to the role of Nyanza spokesman is to propel him to be among the sons to whom Raila might consider handing the baton.

Matiang’i is treated as the senior-most government official in the region, and one who can easily mobilise leaders to a roundtable.

This follows his role as the chairman of the National Development Committee of Cabinet in President Kenyatta’s administration.

The CS was appointed to the role through Executive Order No 1 of 2019, putting him on a collision course with Ruto and his allies.

Matiang’i is set to meet a governor from Nyanza on Monday as part of their joint efforts with Raila to consolidate the region.

When asked about the developments that stand to tilt not only the politics of Nyanza but also the President’s succession, Raila’s allies declined to comment.

Calls and messages to Raila’s aide Dennis Onyango on the reports went unanswered.

Luo Nyanza Parliamentary Group chairman James Nyikal (Seme MP) said the matter has not been brought to the attention of his team.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate since I have not officially been given that report,” Nyikal said on Sunday.

ODM chairman John Mbadi said Matiang'i is not someone to be dismissed.

“Raila would want to work with many people. The Cabinet Secretary has carved out a niche for himself, maybe not so much of a politician so far; he is more of a technocrat,” Mbadi said.

The Suba South MP is Minority leader of the  National Assembly.

“He has been working very closely with us save for the issues in the by-elections. He has already been playing a significant role to us and largely as a friend," the MP said.

Mbadi said, however, said he was “not privy to any suggestion or idea to make him anything bigger than what he is now".

“If there will be anything like that, we will hear…but for now, I don’t know what role that would be.”

But observers hold that the CS is a good tool for the unity of Nyanza as his docket goes deep in the grassroots.

Kisumu politician Erick Okeyo said, "Raila Odinga as a seasoned statesman who would get his math right with Matiangi as a unifying factor.”

Okeyo is chairman of the National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority.

Matiang’i is credited with steering the country through the digital migration when he was ICT Cabinet Secretary.

Matiang’i is also credited for the reforms in the management of KCPE and KSCE examinations, dealing a blow to exam cheats, and dishonest textbook publishers.

“Kenyans generally agree that as CS he has delivered in all his assignments — ICT, Lands and Education and now Interior. Hate him or like him, he is a man to watch as seasons unfold,” Okeyo said.

Cabinet Secretaries James Macharia (Transport) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) are among Matiang’i’s colleagues who have publicly said he is best placed to continue President Kenyatta’s legacy.

His choice is also said to be one that stands to give Raila an easier time in keeping his Nyanza backyard intact as the country hurtles towards.

Raila said after the meeting with Kisii leaders that they “discussed matters of national interest and the development of the Nyanza region".

The intelligence community has reportedly indicated that none of the One Kenya Alliance figures could beat Ruto at the polls.

And with Raila continuing to send confounding signals about his own 2022 plans, Ruto is far much ahead of his competition.

The trio of Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi, and Kanu’s Gideon Moi is said not to be closer, to be nowhere closer, even with the backing of Uhuru and Raila.

As a cautionary measure, the handshake side is thus working on a multi-prong strategy to beat the United Democratic Alliance side where the CS is a key factor.

Among the issues being factored is the buy-in by Mt Kenya voters – who are believed, may shift base from the DP to a large extent once Raila is out of the ballot.

Political analyst Martin Andati holds that the CS would be a hard sell since he doesn’t come from the big five communities.

“What does he bring to the table? It is still an uphill task for anyone who is coming from a minority to rule this country,” he said.

His view was that ODM will work with Jubilee but the side’s presidential candidate would be drawn from the One Kenya Alliance.