TWO-HORSE RACE

Ruto allies laugh off Uhuru State House nod for Raila

Say they will speak directly to the people for votes and are not interested in any endorsement.

In Summary
  • The President on Wednesday hinted at backing Raila as his successor.
  • There are reports that Ruto has been relishing a contest where Raila is backed by  the state.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the opening of Kibra Level 3 hospital, September 29, 2021.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the opening of Kibra Level 3 hospital, September 29, 2021.
Image: PSCU

President Kenyatta’s open endorsement of ODM leader Raila Odinga to succeed him has set the stage for a two-horse race with DP William Ruto.

This even as the DP's Tangatanga camp exuded confidence that they will trounce Raila at the ballot despite the backing of the President.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech, a key ally of Ruto, said they wished Uhuru well in his endorsement of Raila but added that for "us we will speak directly to the Kenyan people.

"We have never asked for Uhuru's endorsement and we do not intend to. If endorsing Raila works for the President, well and good, but for us we will negotiate with the voters," Koech said.

There are reports that Ruto has been relishing a contest where Raila is backed by the state, hoping this would work against the ODM boss and play to his advantage.

Ruto has been disassociating himself from the failures of the Jubilee administration, insisting that the poor performance was occasioned by the handshake.

However, the President has spoken fondly of how his handshake with Raila gave him peace to deliver what he never did in his first term.

The President, who has fallen out with his deputy, on Wednesday signalled his desire to back Raila's presidential candidature during a development tour of Kibra in Nairobi.

While pointing at Raila and heaping praises for his sacrifices for the country, Uhuru urged the residents to support the ODM boss by "making wise choices."

“When we came together, wasn’t there peace? So where is the problem? Isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want that work to continue? It is up to you. Will you make wise choices? Let us see how you will do it,” the President said.

The surprise move appeared to get many political pundits off guard but triggered a lot of excitement within Raila's allies who say the ODM boss is now at pole position to succeed Uhuru.

While addressing a gathering in Nairobi's Kibra suburb, Uhuru told the jubilant crowds that he wanted to handover power to someone who will continue with his development agenda.

He said the handshake period has witnessed tremendous progress in the country and he hoped that would continue after the 2022 polls.

Although the President did not expressly say he prefers Raila to take over from him, the context of his praise for the ODM boss and the handshake and the proposal to have that continue exposed his wishes.

Raila, who accompanied Uhuru during the tour, also spoke passionately about the President's track record and said he has laid the foundation for the country's future prosperity.

In an apparent swipe at Ruto, Uhuru said it was time for Kenyans opposed to his unity bid with Raila to “read the signs and see the products of peace and unity.”

“Let us love one another as, through that, there is nothing we can’t attain as a nation. I want to tell those grumbling to see the benefit of oneness and peace,” Uhuru said.

The DP has previously challenged the ODM boss not to wait for the President's endorsement but instead campaign for Kenyans to make a decision.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, a Ruto ally, said the subtle endorsement does not shake the hustler nation.

"Kenyans will make the ultimate decision at the ballot next year. The endorsement the hustler nation is keen about is that by the millions of Kenyans," he said.

The vocal MP said the DP will keep his eyes on the ball by rallying Kenyans to support his bottom-up economic model.

Ruto and his allies have over time dismissed the endorsement of the President as having no impact in the DP's State House bid.

Political analyst Charles Nyambuga of Maseno University says the endorsement, coupled with Raila’s apparent successes in Mt Kenya forays, would impact the 2022 equation.

“Raila is strategically scaling the mountain. You can see there is bile building on the side of the DP side with comments such as ‘there should be no rigging’...'we will concede in a fair election", and so on” Dr Nyambuga said.

He holds that the endorsement makes 2022 a two-horse race, dismissing the OKA team as "struggling to even take off".

“OKA is a non-starter. You can see Kalonzo Musyoka is out of jet oil. His Ukambani base has no reaction to his wooing. He is not moving anywhere,” Nyambuga said.

“Musalia is trying to do stuff but again, with his typical pace, he is not vibrant. So, it is definitely a two-horse race. With what Gideon Moi seeks to do, I don’t see OKA going anywhere,” Dr Nyambuga told the Star.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, who has also declared his 2022 presidential bid, said it was still early to declare who is who.

“Raila is a force to reckon with but Kenyan politics and formation of coalitions traditionally occurs the last few months to the elections. I expect there to be many players as we move forward,” he said.

“I am also contesting and will be on the ballot. I am about to start my nationwide tours. By January, the landscape will have changed because Kenyans want change,” Mutua said.

ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula (Lugari MP) said Raila will suffer from the incumbency baggage.

“When you are termed a project, you will fail. Uhuru was termed a project of Moi, he failed. Kibaki tried to bring Musalia as a project in 2013 and failed. Kenyans have never voted for projects,” the MP said.

“It does not add any value. He (Uhuru) has one vote. The influence of state machinery is nothing. In 2002, we thought Moi was very influential but Kibaki won with a wave. By December Uhuru will be powerless,” Savula added.

Apparently buoyed by the endorsement, Raila began negotiations with Mt Kenya leaders on Thursday, deliberating on how his team would ensure equitable allocation of resources.

The talks also explored how the next government would ensure equal representation and access to government opportunities, peace and security for all Kenyans and continuity of ongoing state projects.

Mt Kenya leaders also pushed for their presence in national politics in line with their numbers and respect for leaders – past, present, and future.

It is also held largely that the President’s endorsement would also throw the One Kenya Alliance off the mark, having been eyeing the same.

It is hailed as part of the plan to box the OKA chiefs Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma Senator) in one corner and whip them to back Raila.

Gideon Moi (Kanu leader and Baringo Senator) gave the strongest hint of OKA's collapse in his invitation of the former Prime Minister as a chief guest in his nomination as the Kanu presidential candidate.