• Team Tangatanga, the politicians from Mt Kenya region backing Ruto’s State House bid claim there is a deliberate plot by powers that be to intimidate them for supporting the country’s second in command.
• Political analyst Mark Bichachi says Team Tangatanga was insincere in its support for the DP’s 2022 presidential bid.
Deputy President William Ruto’s key lieutenants in Central Kenya have openly vowed to remain loyal to him amid claims of a vicious ‘state-backed’ political onslaught against them.
In the wake of heightened political machinations ahead of the 2022 General Election, Ruto’s brigade in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard maintains it will stick with him to the end “no matter what.
Christened Team Tangatanga, the politicians from Mt Kenya region backing Ruto’s State House bid claim there is a deliberate plot by powers that be to intimidate them for supporting the country’s second in command.
However, in wide-ranging interviews, the politicians remained buoyant but skeptical with what they termed as a strong “anti-Ruto movement deeply-rooted in the system”.
They say the State’s “orchestrated withdrawal of their security” last month was part of a wide-scheme aimed at pushing them into submission to back down from Ruto’s 2022 political juggernaut.
Although the State explained that the move was in line with the government’s new policy to recall all Kenya Police officers attached to VIPs in favour of the Administration Police, the victims still claim there were political undertones.
There were claims that power dealers within and without the government orchestrated the withdrawal as part of their elaborate game plan to cut the DP’s brigade down to size.
On Thursday, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa, who is one of the DP’s fiercest defenders, told the Star that the people of Central Kenya have no choice other than to support Ruto as the success of the President is tied to him.
“Ever since the two struck a political pact, the DP has been a priceless asset in Uhuru’s political corner, thanks to his unmatched mobilisation skills. He has wholeheartedly deployed his exceptional eloquence in articulating the government’s vision, mission and achievements, while putting the challenges encountered in their proper perspective and context. Voters of Central Kenya will reciprocate this by rallying behind Ruto in 2022,” Ichungw'a said.
But political analyst Mark Bichachi said Team Tangatanga was insincere in its support for the DP’s 2022 presidential bid.
“They are after a brown envelope every Fridays. Ruto is known to run an open purse and open budget policy the way [Retired President Daniel] Moi used to operate,” Bichachi said.
Bichachi cautioned DP Ruto not to be blinded by the excitement coming from his Central Kenya allies, whom he said are more focussed on making money from him.
“They depend on Ruto to feed them and will run away when the vaults run dry,” he said.
However, there are jitters within Ruto’s political camp that Uhuru is under the persuasion of his close family members not to endorse him as his heir apparent.
The narrative is gathering steam and the same has been reinforced by Uhuru’s handshake with his foe-turned-friend Raila Odinga, as well as the emergence of Team Kieleweke, which is opposed to Ruto’s presidential bid.
MPs under the Team Kieleweke out — which the Ruto wing has openly claimed is being backed by individuals in the Office of the President — have been making efforts to recruit as many leaders from the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association.
However, their overtures are yet to turn the tables against Ruto and some MPs have opted snub both Team Kieleweke and the Tangatanga brigade.
Team Kieleweke is led by nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), with the membership of Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Peter Mwathi (Limuru), Paul Koinage (Kiamba) and Mercy Gakuya (Kasarani).
Others include Muturi Kigano (Kangema), Maoka Maore (Igembe North), former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, former Dagoreti South MP Dennis Waweru and former Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe.
The rest of the MPs from Kiambu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Murang’a ,Kirinyaga, Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru have largely stood with the DP, while others have opted for a “wait and see” strategy.
In a new political dilemma for Ruto, at least two parties have spouted in Uhuru’s Central Kenya backyard with the President’s studious silence raising jitters that the region’s unity could be at stake ahead of 2022.
Amidst this division and rivalry, a new political outfit — the Transformational National Alliance — has been registered and given a provisional certificate.
Its vice chairman and former PS Cyrus Njiru says it would be the region’s alternative political vehicle.
“The Transformation National Alliance party has been formed by Jubilee members convinced of the ruling party’s imminent collapse,” Njiru said.
He added, “Elected politicians from Jubilee are trooping to TNA because they are disappointed that some of the party’s very good promises have not been fulfilled. They decided to look for a way forward, which includes the formation of the new party.”
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu who is facing a bizarre Sh2.1 billion audit query in the Senate is among the DP’s ardent supporters.
However, the entry of his archrival William Kabogo into Ruto’s inner circle is likely to complicate his relationship with the DP.
According to Waititu, were it not for Ruto, Uhuru would be nowhere close to State House. He said Central Kenya will not be “mislead” to support another candidate apart from Ruto to take over from President Kenyatta.
"The issues of 2022 are over. We all know who will succeed President Kenyatta. It is none other than William Ruto and all the people of Central Kenya know this,” Waititu said.
Njoro MP Charity Kathambi said they would not want to suffer from any “curse” associated with the breaking of the covenant between Uhuru and Ruto.
“We will stick together, work together and move forward together beyond 2022 to ensure there is a continuation of the Jubilee development programmes,” the MP said.
Kandara MP Alice Wahome said the larger Mt Kenya will stand with Ruto as the era of political betrayal is over.
“Why should we be thinking of changing our attire when it has already fitted us? That is not possible. We know where we have come from, where we are and where we want to go,” she said.
There are emerging concepts among the political class that President Kenyatta is likely to drop his deputy after his term comes to an end in 2022 due to the March 9 handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Those who are of the view the President will be in some form of catch-22 over whom to pick as his successor base their argument on the fact that the body language between President Kenyatta and his principal assistant after the handshake suggests a difficult relationship.
"But in the unlikely event that President Kenyatta decides to support someone else for the top seat in 2022, voters in Central and Mt Kenya would support Ruto for the presidency because of his development track record, which is clear for all to see," Waititu said.
“But what we are asking is simple: Where were these individuals opposing the DP between 2013 and 2017 when Ruto tirelessly worked to bring together all the Jubilee affiliate parties and ensure the election of President Kenyatta in 2013 and his reelection twice in 2017? They should give us a break,” Mathira MP Gachagua Rigathi said.
“What William Ruto is now doing by touring the country to inspect development projects is exactly what he did between 2013 and 2017 and he was being praised. Now that we are accompanying the Deputy President in inspecting the implementation of the Big Four agenda like he did between 2013 and 2017, we are being dubbed Tangatanga team," he said
"This is nothing but politics aimed at blocking the DP from ascending the presidency. But God will help the DP become the president of this country in 2022,” Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said in Muranga.
The leaders in most of the meetings in Central and Mt Kenya say Ruto’s achievements in politics are a function of his relentless pursuit of equality as demonstrated when he was Eldoret North MP, Minister for Agriculture and later in the Higher Education docket.
However, political analysts argue that Ruto will have a tough task to overcome GEMA’s fear of an ‘outsider’ president.
Ruto is, however, using a different political approach by going directly to the people to seek their support unlike in the past where some leaders were using their kingpins to get to the grassroots.
“Voters in Central Kenya know no one else apart from Deputy President William Ruto. His development tours to launch and commission roads, health facilities, schools and churches has made him be the darling of the people of Central and Mt Kenya among other parts of the country. It's now hard to separate him from the voters,” John Mwangi, a taxi driver in Nyeri town, said.
Admittedly, Uhuru may have a soft spot for Raila before 2022 to allow the implementation of the Big Four agenda and secure his legacy when he leaves office, thus the handshake.
Kutuny holds the view that the country is revolting against Ruto’s camp, saying failure the support the President on the war against corruption was the greatest undoing of Team Tangatanga.
This is nothing but politics aimed at blocking the DP from ascending the presidency. But God will help the DP become the president of this country in 2022Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro
The former political adviser to President Uhuru insists that more than 50 MPs from across the political divide have joined the anti-Ruto movement.
“Kenyans know the leaders they want, not the corrupt. We are now a huge team ready to fight for Kenyans,” he said.
Kamanda, a leading critic of Ruto — said to have fallen out with the Deputy President over the Jubilee Party nominations — said the movement would take the country by storm in what he noted would rekindle the 2002 “political tsunami” that swept Kanu out of power.
“Watch this space. This is going to change the country's political terrain for good,” the ex-Starehe MP recently said.