Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua sought to stamp his authority as the Mt Kenya political kingpin when he stormed his rival Ndindi Nyoro’s Murang’a base on Saturday.
Unlike Mr Nyoro who had lined up 15 MPs in January to sing his praises as the best to be President William Ruto’s running-mate in 2027 and if he wins to succeed him in 2032, Mr Gachagua marshalled 117 legislators, subduing the Kiharu MP in his home area.
Mr Nyoro then led his troops in declaring support for Mr Gachagua, giving the former Mathira MP and self-proclaimed “son of Mau Mau” free reign to declare and show that he was the new Mt Kenya political supremo following the retirement of former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Moi University lecturer cum-political analyst Nyaga Kindiki, however, observed that it was too early to tell whether Mr Gachagua has the region under his control.
“If he plays the politics well, he can unite the region and be the kingpin,” the professor of international education and policy said on phone.
The large attendance by MPs from President Ruto’s Rift Valley base at the harambee presided over by Mr Gachagua in Kigumo, Prof Kindiki said, followed the Head of State’s recent call for an end of the succession debate in the region, which was interpreted in some quarters to mean he backed his Number Two.
“If the President and his Rift Valley bastion support him, he will be home and dry,” Prof Kindiki said, adding that the Kenya Kwanza leader was keen on ensuring stability in the outfit to give him and his deputy a chance to address difficulties facing the country.
He said the Nyoro issue was a result of the Kiambu and Murang’a leaders' feelings that they own the Central Kenya politics more than those in Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Meru, Embu and other areas which they only need as voting machines. While Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his son Uhuru were from Kiambu, Kenya’s third leader Mwai Kibaki hailed from Nyeri.
On Saturday, Mr Nyoro and his lieutenants abandoned their criticism for Mr Gachagua. Despite being on home ground, in a show of surrender, Mr Nyoro quipped: “There is no confusion that President Ruto is our team leader while Mr Gachagua is the deputy captain and the rest of the calculations are in the hands of God.”
Mr Nyoro reaffirmed his support for Rigathi and addressed him as his “boss and friend”.
“As Ndindi Nyoro, and all MPs in Kenya Kwanza, we know President Ruto’s plans to transform the country. We know the economy is changing and the least we can do is to support him and his deputy, to offer them unconditional support as they serve Kenyans.
“We know Rigathi was given the role of streamlining the agriculture sector and we have allocated funds for the subsidised fertilizers, stabilising milk prices and modernising New KCC plants,” said Mr Nyoro.
Mr Gachagua used the opportunity to drive his point home, that he is the top-most defender of the region’s interests, was more experienced and would not allow the region to be divided during his tenure as DP. He waxed historical, saying having worked under former presidents Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Kenyatta the region was relegated to the opposition whenever it failed to unite.
Mr Gachagua, who is trying to build his profile through the resuscitation of the agriculture sector in the region and fight against illicit liquor, appeared to lay to rest fears that he might not have the President’s ears with the huge turnout of Rift Valley leaders.
“The meeting laid to rest the debate over who is Mt Kenya’s political boss,” Mathira MP Eric Wamumbi, a close ally of the DP, said.
Other political observers were of the view that the succession debate sparked by Mr Nyoro, a powerful parliamentary Budget Committee chair, to test the waters could have dealt him a political blow.
During the meeting, Mr Gachagua, who looked fired up and passionate about leading Mt Kenya region and being the undisputed Kenya Kwanza Number Two, framed his speech on the push for unity ahead of the 2027 polls. He also positioned himself as the guarantor of Mt Kenya’s interests in the Ruto administration.
The DP said the public display of unity was a warning shot to those who thought they could divide the vote-rich region.
“Our unity is strength and never again will leaders from Mt Kenya mislead the people,” Mr Gachagua declared. He added that it was his responsibility to streamline both the President’s and his backyard’s politics, emphasising the need for both Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions to remain united.
Meru Senator Kathuri Murungi said Mt Kenya cannot afford to be divided. “We have seen the chaos that can be caused by disunity,” he said.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah lauded the MPs for putting aside their political affiliations for the greater good.
South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro hit out at Mr Nyoro saying that even though leaders are allowed to dream, they should not let their ambitions cause divisions.
“We cannot stop someone from dreaming but you don’t have to speak it out,” he said.
Nyandarua Woman Rep Faith Gitau said the region is firmly behind President Ruto and his deputy, while Embakasi North MP Mwangi Gakuya said they fought tooth and nail for the Kenya Kwanza government and, therefore, it should be respected, especially by members.
Lands Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome said the Mt Kenya region could not afford to read from different scripts and urged local leaders to desist from engaging in divisive politics.
President Ruto is expected to undertake a development tour of Kiambu, Murang’a and Nyeri counties from Wednesday.