He was 15 when his father Daniel Moi became president, and by the time he left office in 2002, he was old enough to be elected MP of the constituency his father represented since independence, Baringo Central.
Fast forward to 2021, and Gideon Kipsiele Towett Moi, who turns 58 on October 22, has declared his interest in succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta, whom Mr Moi succeeded after his death in 1978.
While the older Moi was the shoo-in successor of his boss, albeit with some opposition within government — his last-born son is making his first attempt at the top job, while he faces the Herculean task of reviving the floundering Kanu party, having a not-so-big national profile, and the looming shadow of Deputy President William Ruto in the expansive, vote-rich Rift Valley region.
Journey to State House
But for Kanu diehards, nothing is impossible for the two-term Baringo senator, who was voted out as MP in 2007 following a Ruto-backed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) wave that also saw his brothers Raymond and Jonathan lose in Eldama Ravine and Rongai, respectively.
“I am your own son and you had enough confidence to vote for me as an MP for five years and a senator for two terms. I appreciate your love and generosity to vote and entrust me as your leader. We should also walk the journey together to the State House, because I promise not to disappoint you,” Mr Moi told church and community elders at his rural home in Sacho, Baringo, on Sunday.
The senator, who is set to be unveiled as the Kanu flagbearer on September 30, says he has what it takes to win the seat, but is worried his Kalenjin community, where Dr Ruto also comes from, is not giving him a chance.
“I have already made a decision and I am not backing down, however tough the duel is. I am only asking my community to support me in this journey and not backstab me. If I lose, I will have lost humbly and if I win, it will play to our advantage as well and I am very optimistic that we will trounce our opponents to clinch the presidency,” said Moi.
Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat, a dyed-in-the-wool Gideon Moi supporter, believes it’s the senator’s time.
“Since 2002 when Moi retired from presidency, we have been supporting other parties during elections and it is their turn to extend their hand to us because we are fielding our party leader Moi to vie for the top seat in the coming General Election and we are appealing to Kenyans to support him because he is equal to the task. We want to bring back the seat to Rift Valley,” said Mr Salat.
Since 2002, he said, the party had gained enough experience to present Mr Moi for the top job.
He refused to give specifics, only saying the party will soon roll out its master plan to Kenyans.
Mr Moi’s quest to revamp Kanu in the Rift Valley, which voted overwhelmingly for Jubilee in 2013 and 2017, has triggered a political confrontation with the DP and his allies.
The Baringo senator has lately been traversing the vast Rift Valley, urging locals to support Kanu, which has not gone down well with Dr Ruto’s supporters, who perceive this as a scheme to weaken the Deputy President’s hold on the region.
Kalenjin elders have in the past unsuccessfully tried to reconcile the DP and Mr Moi to speak in one voice ahead of 2022 and avoid the ‘sibling rivalry’, a move that seems to have hit a dead end.
The DP has been describing Mr Moi as a “political greenhorn who is not yet ready for State House” and has repeatedly dismissed Kanu as a party that has lost its footing in the vote-rich Rift Valley.
Dr Ruto’s allies from the community have also in many instances referred to Moi as a political novice, insisting that he should shelve his presidential ambition and support the DP, who is inching closer to the top seat, having deputised President Kenyatta for two terms.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany, the DP’s de-facto spokesperson, said Rift Valley politics has to change and embrace the ‘hustler’ narrative.
“In Rift Valley the party remains Ruto. We are behind hustler narrative and those family politics have no place this time round,” said the Soy MP.
According to Bomet Senator Christopher Lang’at, the younger Moi is working on an elaborate scheme to spoil for Dr Ruto, a scheme that would fail, he said.
“Gideon’s presidential quest is laughable. He is used as an instrument of division and our people have known that the Deep State is not even interested in him. They just want him to divide Ruto’s vote in Rift Valley, which will not happen. The race is between two people -- Raila and Ruto, the rest are people who cannot sell themselves hence banking on endorsements and rigging,” explained Senator Lang’at.
According to Belgut MP Nelson Koech and his Keiyo South counterpart Daniel Rono, Mr Moi is not fit to compete with the DP.
Mr Rono said: “Yes, Gideon has money, but he is not willing to use that money. Secondly, he has no ground. Charity begins at home, therefore, his presidential quest is inconsequential to us, because for us, we have support which cuts across the country.”
Former Majority Whip in the National Assembly Benjamin Washiali said Mr Moi was a weak candidate.
“What will Deep State help him with? Deep State has a very small contribution; Deep State can only assist you if you also have support but how can they support you from nothing? Like, Moi has only Kamket as an MP … look at the BBI vote, Baringo, which he represents as a senator, was one of the counties that shot it down,” he said.
Mr Moi has lost West Pokot governor John Lonyangapuo, former minister Musa Sirma, Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut and a host of MCAs, who have defected and all but the governor joined Dr Ruto.
However, Tiaty MP William Kamket, who is Mr Moi’s close ally, has dismissed claims by Dr Ruto’s supporters that being the Deputy President makes it easy for him to clinch power in 2022.
“Tunaomba kumwambia naibu wa rais kuwa kutangulia si kufika. We want to tell the DP that being a deputy President is not a guarantee to the presidency. There are two horses in Rift Valley, a polite one who deserves to be the head of state and another one who likes engaging in cheap politicking,” said Mr Kamket at an event in his constituency recently.
Senate majority leader Samuel Poghisio said the independence party was united and had entered into coalitions with other parties to form a formidable base ahead of the elections.
Baringo woman representative Gladwell Cheruiyot also insisted that Moi was equal to the task of succeeding President Kenyatta in 2022.
“We have our two sons vying for the top seat and that should not cause divisions because whoever wins will be to our great advantage. Senator Moi has gained enough experience to lead this nation and we are urging him also not to be distracted by the political rivals who have sensed defeat. We have embarked on a journey and we are not giving up until we achieve our aspirations, which we are very sure we will,” said Ms Cheruiyot.
Mr Moi, who is part of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) of Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Kalonzo Musyoka, wants the inclusion of ODM’s Raila Odinga in the group.
“We have already teamed up with three other parties to form the One Kenya Alliance, to bring together all communities in the country for a transformative agenda and for that reason; we are welcoming Raila and other like-minded parties to join us. We are very hopeful that we will win the presidency if we speak in one voice,” said Moi.
It is, however, not clear if the other OKA principals will settle on the Kanu chairman, after infighting by the affiliate parties recently, where each was insisting on its preferred candidate.
During a forum bringing together the affiliate party leaders in Naivasha last month, Mr Salat said it was important for the principals to sit down and agree amicably on who would fly the presidential flag in 2022, if they hoped to trounce their opponents.