Details of a plot by senior government officials to influence President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2022 succession continued to emerge Sunday, with Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Amani National Congress (ANC) boss Musalia Mudavadi said to be favoured by the state operatives.
While the plan is still said to be in its nascent stages, allies of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga have already started protesting against the plot they see as hijacking the efforts made by the former prime minister and the Head of State on the March 2018 Handshake, which birthed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Coming barely three months after Mr Kenyatta hinted at a rotational presidency — in what would have locked out Senator Moi and Deputy President William Ruto from the Kalenjin community and their Kikuyu counterparts — the plan is said to be picking pace.
Both Mr Moi and Mr Mudavadi are also said to have the ears of the larger Kenyatta family and are seen as the safest bets to take over after Mr Kenyatta, who will be thrown into a dilemma should he be forced to ditch Mr Odinga for either of the two men.
Insiders say Mr Kenyatta is under intense pressure from his family to return the favour he received from his mentor, the late President Daniel Moi, at the end of his 24-year rule.
In 2002, Mr Moi surprised and upset experienced Kanu leaders who were eyeing his endorsement — including Mr Odinga, Mr Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Katana Ngala and George Saitoti — when he picked the junior Kenyatta, then a political greenhorn.
"So powerful is the force behind Moi that Kenyans should not be surprised if they finally have their way as they are working with some powerful civil servants to ensure the Baringo senator becomes the State candidate," a source privy to the plan told the Nation in confidence.
On Sunday, Mr Moi was in Githunguri Constituency in President Kenyatta’s Kiambu County for the ordination of Mr Paul Njenga as the Bishop of African Independent Pentecostal Church of Kenya (AIPCK), just a day after holding a rally in Pokot South and another one in Fafi, Garissa County.
In an evident escalation of his political engagements, Mr Moi, who last month read a joint statement on behalf of pro-BBI party leaders at State House, Nairobi, had on Friday attended a rally in Taita Taveta, just days after addressing a well-attended roadside event in Kabartonjo, Baringo County.
“Today's visit to Kiambu is part of many to come where we will have a conversation. Kanu has had friendship with people from Mt Kenya for many years,” Mr Moi said, asking leaders to avoid politics to let President Kenyatta complete his term.
‘Why the panic?’
But as Senator Moi avoided politics in Kiambu County, Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat, who said the party’s focus is still on passing BBI with 2022 politics coming later, asked those concerned about the Baringo senator’s place in the Uhuru succession not to panic.
“We have said that we are no longer going to sit pretty and we will come out and play in the big league of politics. If what we are doing leads to something big, why not?” Mr Salat told the Nation Sunday.
“Right now, we are selling the BBI message as advised by President Kenyatta and we will only talk about 2022 after BBI. So why the panic? We want to tell those spreading sideshows to relax. Why are they scared?”
Raila committed to BBI
Mr Salat dismissed fears that Mr Odinga might bolt out of the Handshake.
“I know for sure that Raila is committed to BBI. It is his baby and I do not think he can let the BBI baby drown. These other sideshows will soon come to pass,” Mr Salat said.
Tiaty MP William Kamket, a dyed-in-the-wool Moi supporter, gleefully talked of a Gideon Moi presidency on Saturday, saying he has the support of all the party leaders and is the man to beat Dr Ruto, seen as having had a head-start in the 2022 State House contest.
"Because Uhuru Kenyatta is retiring next year, we have revamped Kanu so that Gideon should vie for presidency. This is Kanu fresh. Gideon Moi is with Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula in western, Kalonzo Musyoka in Ukambani, Hassan Joho at the Coast, Uhuru Kenyatta in central and Raila Odinga in Nyanza. Since this is a game of numbers, who between Gideon Moi and the other person will get votes based on this support?” Mr Kamket asked.
ANC party candidate
Another source Sunday intimated to the Nation that a female State House operative, who worked former President Mwai Kibaki’s government and absorbed in the current administration, is the force behind Mr Mudavadi.
“Mudavadi is the automatic ANC party candidate, endorsed by the national governing council. He is going to the battle, working with Kalonzo, Moi and Wetang’ula,” ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula said, confident that last week’s Matungu by-election win was a sign of big things to come for the former vice president.
Meanwhile, a planned Kamukunji declaration in Kibra, Nairobi on Sunday failed to materialise as social media talk of an ODM ‘tough response’ dissipated with those that attended the rally supporting the BBI and the Handshake.
“If you see a lion which has been rained on, do not think it is a cat. We went to the streets then, we can do it again,” Mathare MP Anthony Oluoch said in a church function before the MPs went to the grounds for a rally where they carried the BBI message and avoided the succession talks.
There was talk that Mr Odinga would attend the rally, but his handlers told the Nation that the ODM leader was at home, with no planned functions.
In what seemed like coordinated messaging, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo and National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed on Saturday told of a plan by senior government officials led by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho working behind the scenes to frustrate the BBI and craft a Uhuru succession plan.
“Just like it happened when President Kibaki was serving his second and last term in 2013, some people inside the government are busy trying to lay succession strategy. They are reaping where they have not sown. Without the handshake between Raila Odinga and President Kenyatta that has brought peace in this country they could not be planning that succession,” Mr Orengo said.
Mr Mohamed, on the other hand, threatened to keep off the BBI process if Mr Kibicho does not keep off.
But Sunday, BBI secretariat co-chair Dennis Waweru downplayed any rift within the secretariat, saying any matters arising will be dealt with by the relevant authorities.
“I am not aware of any rift within the secretariat as I even held three meetings of the secretariat last week. But if there are issues then we have our internal mechanism of dealing with the issues,” said Mr Waweru.
On her part, acting Nairobi Governor Anne Kananu, who will lead BBI campaigns in the city, said no amount of propaganda will derail the passage of the document.
“We don't want propaganda around this document. We will now ensure we embark on a serious sensitisation mission in order for Nairobi residents to understand the contents of the document and ensure it sails through during the referendum,” said Ms Kananu.
Leaders allied to Dr Ruto dismissed Mr Moi and Mr Mudavadi as non-starters that they know they will beat in 2022.
“We are clear in our minds that our only opponent is Raila Odinga. The Mudavadi-Moi-Kalonzo-Wetang’ula is an axis to nowhere. Even if Uhuru and Raila were to deploy all their resources, state machinery and everything at their disposal for the sake of the four, it will still remain a walkover for the DP. They have no spine, no momentum and simply unconvincing. They will finally settle on Raila Odinga albeit late, which is a plus is for us,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech, a Ruto ally, said of the four.
Arguing that the Mudavadi-Moi-Kalonzo-Wetang’ula One Kenya movement should not celebrate the wins in Matungu and Kabuchai, University of Nairobi political commentator Herman Manyora said the alliance will have it rough if fielded against Dr Ruto in 2022.
“Uhuru Kenyatta and your people should know that any of these guys cannot beat William Ruto. Not Gideon Moi, he is a good guy, for today, not tomorrow. Not Musalia Mudavadi. Not Kalonzo Musyoka. In fact, Ruto will have these people for breakfast. Any of these guys fielded against William Ruto, Ruto will take a holiday to come back to be crowned president. For now, your only fighting chance is Raila Odinga. There is no way any of these other guys, even if supported by Raila, will beat Ruto,” said Mr Manyora.
Additional reporting by Collins Omulo and Simon Ciuri.