Jimi Wanjigi makes a return to political arena in Raila team

Jimi Wanjigi makes a return to political arena in Raila team

What you need to know:

  • Mr Wanjigi was in Bondo as a chief guest at the fundraiser in aid of the St Michaels and All Angels Cathedral to put up synod plaza.
  • So connected is Mr Wanjigi that he has openly claimed that he brokered the deal between Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in his Muthaiga house, and that were it not for him, the Jubilee Alliance would not have been born.

Billionaire Jimi Wanjigi is back in the political battlefield and has once more pitched tent in Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga’s camp, which means that he will still be a central figure in the 2022 race. 

Interestingly, he is coming back at a time when Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta are on the last bit of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which may determine the future of national politics.

Yesterday, Mr Wanjigi, son of Moi-era Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi, was in Bondo as a chief guest at the fundraiser in aid of the St Michaels and All Angels Cathedral to put up synod plaza. He was accompanied by Mr Odinga.

 In politics, fundraisers are more than a collection of cash or a sign of generosity. They are used, at best, to entrench political relationships and at most, plot the future, and the entry of Mr Wanjigi into the mix means that the 2022 battle will not only be about numbers but deep pockets too.

“Every time the people of the lake work together with their friends from the mountain, great things happen in this country,” Mr Wanjigi said, perhaps alluding to the Kikuyu-Luo alliance that saw Kanu win the 1963 election and also the 2002 National Rainbow Alliance Coalition (Narc) election of Mwai Kibaki. Mr Wanjigi was accompanied by Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru and several young businessmen from Central Kenya in what is emerging as the charting of a post-Uhuru line up in 2022 where money, might and numbers will matter.

Accumulated wealth

On one side will be Deputy President William Ruto, a man who has accumulated lots of wealth in recent times, and, perhaps, Mr Odinga if he agrees to run. So far, pointers are that he is busy assembling a team and that he will be on the ballot.

In a pointer of what he is up to, Mr Wanjigi challenged Mt Kenya MPs who support Mr Odinga to decamp to ODM.

With the ties that bind Dr Ruto and President Kenyatta broken by the Handshake, Mr Wanjigi is making capital out of it. It was not surprising that yesterday Mr Wanjigi, who chaired the Jubilee presidential campaign team in 2013, told Kenyans to reject campaigns by the ‘Hustler Nation’ —which is Dr Ruto’s campaign tag.

 “We must start new slogans and say enough is enough. If you see a leader associated with corruption say no. If you see tribalism and nepotism say no. And if you hear hustlers say no,” he said.

At the end of last week, Mr Odinga was in Kisii, a swing-vote region, accompanied by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who is the de facto spokesman for the populous Abagusii community. It was also an occasion used by the speaker to hit out at Deputy President Ruto — whose presidential ambitions and “hustler” campaign narrative have forced the National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) to slap new restrictions on public rallies.

Interestingly, Mr Wanjigi is returning to a Raila camp with a difference. During the last campaign, he was the punching bag of the State after it emerged that he was one of the driving forces within Odinga’s campaign vehicle, the National Super Alliance (Nasa) which had brought together Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetangula and Kalonzo Musyoka.

But with the Handshake pact between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta, it will be interesting to see how Mr Wanjigi’s return will be viewed, either within Mr Kenyatta’s chunk of Jubilee Party or in Mr Odinga’s ODM where some members fear his king-maker role.

So connected is Mr Wanjigi that he has openly claimed that he brokered the deal between Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in his Muthaiga house, and that were it not for him, the Jubilee Alliance would not have been born.

“Their government was formed in this home. After the election in 2013, it was in this home that Uhuru and Odinga met in 2013 after the Supreme Court upheld his election,” said Wanjigi. Mr Kalonzo Musyoka also claimed that he was edged out of the presidential race by Uhuru and Ruto after they all met in Karen in the presence of Mr Wanjigi.

He recalled: “On that night, Uhuru and Ruto arrived at my home in the company of Jimmy Wanjigi, a Nairobi businessman and political strategist… We walked down to the gazebo where dinner was to be served. Ruto and Jimmy sat silently as Uhuru spoke: ‘Stephen,’ he said, ‘We have decided that you should choose some other position, but not the presidency or deputy presidency.’ I was stunned. I did not know at what point the arrangement we had earlier, of me being on the presidential ticket, had been changed.”

It was after this that Mr Kalonzo bolted into Mr Odinga’s camp and they lost the 2013 race to the Jubilee Coalition that had brought together The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP).

Jubilee team

But soon, Mr Wanjigi fell out with the Jubilee team and come the 2018 general election, he openly supported Mr Odinga t.

JW, as he is well known in political circles, is a survivor. Shortly after the 2018 general elections, he was targeted by security agents who raided his Muthaiga home, ostensibly looking for weapons. Mr Wanjigi said the firearms found at his Muthaiga home were legally held for his protection.

Police claimed to have “found” an M4 — a military-grade rifle — five pistols and a shotgun. As Wanjigi became the fall guy, the dramatic Handshake seemed to have pushed him into oblivion; but not so. On December 14, 2018, Raila Odinga invited President Kenyatta to his Bondo home for breakfast attended by his brother Oburu Odinga, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga. There was also the odd man: Jimi Wanjigi. The hearty handshake between Kenyatta and Jimi seemed to have ended the dramatic fallout between the two.

With Nasa dead, it now seems that Mr Wanjigi’s political interests might be in ODM. Of all political strategists in the country, Mr Wanjigi is a man not to be underrated and has been a close friend to the Odinga family. During the last campaigns, Mr Wanjigi was conspicuously present during the launch of the party manifesto and launch of the Nasa line up.

At the tail end of the Nasa campaign and the vote counting, Mr Wanjigi was a busy bee and would be seen at the Bomas of Kenya IEBC tallying centre coordinating activities or at his Caramel Restaurant planning press briefings.

For years, Mr Wanjigi was the most feared man and had built an enormous business empire – Tyl Limited - that transacts business in billions of shillings.

He also hosted a small party secretariat at his up-market Caramel Restaurant at ABC Westlands where he had hoped that the victory party would be held.

Whatever Mr Wanjigi is up to, he will have a major role to play in the coming elections and within the Raila camp. But whether he will go for a political position remains to be seen.

Bondo reporting by Dickens Wasonga

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