Lee Njiru on supporting Ruto's man over Moi's son: I am nobody's slave

Lee Njiru

Lee Njiru, former President Daniel arap Moi's press secretary, during an interview with Daily Nation at his Geranium Resort in Ngata, Nakuru County, on March 13, 2018.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Lee Njiru, President Daniel arap Moi’s long-serving press secretary, has backed the United Democratic Alliance's Paul Chebor, Raymond Moi's fiercest competitor in the Rongai parliamentary seat race, ahead of Monday's elections.

Mr Njiru, a trusted aide of Mzee Moi for over 40 years, made the revelations on Wednesday when he hosted the Kenya Kwanza brigade led by Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua at his Geranium resort in Ngata, Nakuru County.

Mr Njiru, who retired last year after 43 years in the civil service, said it was clear "Dr William Ruto commands a huge following in both Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley regions”.

“It is, therefore, not wise to go against the Ruto wave in the regions. Anybody going against the grain in the regions can definitely not survive," he told the Nation.

He asserted that he has the freedom to support anyone or any political outfit that he deems fit.

He cited Mzee Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga as prominent people who also changed their political allegiance in their time, saying “it is all about choice and timing".

"Nobody owns Kenyans. Kenyans are nobody's slaves. Equally, nobody owns the people of Rongai, they can always decide on their own," Mr Njiru added.

On Wednesday, the Gachagua-led Kenya Kwanza team held a consultative meeting with him in Ngata before they stormed various parts of Rongai to campaign for Mr Chebor, alias Mamba.

The meeting brought together more than 2,000 leaders and opinion shapers from the constituency.

Mr Njiru, for the first time, openly backed Mr Chebor.

Political pundits now say his support for Mr Chebor could boost the latter’s numbers in the cosmopolitan constituency.

"Mr Njiru is known as Mzee Moi's most trusted aide, who stayed next to Moi until his last days. His endorsement of the UDA ticket is therefore a huge political score for Mr Chebor ahead of the polls that are a few days away,” lawyer and political analyst Steve Kabita told the Nation.

“It will have a great impact on the Monday election."

When most of the country went to the polls on August 9, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) suspended the Rongai MP election over a mix-up of candidates on ballots.

Two governor races – in Mombasa and Kakamega – and other parliamentary races were also postponed due to similar hitches.

In the Rongai race, Raymond Moi, a son of Mzee Moi, is facing a tough challenge from Mr Chebor and Chama Cha Mashinani’s Luka Kigen.

The race is a do-or-die contest for Mr Moi, the only Mzee Moi scion still holding an elective seat.

The succession politics involving President Uhuru Kenyatta are a critical factor in the Rongai race.

The constituency is cosmopolitan and has several minority communities, including the Luo, Kisii, Luhya, Turkana and Kamba. Many work on sisal farms and others have bought land and settled in the constituency.

Minority groups make up 25 per cent of voters in the constituency.

The Kalenjin and the Kikuyu, the dominant communities and the largest landowners in the area, are bracing for a supremacy battle.

Mr Chebor, a former ward rep in Nakuru, is riding on the UDA wave and says he is confident he will win the parliamentary seat.

Mr Moi, who is banking on his CDF use record in his bid for a third term, is quoted saying no candidate can ever elbow him out of Rongai unless he opts to run for another seat.

"So some people think they can come and contest against me in the 2022 polls,” he told his constituents previously, amid cheers.

“Let them not waste their time and resources. I will defeat them the same way I defeated them in 2013 and 2017.”

He says he deserves a third term because “I have distributed resources equitably and the impact of my development projects has been felt in all corners of Rongai”.

In 2017, he fought tooth and nail to fend off a stiff challenge from Jubilee candidate Kibet Komen, who conducted a well-oiled campaign aided by DP Ruto.

Some political pundits in the region say it will either get worse or better for Mr Moi when the constituency’s 84,000 voters cast their ballots on Monday.

Others believe the election is important as it might mark the end of the Moi dynasty in the Rift Valley and, by extension, the country.

Mr Moi’s younger brother, Senator Gideon Moi, was shown the door in Baringo last week in the Senate race that was won by UDA's William Cheptumo.

The Rongai MP’s seat is seen as the Moi family's last battlefront as Raymond Moi seeks to fend off the UDA wave.

The election will be a political reality check for him.

His attempt to retain the seat for the third consecutive term hangs in the balance as UDA supporters bask in the glory of the victories of President-elect William Ruto and Nakuru Governor-elect Susan Kihika.

UDA has won eight of the 11 constituencies in the cosmopolitan county and Jubilee two.

With Rongai still in the hands of Kanu, it remains to be seen whether the incumbent will withstand the strong UDA wave.

Mzee Moi ruled for 24 years wielding immense power and determining who survived the cut-throat politics.

Two years after his death, his political stature still looms large.

At the time of his death, he had established a 'dynasty' with two of his sons, Gideon and Raymond, holding elective seats.

But in the run-up to the 2022 polls, Dr Ruto, a key political rival of the Mois, seemed to have crafted a strategy to end the Moi dynasty.

Dr Ruto devised a grand plan to lock out all the Mois or their 'projects' in Nakuru and Baringo counties, fielding UDA candidates in the areas.