Raila Odinga in Gatanga, Mt Kenya

ODM leader Raila Odinga (3rd left) joins other leaders in a dance at businessman SK Macharia's home in Gatanga, Murang'a County on July 27, 2021.

| File | Nation Media Group

Mt Kenya politicians panic over Raila endorsement for President

What you need to know:

  • The panic came to the fore during Mr Odinga’s recent visit to Royal Media Services owner Samuel Kamau Macharia’s Gatanga home, where some of the President’s men endorsed the former premier as their 2022 candidate.

The proposed 2022 succession partnership between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga has sent Mt Kenya politicians into panic.

They are worried that their careers might suffer if they support the agenda.

The panic came to the fore during Mr Odinga’s recent visit to Royal Media Services owner Samuel Kamau Macharia’s Gatanga home, where some of the President’s men endorsed the former premier as their 2022 candidate.

Even the staunchest of President Kenyatta’s supporters in the region, such as Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege and Maragua’s Mary Wa Maua, kept off the meeting and made sure they remained conspicuous on social media going about their political lives away from the venue.

“…that is nonsense…we are busy elsewhere…We are serving the nation and our electorate in other matters and we are busy,” Ms Chege’s aide posted on social media when a blogger insinuated that she was in Gatanga to support Mr Odinga.

Asked by the Nation why he responded so angrily, the aide said that “following Mr Odinga and expressing open support for his presidential ambition is not to the best of our interests.”

 “The President can afford to go against the grain since he is retiring in 2022 and will not be seeking Mt Kenya votes but following him into the proposed Jubilee Party and Orange democratic Movement (ODM) merger is suicidal,” he said.

“Those of us who harbour political aspirations beyond 2022 are finding it a nightmare of terror proportions to endorse Mr Odinga for any position even in his own political base of Kibra or even in Luo Nyanza.” 

Key figures absent

The only elected politicians from the region who attended the meeting were MPs Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga), Maoka Maore (Igembe North), Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Kanini Kega (Kieni).

The President’s diehard supporters, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Tharaka Nithi’s Muthomi Njuki, Nakuru’s Lee Kinyanjui, Nyandarua’s Francis Kimemia, Nyeri’s Mutahi Kahiga and Embu’s Martin Wambora, did not attend. There was no representation from Nairobi County.

A governor, who sought anonymity, told the Nation that “some of us are following the President with a heavy heart since we know we are risking our careers.”

He said “the President of late has become very nervy to defiance and is burning temperamental fuses very fast and can order the State agencies to start investigating us”.

He said it is for that purpose that “we are being told to avail ourselves in political meetings that are not in our hearts and are in total conflict with the passions of our voters”.

On social media platforms, the meeting had raised a lot of heat, with some bloggers urging all elected politicians in the region to openly declare their stand about the proposal to endorse Mr Odinga as the region’s 2022 presidential candidate.

The region is perceived to be in the firm grip of Deputy President William Ruto and his “Hustler Nation” narrative. Going by the results of recent by-elections in which he bagged six and the President’s wing won two, the notion that the region is his to lose retains its traction.

Ms Wa Maua had earlier said in a radio interview that “we have to evaluate our stand and ensure that we do not pull ourselves away from our voters…we have local politics to take care of and it would be very unwise to invest our careers where our voters’ hearts are absent”.

No more stereotypes

Governors from the Mt Kenya region who attended Mr Odinga’s Gatanga endorsement were Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) and James Nyoro (Kiambu).

Mr Wa Iria, in his second and last term and hence locked out of the local contest, said “the time for stereotypes, where it was believed that one’s political fortunes can be inhibited by tribe or region considerations was long gone”.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata branded Wa Iria “a political inciter who is going home and intends to take with him as many political careers as possible from Mt Kenya”.

Mr Kang’ata insisted that “Mr Odinga is a political problem in Mt Kenya and any one being associated with his presidential contest support remains a marked man/woman for ballot punishment by area voters”.

Mt Kenya political analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge said the region for now is in an interesting position.

“It is torn between following a President who is retiring and won’t care if you burnt your fingers in your loyalty and striking an independent political route and be in conflict with the head of state and his overzealous hunting dogs who won’t hesitate to pounce on you and whip you to submission,” he said.

Area Young Professionals Lobby Group chair Mixson Warui said “in Mt Kenya region there are only three sure ways of losing an election — be associated with Mungiki, Mr Odinga or being a poor contestant”.