Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua “will gradually get to a point where his public image will be of a political joker who’s out of his depth as DP. And he’s falling into the trap. In a couple of months, no one will take him or what he says seriously”.
That was the prescient observation last October by former Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri in the wake of yet another controversial pronouncement from the DP.
Gachagua clearly did not heed the message, as evidenced by the latest outrageous comment likening the country to a private company in which dividends go only to the “shareholders” who contributed to Kenya Kwanza Alliance’s electoral victory.
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A video of the DP making the comments at a public forum in Kericho County a week ago swiftly went viral, and with probably unintended consequences as opposition chief Raila Odinga was handed a ready weapon in his continuing campaign against President William Ruto’s government.
The series of protest rallies organised by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader exploited Gachagua’s gaffe to the maximum, playing up the narrative that for the ruling elite, Kenya was a private enterprise in which the proceeds will be shared only within a small circle.
The messaging now from Azimio is that all taxpayers are “shareholders” and must get equal treatment, failure to which they either halt their contributions to the national kitty, or demand that their taxes are ploughed back exclusively to their regions.
Skewed allocations that punished regions which did not vote for the Ruto-Gachagua ticket would indeed be worrying, and would place the President in a tricky situation as he continues trying to win constituencies that cast their lot with Odinga’s Azimio’s coalition.
Although most Kenya Kwanza leaders maintained an awkward public silence after Gachagua’s latest verbal blunder, The Weekly Review learnt from multiple sources that concerns over a possible backlash were expressed at the highest levels.
President Ruto, it is understood, did not want to upbraid his deputy, but may have given a tacit okay for other senior leaders to embark on damage-control messaging. That is what may have prompted Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi to on Wednesday come out with a public assurance that the Kenya Kwanza government serves all Kenyans and would not discriminate on provision of services and distribution of development projects.
Speaking, in Gachagua’s presence during the launch of the Nairobi River Commission, Mudavadi said the government will work with all irrespective of political affiliation. “Today, we are in Korogocho and the people here chose their leaders who are not in Kenya Kwanza, and being here is a testament that we are going to work for all Kenyans despite who they voted for,” Mudavadi stated.
When his turn at the podium came, Gachagua walked back to an extent on his earlier statement, telling the crowd that as President, Ruto will serve all Kenyans equally, but he will focus on the party faithful. “President Ruto will serve all Kenyans. He, as the leader of the country, will continue with that work, and I, as the leader of the UDA, will continue to deal with the people of the UDA,” he stated.
Gachagua and Mudavadi taking contrary positions on the issue is continuation of a long-simmering rivalry between President Ruto’s two lieutenants, often taking ethnic undertones. The rivalry was seen as soon as Mudavadi, who was still a declared presidential aspirant on his Amani National Congress, spurned overtures from Odinga and then President Uhuru Kenyatta, to join the Ruto side.
Gachagua’s comments also came at a time when a campaign projecting Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro as an alternative leader for the Mt Kenya region has resurfaced.
Nyoro was launching a bursary fund in his constituency on February 15 when speaker after speaker touted his credentials for the Mt Kenya leadership baton, and the region’s best hope to succeed President Ruto.
Murang’a Senator Joe Nyutu declared it was the county’s turn to produce a president from Mt Kenya as Kiambu had the first and fourth President while Nyeri had the third. “The deputy presidency has now gone to Nyeri, thereby bypassing us, and we are now saying it is Murang’a’s turn through Mr Nyoro,” he asserted.
Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie said: “Nyoro has a brain to nurture. He is akin to our political cardinal … his nationally acclaimed brain should not go to waste and Kiharu will (benefit) should he become the next President.”
The calls were echoed by nearly a dozen other guests, and not just from Murang’a or the Mt Kenya region, but as far as Rift Valley and Western Kenya. Gachagua’s Mt Kenya supporters were furious, launching scathing attacks on Nyoro. Mr Martin Warui, chair of the Mt Kenya Million Plus for Gachagua’ campaign group, charged that it was ambition taken too far for a “mere MP to start thinking of dislodging a deputy president”, asking him to acknowledge that “Gachagua is the point of reference in all matters Mountain”. Nyoro beat a quick “it wasn’t me” retreat, pleading unconvincingly that he had no influence on what his guests chose to say at his meeting.
It is not the first time that Nyoro has been touted as an alternative to Gachagua, with his social media pages full of seemingly orchestrated posts lauding his leadership credentials and the faith Ruto has in him. Indeed, the biggest worry for Gachagua is that Nyoro might not be just some over-ambitious upstart, but one positioning himself with Ruto’s blessings.
Read more in ‘The Weekly Review’