Rigathi Gachagua
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Sobering reality check for battling DP Gachagua as he hints at going it alone

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Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua addresses wananchi in Nyeri town yesterday. The DP vowed that he will not stop his campaign for ‘one-man, one-vote, one-shilling’.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua appears to be following the same script Dr William Ruto used in his intense political battle with then President Uhuru Kenyatta, something commentators have warned could backfire.

On Friday, while launching new classrooms at Manyatta Primary School in Ruai, Kasarani Constituency, Nairobi Mr Gachagua maintained that he has an important role to play on the future political direction of the country.

It was not lost on pundits that Mr Gachagua—who was being hosted by area MP Adams Karauri— partly used mother tongue to address what is considered a cosmopolitan gathering.

The DP directly hinted that he might consider changing the political script in the Mount Kenya region that gave Dr Ruto an overwhelming majority in the triumphant August 9, 2022 General Election, with Mr Gachagua as the running mate.

“They can belittle me as much as they want…they can even dismiss me as a villager. But in the near future there is something I will say. You know that I cannot lead you into a ditch. There are many voices telling me to first listen to the ground,” he told the audience in mother tongue.

Plotting a lone stab

And National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichung’wah on Friday suggested that the DP was plotting a lone stab at the top job in 2027.

“Stop telling people at night that William Ruto is a one-term President and that you will marshal your community to undermine and sabotage the government of President William Ruto so that he fails and you become president,” Mr Ichung’wah said in Kiambu County during a meeting attended by President Ruto’s long-serving and trusted aide, Farouk Kibet.

He went on: “If you want to become president, work in the position you have been given today and deliver. When your time comes, they will see leadership in you. But if you seek to sabotage the government your own selfish ends, my brother, you will go absolutely nowhere.”

'Vijana bado': Nyeri Governor Kahiga says Mt Kenya isn't ready to be led by youthful leaders

Dr Ruto made history as the first sitting Deputy President to be elected President. His predecessor, Mr Kenyatta, had campaigned against him, and settled for opposition chief Raila Odinga as his preferred successor.

In 2013, Mr Kenyatta had publicly promised to pass the baton to Dr Ruto in his famous, “yangu kumi na ya William (Ruto) kumi” mantra. (My 10 years in office and William’s 10 years.)

Former Cherangany Member of Parliament Kipruto Kirwa said the relationship between the President and the DP is broken.

“We should now cease pretending that there is any marriage left between President Ruto and Mr Gachagua. The Deputy President should know the deal is over but he should not show his hand— it is time for him to craft his departure by silently reaching out to new allies ahead of 2027,” he said.

But other seasoned minds in the game of politics are warning Mr Gachagua that he will not be dealing with a political neophyte since President Ruto has walked the road and knows exactly where to put stoppers for him to survive the tide.

Build political muscle

Former long-serving administrator Joseph Kaguthi said President Ruto rebelled against former President Kenyatta after building enough political muscle and experience to run a government.

He pointed out that Dr Ruto had risen from being a Kanu youth winger, Eldoret North MP (1997-2007), Cabinet Minister, party leader and Deputy President before capturing the presidency. For his part, Mr Gachagua was a juinior provincial administrator, personal assistant to Mr Kenyatta and one-term Mathira MP before becoming DP.

“The only big advantage Mr Gachagua has is being from the majority voting bloc. Having said that, bringing the region together to rally behind him is another huge challenge,” Mr Kaguthi said.

Former Gatanga MP Mr Nduati Ngugi said that as DP, Dr Ruto began his rebellion at a time when former President Kenyatta had given him a free hand. That is when the “Tangatanga” movement sprouted.

But unlike Mr Kenyatta, President Ruto is more hands on and is likely to counter his deputy’s every move.

Former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu said President Kenyatta was genuine and respected his 2012 pre-election pact with Dr Ruto, unlike in the current situation.

“It is obvious that the two had agreed on a 50-50 share in the government. President Kenyatta did not try to control the share that Dr Ruto had bargained for. Today, the majority of the people who were appointed to the Cabinet through Gachagua’s endorsement show allegiance to President Ruto,” Mr Waititu said.

Mwangi Kiunjuri says he won't be intimidated into supporting DP Gachagua as Mt Kenya kingpin

A more glaring difference is that Dr Ruto came in as an equal partner with his URP party working with Mr Kenyatta’s TNA in 2013. The coalition would then morph into the Jubilee Party together with other political formations ahead of the 2017 elections. On the other hand, Mr Gachagua joined the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) that was formed by Dr Ruto.

Moneyed individuals

Kikuyu Council of Elders patron Kung’u Muigai said that by the time Dr Ruto had started plotting for the presidency, he had managed to pool together a network of moneyed individuals that, ironically, included Mr Gachagua.

Mr Muigai credited Mr Gachagua for not only building Dr Ruto’s campaign war chest but also consolidating the Mt Kenya vote.

He said: “It would be too early (for Mr Gachagua) to come out on his own given that he is yet to assemble his network with a war chest that can rival that of a sitting President”.

He added that Dr Ruto emerged when he was the undisputed kingpin in his Rift Valley backyard while as of now, Mr Gachagua is still struggling to win unanimity in Mt Kenya as the unconditional spokesman.

‘Bow before him’

“As elders we have failed in our duty to effect flawless structures of political hierarchy of command where today some wings believe Mr Kenyatta is still their spokesman, others say President Ruto is their kingpin while more still believe in Gachagua,” he said.

Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri said rebelling to chart a way to prominence requires a cultured tongue and demeanour.

“But in Gachagua we have a condescending activist who is riding roughshod over others, defaming all he suspects to harbour divergent views. Most of his problems are of his own making,” he said.

The same views are shared by Kikuyu MP My Ichung’wah, who in a recent public function in Kiambaa Constituency, said: “He wants us to bow before him as a god…he is trying to intimidate everyone to rally behind his selfish ambitions and ignite tribal passions to hold even the President hostage”.

DP Rigathi Gachagua: I am not a tribalist

Former Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia said the Church had been promised many benefits during Dr Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid and it would be interesting to see if Mr Gachagua would use the same route. He said that presently, there is grumbling, including by the Church, that many promises have not been kept.

“Mr Gachagua finds himself in an awkward position since even the hustlers that Dr Ruto charmed have been left thoroughly battered by hard economic times characterised by punitive taxes,” he said.

“While Dr Ruto had Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta to attack as he sought acceptance in Mt Kenya region, Gachagua has none. He is only trying to push for the ‘one-man, one-vote, one-shilling’ formula to give him impetus,” Mr Kinuthia added.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, a close ally of the DP, said in a previous public address that there seems to be a campaign to discredit Mr Gachagua.

Kikuyu Council of Elders Chairman Wachira Kiago told Sunday Nation that Mt Kenya region has reached a point where it must remain very vigilant.

“As a region and as a country, we must be careful that the people are not used by the government as their weapon while fighting petty wars .... We must demand that people remain focused and the government delivers its mandate until the 2027 polls,” he said.

Mr Kiago said as elders they will not allow divisions in the region for political gain. He said they will ensure unity remains supreme and non-negotiable”.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni is skeptical.

“Gachagua would have stood a chance against Dr Ruto if he had not rushed to take his community into a political marriage that had no negotiations, dowry and certificate,” he said.

He said Mr Gachagua took Mt Kenya into a political contest without a political party to bargain.

“Mr Gachagua was well aware that Dr Ruto had in 2013 come to negotiate with us while riding in United Republican Party (URP), was the key architect of forming the Jubilee Party ahead of 2017 General Election and the UDA party was his to control,” he said.

Mr Kioni was among the organisers of the Limuru III conference on Mt Kenya unity. He did not rule out working with the DP.

“We will partner with Mr Gachagua if indeed he has come back to his senses and has discovered the fallacy of his 2022 betrayal to his community and the country at large,” he said.