Prominent figures from the families of Kenya’s three past presidents are warming up to ODM leader Raila Odinga’s quest to succeed President Kenyatta.
The President showed his hand in Mr Odinga’s latest campaign buzz when he challenged voters during a tour of Kibra last Wednesday to choose his successor wisely, just after extolling his former rival’s leadership credentials.
The following day, Mr Odinga joined Senator Gideon Moi at a Kanu event where Mr Moi announced his presidential candidature.
Before this, the ODM leader had toured Mt Kenya where he was hosted by governors Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and James Nyoro (Kiambu). Mr Muriithi, President Kibaki’s nephew, has said Mt Kenya should pay back Mr Odinga.
“Raila said Kibaki tosha and we have no reason not to say Raila tosha in 2022,” Mr Muriithi said, referring to Mr Odinga’s endorsement of the then opposition presidential candidate.
As a pointer to the Kenyatta family embracing the ODM leader’s presidential bid, the President’s uncle, Mr George Muhoho, was among leaders present at the Mt Kenya Foundation’s meeting with the former Prime Minister a day after his tour of the region.
In the past, President Kenyatta’s brother Muhoho Kenyatta and Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju have visited Mr Odinga at his Karen home.
“Whereas some of the family members may not directly participate in the campaigns, they will be working from behind the scenes to ensure ‘Baba’ clinches the seat. There [have] already been indications to this effect,” a source in President Kenyatta’s administration told the Nation.
Recently, retired President Kibaki’s son Jimmy Kibaki hinted while speaking to the Sunday Nation that Mr Odinga was best suited to become the country’s fifth president.
“…but do I think he should be president? I know him personally, so I could say he deserves it, but I’m yet to see his manifesto. Electing a president is not romance, you could be my best friend but if I feel you don’t have the capacity to lead the country, I would not vote you,” he said.
For a man who had run-ins with Presidents Moi, Kibaki and Uhuru, drawing sharp criticism from their associates and relatives, Mr Odinga is savouring changing fortunes.
Although Mr Moi has declared his interest in the top seat, his party Kanu is in a coalition deal with the ruling Jubilee, which is also in talks with Mr Odinga’s ODM, pointing to plans to craft a bigger coalition, which, many believe, will have Mr Odinga as the flag bearer.
Yesterday, Governor Murithi neither confirmed nor denied that the first families have agreed to back Mr Odinga. “Speaking for myself because I’m not family spokesman, actions speak louder than words and personally I support Raila for 2022,” he told Nation.
He went on: “If these families have decided like that then it’s a very good thing. I’m sure every candidate would like to get everyone’s support, so if they have decided it’s Raila, let it be so.”
With President Kenyatta having fallen out with his deputy, strategists in the President’s camp believe Mr Odinga becomes the best alternative to stop Ruto’s ascent to power.
“I thank you because your former MP, Mzee Raila, stood for peace and after that we have experienced it thus development. Now where is the problem? Isn’t that what we want? And you want that good work to continue? Now the decision is yours. Will you make a wise decision?” President Kenyatta asked an ecstatic crowd in Kibra after opening two hospitals accompanied by Mr Odinga last week.
Mt Kenya turf
Jubilee’s nominated MP Maina Kamanda yesterday said President Kenyatta has an elaborate plan to kick out his deputy from his Mt Kenya turf.
“Believe me, the plot has thickened and he (Ruto) will only be left with paltry 20 per cent from the region come 2022. As much as some people despise Uhuru, the Kikuyu people know how far he has brought them and anybody dismissing Uhuru and his support is in for a big shock,” Mr Kamanda said.
A senior government official told Nation that whereas the President had not pronounced himself publicly on his preferred successor, Kenyans should “read between the lines on the indicative gestures.”
“Even though there are still many variables between now and next year, there have been indicative gestures from the President on his preferred successor,” the officials.