President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies have said they will not be swayed by defections from the ruling Jubilee Party, saying it is only a matter of time before the Head of State shows his Mt Kenya stronghold the political direction to take.
The legislators said the President’s silence on his succession should not be misconstrued to mean political weakness, arguing that he was currently focused on building his legacy.
In interviews with the Nation yesterday, they said Mr Kenyatta is still the undisputed Central Kenya political kingpin, stating that anyone intending to seek the support of the vote-rich region in next year’s elections will have to seek his blessings.
Leaders from the region have been defecting from Jubilee, driven by the need to survive politically amidst the party’s diminishing popularity.
The political movements are being influenced by the March 2018 ‘Handshake’, a political truce between President Kenyatta and his rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga, and their popularity, as well as Deputy President William Ruto’s growing support in the region.
The latest defection is that of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who joined Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Party (UDA).
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the President was on the right political track as far as the 2022 succession politics is concerned.
“I think it's getting clear gradually without him having to step out and speak it himself. Right now, he's doing what he needs to be doing for now -- focus on completing the major projects that he started that make up his legacy. Once that's done, then he will speak, and he will be heard. And it will be at the right time within the context of closure and transition advice.
“Only Waiguru defected and she did it because she is personally unable to do her politics herself: she needs it done for her by others. So it is really not a loss to our end; we just shifted a problem to our competitors,” said Mr Ngunjiri.
Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni concurred, saying the President should wait until all those who are not politically loyal to him leave Jubilee before making his move.
“There is a lot of political baggage from Jubilee that cannot be passed to Mr Odinga. And it is best that they decamp and be left with the rebellious Jubilee wing. It is that wing that derailed and distracted Mr Kenyatta, making him look bad in Mt Kenya.
“Those who have always deceived him and made his governance difficult will be known. They pretended to be very close to him but we knew they were a political obstacle. How do you abandon a floating ship and jump into a sinking ship?” he asked.
Igembe North MP Maoka Maore said President Kenyatta had already shown the direction he wanted the region and the country to take, and did not need to emphasise it further.
The MP said there was no "blind or deaf" leader who did not know where the country was moving.
He also downplayed Dr Ruto's popularity in the region, saying five times of campaigns in the region by Mr Odinga were already tilting the scales in his favour.
"Ruto has been campaigning in this region for four years but Raila's campaign, for those few times, have shown that the region is receptive to him. Just wait and see. By December, this support will have been clipped substantially and we will be singing a different tune," the MP said.
But Dr Ruto’s allies hit back, saying his popularity cannot be wished away.
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said the region was not going to take any directions from anyone, adding that the decision on who to vote for had already been made by the people.
“The Mt Kenya people will take direction from no one, including the President. They have already made a decision on whom to vote in as president. The President should emulate President Mwai Kibaki and let the people elect a president of their choice, and (he should) retire in peace and secure a dignified exit,” he said.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi told governors in Mt Kenya region to “stop pretending” they were supporting Mr Odinga and declare their stand.
“Power is not for the fainthearted. (Ms) Waiguru has gone where the people are and we are ready to work with her. I must thank her for taking the bold move and she is welcome. It is not easy to make such a decision and as expected, she might be persecuted but that is what it means to be a leader,” Mr Linturi said yesterday in a phone interview.