Deputy President William Ruto has stepped up his charm offensive into regions hitherto controlled by the disintegrating opposition in what may signal early campaigns.
Even though he insists that it is all about development, the gusto with which Mr Ruto is hosting delegations at his Karen residence reminisces Moi era when endless delegations to Kabarak by politicians to pledge their loyalty was the order of the day.
Mr Ruto has met MPs from Nairobi, Kisii and Luhyaland in quick succession, taking advantage of the divided opposition whose leader Raila Odinga recently signed a working deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He has also met lawmakers from Central Kenya, Mr Kenyatta’s home turf.
In an ambitious fishing expedition, he is also exploiting the co-operation between his boss and Mr Odinga to lure some of the opposition luminaries who would under the previous arrangement never agree to meet him in public for fear of being branded traitors.
In Kilifi for instance, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa has already declared that she will be casting her lot with Mr Ruto, a shrewd politician.
The Sunday Nation learnt of a pact the DP has struck with Mr Kenyatta to be given a chance to “launch development projects” in areas that heavily voted for Mr Odinga last year as part of the plot to win them over in preparations for the 2022 polls.
When he met Luhya MPs on Thursday, the DP was speaking the development language, which is loosely used in our political parlance.
“The completion of infrastructure projects in Kakamega County, especially the road and drainage network in Kakamega town is paramount.
"The Mumias Sugar Company will conduct a forensic audit on farmers’ debts and come up with a lasting solution. We will work with all leaders irrespective of party affiliation to enhance service delivery,” he said.
Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula would later suggestively tweet, “Earlier today my MPs paid a courtesy visit to his excellency and possible next president of Kenya, William Ruto at his Karen residence,” sparking speculation on whether he was warming up to a new alliance with Mr Ruto.
Butere MP Tindi Mwale, elected on ANC ticket, and who attended the meeting, insists it was all about development.
Mr Ruto is betting big on Western to succeed President Kenyatta.
Granted, he is said to be keen on picking a running mate from there should he find another way of locking in Central Kenya, which also eyes the same.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, a Ruto ally, said there is nothing wrong with the DP hosting the delegations.
“The DP is a national leader and he is free to meet any Kenyan irrespective of their political or tribal affiliations,” he said.
He did not deny that the DP is using the delegations to build up support for his 2022 presidential run.
“All leaders who aspire for the highest office build bridges and across communities and the DP is not any different.”
MT KENYA LEADERS
At the same time, Mr Ruto must be playing his chess aware of a plot hatched within government circles to scuttle his ascension to State House.
When Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko last Sunday talked of such a plan, the denial from Central Kenya leaders was swift and furious.
But Sunday Nation has established that indeed a number of meetings have taken place by some people around the presidency who feel that the DP is not their ideal choice.
The meetings of about 10 well-connected influence peddlers in Jubilee comprises both elected and un-elected leaders.
They seem to prefer an exclusive hotel off Thika Super highway.
The group has also been discussing appointments made by State House as well as the political ramifications of the March 9 handshake between the President and Mr Odinga.
Multiple sources said that the leaders are wary of a Ruto presidency and its effects on their interests.
Mr Ruto has emerged as the top most politician likely to win the presidency from both government and opposition ranks and this has rattled the clique of businessmen.
The leaders opposed to Mr Ruto believe that Kikuyu nation does not have a political debt to pay the Kalenjin.
There is an unwritten pact that since Kalenjin supported President Kenyatta the Kikuyu will also reciprocate for Mr Ruto.
The leaders are conspiring to have a “friendly” presidential candidate who will inherit the vote-rich Kikuyu community thereby either forcing a run off with Mr Ruto or denying a win altogether.
But despite the meetings, the leaders are yet to come out publicly on their proposal and they all have been heaping praise and pledging support publicly on Mr Ruto.
Mr Sonko appears to have got Mr Ruto’s nod to pass the message to the DP’s detractors in Central Kenya that he was aware of their moves.
The Sunday Nation learnt that if the plan to scuttle Mr Ruto’s plan fails, the constitutional amendment route will be the fall back plan.
That would include introducing the post of the prime minister with two deputy prime ministers whereby the party with majority MPs in the National Assembly will then have its leader become the prime minister.
This would mean that if Mr Ruto was to be elected president, he would nominate Mr Kenyatta as the prime minister since in the current arrangement the president is the Jubilee Party leader.
A source who has had misgivings with Mr Ruto’s bid to become president was more categorical.
“You can see that the country is tired of this ping pong of leadership moving from Central to Rift Valley.
"A way must be found to ensure there is inclusion of all regions in national leadership,” he said.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen prevailed upon senators from Mt Kenya against holding a press conference to condemn the leaders Mr Sonko had talked about on Sunday.
This was informed by the fact that such a move would exacerbate the situation since Mr Sonko did not mention anyone.
But leaders from Mt Kenya East in Tharaka Nithi County condemned the unnamed colleagues and said they were solidly behind Mr Ruto.
Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki admitted that there have been meetings but that they were tailored on finding a suitable running mate for Mr Ruto.
“We are all supporting William Ruto for 2022, but we do not want some leaders to pretend to prefect others in Jubilee.
"He (Mr Sonko) cannot tell Mt Kenya people when to meet, where and what to discuss.
"He cannot pretend to be holier than thou. There are night meetings to discuss coffee, tea, pyrethrum, green grams and our political future, including number two slot now that number one has gone with Ruto. Is there anything wrong with that?” he posed.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said it was likely that there are people who would not want Mr Ruto to ascend to the presidency.
But he said Mr Ruto, unlike others who have sought Mt Kenya votes, has done well to deal directly with the people.
“Ruto is very strong in our region. First, unlike other elections, this time we don’t have a presumptive Kikuyu leader. This gives Ruto an edge.
"Secondly, he has a personal connection with the ground directly. Like for most roads being paved many are thanking him.
"Thirdly, he has humbled himself to Uhuru. That explains why latest opinion poll put him ahead of the pack,” he said.
Jubilee vice Chairman David Murathe said the Jubilee candidate remains Mr Ruto and refused to be drawn to succession politics. “The focus now is on Big 4 agenda.
"Elections are four years away. You cannot deny that dynamics in politics keep on changing and that’s why the most important thing for now is to help the president achieve his agenda,” he said.
He said only Mr Sonko can substantiate his claims that there are night meetings to plot how to deny Mr Ruto the presidency.