Former Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his remarks that President Uhuru Kenyatta will remain in power as a Prime Minister after the 2022 General Election.
The reactions to Mr Murathe’s sentiments have exposed the big divide in the political class, with leaders split down the middle on whether or not the President should remain in power.
And, while many had hoped the President will comment on the issue during the burial of independence hero Charles Rubia in Murang’a on Monday, he kept mum, leaving many wondering whether the comments were Mr Murathe’s opinion or that he is actually considering the option.
While some leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto criticised Mr Murathe over the remarks, those close to the President endorsed the idea, saying it is good for the stability of the country.
The pro-Ruto team led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen came out guns blazing, sarcastically warning that should the President contest, he will battle it out with the likes of Mr Moses Kuria for the Gatundu seat.
“If we pass the recommendations of the BBI report as it is and Deputy President William Ruto wins the presidency while His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta is the Jubilee Party leader with a majority in Parliament, then the former President Uhuru Kenyatta can be the Prime Minister, of course after battling it with Moses Kuria, if the President so wishes,” Mr Murkomen said in a Twitter post.
On his part, Mr Kuria accused Mr Murathe of speaking on behalf of ''dark forces'', claiming that the President would not subscribe to such an ideology.
The legislator said the President is focused and looking forward to a stable, peaceful and prosperous Kenya. He told Mr Murathe and like-minded leaders to stop wasting their time.
“I believe Mr Murathe is talking on behalf of dark forces that have captured the State apparatus but not the President himself. I’m certain the President will not want to suffer the ignominy of sacrificing his legacy at the altar of such transient goals and I believe he will follow the footpath of Mr Kibaki,” Mr Kuria told the Nation.
In his interview with the Nation, Mr Murathe said that once the new political dispensation envisaged in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report comes into force, Mr Kenyatta will have the right to vie for any post since he will remain the de facto leader of Jubilee Party, and could even claim the proposed post of Prime Minister.
His argument was that the political alignments that will arise once the BBI proposals are implemented will see the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly form the government, in a coalition with other parties, and that this has the potential to ensure President Kenyatta does not disappear from the radar after the 2022 polls.
“The only thing the President can’t do is to run for presidency but, under the new political dispensation envisaged by the BBI team, we anticipate new political formations that will be all-encompassing and inclusive,” said Mr Murathe.
“Nothing stops the President, as the leader of Jubilee, to head the government as the Executive Prime Minister as long as the party remains the largest in Kenya.”
Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli, who first broached the topic in 2017, was on Monday unrepentant.
He insisted that it will be for the good of the country’s stability if the President swaps the two positions.
“The issue is all about addressing the challenges of governance the country finds itself in every election cycle. It’s a good and progressive move, and I’ve no problem if President Kenyatta occupies the PM’s position,” he said.
He added: “President Kenyatta is not leaving office as his predecessors Mwai Kibaki and Daniel arap Moi. He is young and the country should not mind his staying around as long it guarantees stability.”
Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula rubbished Mr Murathe’s claims.
“Mr Murathe is completely out of order. The life Kenyans are leading now under Uhuru’s watch and the life Kenya is going through now after seven years of UhuRuto, we would be insane as Kenyans to allow Uhuru to reinvent himself and come back as Prime Minister.”
While ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna noted that Mr Murathe is entitled to his opinion, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said it is President Kenyatta’s democratic right to choose whichever seat if he wishes to run again, but cautioned that people should not purport to speak for him.
“That is Murathe’s opinion which he is entitled to. However, BBI is not about creating positions for individuals,” Ms Waiguru said.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata said it’s Mr Murathe’s constitutional right to comment on any issue.
“It’s not right for anybody to attack Mr Murathe. However, the President has not said he wants to stay around and, for now, we shall treat Mr Murathe’s views as personal,” he said.
At the Coast, Nyali MP Mohamed Ali said that if the Head of State fails to achieve the Big Four Agenda within the remaining two years, he will go down as the worst president ever.
“Let Kenyans decide who should be their leader. Don’t be trapped by the dynasty issues. The BBI is for creating more jobs for the political old guard,” he added.
In Lamu, Governor Fahim Twaha and Lamu Woman Representative Ruweida Obbo said they fully support the move.
“I don’t have a problem with President Uhuru Kenyatta becoming the Prime Minister come 2022. He is a good leader and I fully support him if he proposes to remain in power after the 2022 polls,” said the governor.
Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki said Mr Kenyatta should focus on his legacy.
By Ibrahim Oruko, Justus Ochieng, Ndungu Gachane, Fadhili Fredrick, Kalume Kazungu and Wachira Mwangi.