Former President Daniel arap Moi turns 94 today at a time when, 16 years after leaving office, he has found himself back at the heart of political discussions, and negotiations ahead of the 2022 presidential elections.
Mzee Moi had kept a quiet political life after leaving office, with very minimal public engagements at his Kabarak home in Nakuru County.
But this year, Mzee Moi — who ruled Kenya as its second president for 24 years, four months and eight days — has been back in the headlines, meeting one delegation after another.
The meetings have one thing in common: Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who has expressed interest at the presidency in 2022, would usher in the visitors, and pictures will be quickly circulated online, with either a very short statement from Mzee Moi’s office, or none, with Kenyans left to speculate on the contents of the engagements.
In a country where political leadership is more of deal-making, concessions, and behind-the-scenes compromise, as opposed to torturous campaigns across the country, the meetings with Mzee Moi, even at his age, can be unsettling for those seeking the coveted State House post.
The latest such engagement was a week ago when Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, who with a large delegation from the Coast, were treated to a meeting with Mzee Moi, after which they attended a funds drive in Baringo a day later.
Two months earlier, Mr Joho had played host to Senator Moi in Mombasa where the two announced a unity deal ahead of 2022 elections.
Mzee Moi also met President Uhuru Kenyatta on July 28, again with Senator Moi in tow to welcome him, just over eight months after he had visited the family in their Nairobi home after the Jubilee Party leader won a second term.
While the meetings with Mr Joho and President Kenyatta were politically significant, it is the meeting with Opposition leader Raila Odinga, and the snubbing of Deputy President William Ruto that has brought Mzee Moi’s Kabarak home, and the 94-year-old’s political influence on the 2022 elections, and particularly in the vote-rich Rift Valley region.
Analysts argue that given the friends-turned-bitter-foes-relationship between Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto, and a feeling that Mr Odinga was open to the idea of backing Senator Moi for the top job, the meetings with Mzee Moi, followed by that of Mr Joho, a key Odinga lieutenant, were, therefore, significant politically, and could, in the end, tilt the scales in the 2022 race.
Were Mr Odinga to endorse Mr Gideon Moi for the top job in 2022, observers say, Mr Ruto might be the biggest loser.
While Senator Moi is no match for the Deputy President on his own, a backing by Mr Odinga could thrust him onto the national stage, and could wield a significant challenge if backed by past allies of the ODM leader.
And therein lies the problem the Ruto camp has with Senator Moi. While he gladly played host to Mr Odinga at his father’s home, Mr Ruto was ‘humiliated’ by being kept waiting, only to be told that Mzee Moi had an appointment with his physiotherapist.
“Ulikaribisha Raila mtu alijaribu kupindua serikali ya babako na akavunja Kanu 2002 alafu ndugu yako mna damu moja ukafungia nje. Wewe ni mtu fake! (You welcomed Raila, the man who tried to overthrow your father’s government, broke Kanu in 2002, and then you lock out your brother, with whom you share the same blood? You are not a good man),” Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi famously told Senator Moi during the burial of the late Baringo South MP Grace Kipchoim at Kimoriot in Mochongoi.
At the funeral, Senator Moi, who had been viciously attacked by pro-Ruto allies, defended himself, asking those attacking him to leave his father alone, “because my shoulders are broad enough”.
But while he argues that his father should not be dragged into the politics, and his own 2022 ambitions, the Kabarak delegations — with undeniable political undertones — has betrayed his course.
Those defending Senator Moi argue that he, and indeed the former president, have the right to choose whom to invite to their home, and whom to associate with.
They have also questioned why Mr Ruto, particularly, has recently agitated to visit the former Head of State, only after Mr Odinga went to see him.
His critics, however, dismiss the senator as a political novice “only campaigning in his father’s compound”.
"People are out here fighting for political power. Come out and stop seeking political mileage by sitting around your father because you are a grown man.
The picture you are showing is not pleasant at all," former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo blurted out on NTV’s Am Live last week.
So personal has been the battle to get to Mzee Moi, particularly for the Ruto camp, that just a day after Governor Joho sat with the former president, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen was on social media, questioning the county chief’s behaviour.
“Joho has a point but he must choose whether to walk and work with them or oppose them. You can’t eat Ugali with Mzee and shortly insult him, his son and his 24-year legacy. Mr Joho, show some little respect to the old man and his son, your running-mate,” Mr Murkomen told Mr Joho on his social media pages.