Rattled by the inroads Deputy President William Ruto is making in many parts of the country, 2022 presidential hopefuls are assembling their war-machinery signalling the start of full-fledged campaigns.
Multiple interviews with key players in at least six camps of individuals who have so far declared interest in the top seat indicates that they are setting up secretariats, scouting for some of the best strategists, sprucing up parties and looking for campaign cash.
They are also restructuring and re-branding with new faces taking active party roles as they market their bids across the country.
Most of them confessed that they had initially assumed a low profile as they thought that it would be too premature to show their hand, but the heightened campaigns and the DP’s whirlwind tours almost every weekend has seen them change tack.
They feel he has covered so much ground and left unchallenged for so long that the second in command may have a field day come 2022.
Independence party Kanu, for instance, has laid out an elaborate plan that will not only see chairman Gideon Moi elevated to the party leader position, but also other officials replaced.
The Sunday Nation has reliably learnt that Senator Moi has struck a deal with a leading trade unionist to take up the secretary-general’s slot in what will see the incumbent Nick Salat deployed elsewhere.
After ruling the country since independence in 1963, Kanu was dislodged from power by a coalition of opposition parties led by retired president Mwai Kibaki in 2002, the last time it fielded a presidential candidate.
Mr Musalia Mudavadi, who chaired the Nasa presidential campaign committee in 2017, is leaving nothing to chance.
“Preparedness is key. I am done with pooling people’s concerns, ideas and resources. An image remake as the Last Man Standing in Opposition is complete. I am also working hard at structural logistics: outreach, equipment, transport and personnel,” he said.
Recently reported to have tapped past strategists of ODM leader Raila Odinga like Eliud Owalo to boost his team, he first ran in 2013 and, like the rest, is vowing that it’s now or never.
Mr Mudavadi admits that mounting a proper campaign demands a fortune and says friends, well-wishers and supporters have been contributing and expects this source to expand as he intensifies outreach programmes.
He promises the establishment of a public funding system like the American one.
“We can borrow details of the criteria for candidates qualifying for public funding from the USA Federal Election Commission (FEC) on campaign financing.
"Under the FEC presidential public funding programme, eligible presidential candidates receive federal government funds to pay for the qualified expenses of their political campaigns in both the primary and general elections.
"We can then create a threshold of a candidate’s funds raised before one qualifies for matching public funds,” he says.
He recognises that it is a constitutional issue that should be dealt with in a referendum.
Separately, Mr Kibisu Kabatesi, who is Mr Mudavadi’s press secretary, added that, “Musalia’s next move should be consolidation of his key support bases.
"Western is ready for political leadership. He aims to avoid past experience when he lost support from other regions out of perception that his home base isn’t united behind him. That notion must be banished from political discourse regarding his candidacy.”
With the recent election of former Cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere as chairman deputised by Anne Kanyi last month, Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Party has equally kick-started a series of activities in readiness for the State House race.
Secretary-General Judith Sijenyi told Sunday Nation that, other than the recently launched Young Democrats, another lobby targeting women is in the offing.
“You will see our party leader intensify his meet-the-people tours in coming days. We are not going to settle for the second slot this time,” she said.
She was referring to the two occasions, 2013 and 2017, when Mr Musyoka paired up with Mr Odinga as his running mate to take on President Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee.
Mr Mwakwere replaced Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana who resigned in January. By picking on Mr Mwakwere, Wiper is betting big on the support from Coast where he comes from.
Late last year, Wiper relocated to an imposing new party headquarters on the Southern Bypass in Nairobi.
The ultramodern complex sought to rival Jubilee Party’s Pangani offices and dwarf ODM’s Orange House before Mr Odinga also moved its offices to a more auspicious place.
It is set to coordinate with a yet-to-be-launched campaign secretariat in Lavington in popularising Mr Musyoka’s bid.
Mr Salat announced that soon, they will start pushing for reforms at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to create a level playing ground before the elections.
“As we wait for the recommendations of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), we are hoping it will cure most of the ills affecting us like the winner-take-all elections and ethnic divisions,” he said.
Another surprise entrance to the team that is laying the ground for a presidential run is Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria.
His newly-registered Civic Renewal Party has set up a new secretariat at Nyari in Nairobi.
Mr Wa Iria, who is also the Council of Governors vice chairman, plans to open up offices in 36 counties.
He is currently head-hunting and some Jubilee Party officials in Murang’a who were part of his campaign team are now rooting for CRP.
RAILA IN OR OUT?
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, another hopeful, says the time to lay the groundwork is now.
“We already have a fundraising mechanism in place. No society can prosper if it is ruled by people outside their generation,” the Maendeleo Chap Chap party leader said, adding that economic revolution will be his rallying call.
“As a presidential contender, one requires between Sh10 billion to Sh15 billion since you will also find yourself supporting other candidates running on the party’s ticket,” he said.
While Mr Odinga maintains that 2022 politics is the least of his concerns now, activities of his key strategists suggest otherwise.
He has largely retained his old machinery. The cooperation with Mr Kenyatta has also attracted him more suitors from the President’s backyard, but his dalliance with the Head of State has also cost him key strategists and supporters such as economist David Ndii.
The candidatures of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Mombasa’s Hassan Joho will be largely dependent on whether Mr Odinga runs or not.
Last week, Mr Odinga met former President Moi’s daughter Doris Elizabeth Chepkorir Moi.
He had earlier met Kristina Pratt, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sister, at his Capitol Hill offices as he seeks political and financial support from the two families.
Under the guise of inspecting or launching projects, Mr Ruto has covered more ground than any other presidential hopeful since the last General Election.
His allies say the country is yet to see the best of his mobilisation skills as the clock fast ticks toward 2022.