The politics of succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 is causing heavy soul-searching among politicians, with governors continuously shying away from attending functions presided over by Deputy President William Ruto.
Dr Ruto’s allies now claim that the fight against corruption has been weaponised to target those who are perceived to be close to him.
Some claim the charges against governors Ferdinand Waititu of Kiambu and Moses Lenolkulal of Samburu are construed to send a political warning.
Mr Waititu is facing six counts over a Sh580 million tender that prosecutors say had irregularities.
He has been charged alongside his wife Susan Wangari and eight others at the Milimani Law Courts following a recommendation by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
Among the eight suspects are Kiambu County employees. Governor Waititu was accused of conflict of interest and dealing with suspect property.
Regarding his Samburu counterpart, Mr Lenolkulal, prosecutors say he and others allegedly took part in corrupt dealings between March 27, 2013 and March 25, 2019 in Maralal.
Mr Lenolkulal is accused of conspiring to abet corruption, which led to an unlawful payment of Sh84.7 million to a petrol station known as Oryx Service Station that he owns.
The governor faced an additional charge of abuse of office by allegedly conferring a benefit to himself by paying his company the money.
He is further accused of conflict of interest, alleged to have knowingly acquired a direct private interest by supplying fuel to the county government through his petrol station.
Are the cases political? Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, a fierce critic of DP Ruto, dismissed that notion, also rubbishing the suggestion that independent State agencies are being used to facilitate Ruto’s political isolation.
“There was a time some people thought the DP is the President. Now everybody knows who the President is. Let everyone carry their own cross. The war on corruption is based on facts and evidence. There is no politics there,” he said.
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa became the latest of DP Ruto’s supporters to be investigated. She is also likely to face corruption-related charges.
It has now become a pattern that Dr Ruto’s events in counties are only attended by MPs and MCAs.
Hardly do provincial administration heads show up, buttressing the point that he has been isolated in a government where he is second in command.
From coast to western and Mt Kenya, governors have kept a safe distance despite the DP visiting the regions frequently.
In the coast region, governors Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi), who initially had warmed up to him, have kept a distance.
Though they don’t attack him in public, they do not appear at his functions.
Mr Mvurya’s top handlers confirmed to the Sunday Nation that the governor has been distancing himself from the DP as he does not want any controversies.
They said the governor, who retained his seat on a Jubilee ticket, has chosen to “play safe” as he is still far from completing his second term.
“The governor is working to cement his legacy and that can be done through assembling resources from the national government and not by politicking, which is something that the DP seems to have given priority,” said one of Mr Mvurya’s confidants.
Mr Mvurya’s communication director Daniel Nyassy could not deny or admit that the governor was avoiding the DP: “I cannot comment on that.”
It is worth noting that Mr Mvurya was among leaders who gave Dr Ruto a wide berth during his last political tour of the region in September.
Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja, who was once a close ally of Dr Ruto, has publicly clashed with him, with his Communication Director Dennis Onsarigo affirming that the governor is now concentrating on supporting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s development agenda.
“We support the President in implementing his agenda and his call on unity and prosperity, which goes hand in hand with the country’s agenda,” said Mr Onsarigo when asked about the relationship between his boss and the DP.
Recently, Mr Samboja came out guns blazing and told off Dr Ruto over involving himself with the county’s budget stalemate that had created a rift between the governor and MCAs.
The budget impasse prompted Mr Samboja to call for the dissolution of the county assembly. DP Ruto termed the plan “upuuzi” (nonsense).
Mr Samboja’s Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi has also severed ties with DP Ruto.
On October 26, during a burial ceremony in Ganda Ward in Kilifi, Mr Kingi launched a scathing attack on the DP, whom he slammed for opposing the Building Bridges Initiative report before it had been released.
He said the DP was “opposing everything” being supported by Mr Odinga because of his “personal grudge”.
In Mt Kenya, Dr Ruto has made dozens of visits in the past two years. .
But Friday, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi for the first time attended a function — a graduation ceremony at Meru National Polytechnic — where the DP was the chief guest.
In western Kenya, local governors have been avoiding his functions.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, who had started warming up to Mr Ruto, changed tack and denounced him.
The Sunday Nation reached out to several governors, but they declined to speak on record, terming the issue a political hot potato.
ABUSE OF POWER
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen accused State actors of being used to advance political objectives.
“There are State operatives who have turned State organs to be tools that they use for political gain. State agencies are now being used in the name of fighting corruption, but this fight is not being applied across the board,” he said.
The senator said shadowy figures intent on shaping the 2022 succession are behind the woes facing DP’s allies.
“My point is not about evidence or lack of it; it’s about the fight against corruption being uniform,” he said.
He claimed a court ruling barring governors from accessing their offices is unconstitutional. “The decision is an affront to devolution. There are some elements trying to test our resolve but our message is simple: we will be there till the end,” said the senator.
He, however, said President Kenyatta is not involved in the machinations, alleging that it is a group of operatives in government.
Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba dismissed the assertion, saying he himself was facing charges yet he was elected as an independent candidate.
“My loyalty is not to any grouping but to the republic and I also have charges. I guess we should not trivialise the war on corruption, since it will take this country towards a dark path,” he said.
Taveta MP Naomi Shaban also disagreed with the perception that supporting DP Ruto invites political trouble, saying she had accompanied the DP to functions in her county and no one has come after her.
“There are so many people in the DP’s functions and they have not been arrested,” she said.
She asked leaders to take personal responsibility for their own actions, noting that the war on corruption should not be politicised, as President Kenyatta has said.
“We are not supposed to be in charge of procurement as elected leaders,” she added.
Despite the varied sentiments, the DP has soldiered on, with MPs being his regular companions.
He has also shied away from identifying his political regional kingpins, as his political competitor Raila Odinga has done his entire political career.