Deputy President William Ruto is searching for a running mate from Mt Kenya to bolster his presidential bid in 2022 after some of his earlier choices developed cold feet, got entangled in court cases or went flirting with the opposing camp.
Dr Ruto and his handlers had earlier identified Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Tharaka Nithi senator Kindiki Kithure as possible running mates.
Others were former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
But after rigorous consultations, reports from Dr Ruto’s camp indicate the net has been cast wider, with former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo increasingly being considered to deputise Dr Ruto.
Although she had earlier been seen as Dr Ruto’s favourite, Ms Waiguru’s failure to join the Tanga Tanga brigade due to her closeness with President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to have forced the Jubilee deputy party leader’s team to consider other options.
Mr Waititu used to frequent Dr Ruto’s events but he is slowly losing the huge support he enjoyed from the DP’s supporters due to his fights with the anti-graft agency.
The DP’s handlers, who were also eyeing Mr Kiunjuri, are said to have feared the minister, who has his eyes cast on contesting the presidency in 2022 and thus a possible rival of the DP.
Reliable sources from Dr Ruto’s camp told the Saturday Nation that although Prof Kithure still has a chance of being Dr Ruto’s running mate, they feared the senator would bring little on the table in terms of votes due to low number of registered voters in Tharaka Nithi County, and his pockets may not be deep enough.
It is also not clear whether Mr Murungi, who enjoys huge support in Mt Kenya East, would abandon his bid for a second term as Meru governor and be Ruto’s running mate.
Dr Ruto is said to be keen on having a running mate from Mt Kenya, as the area together with Rift Valley are believed to be Jubilee’s bedrock, and hope to get a swing vote from other parts of the country where the party enjoys little backing.
Analysts believe it is the huge voter turnout in Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley that helped sweep the Jubilee government to power in the 2013 and 2017 polls.
In the event the DP fails to get a ‘strong’ running mate from Mt Kenya, he is likely to shift search to western Kenya, Coast, North Eastern and other areas he has been frequenting.
Since 1992, the Deputy President has been on a mission – to get as close to power and its trappings and if possible grab it.
He has been a student of the who’s who in the political circles and from an outsider, he has wormed his way into the centre of political power in the country.
His drive has been his ambition and while it has driven him to the cusp of influence, it will determine whether the journey ends in the house on the hill or it has been a sisyphean task.
Dr Ruto is currently the only aspirant who has declared intent to contest and has shown capacity to do it.
That he has keenly and silently put together a strong team of advisers and pointmen to drive his cause is not in doubt, and his efforts would get a shot in the arm if Mr Kabogo joins his inner circle and becomes a potential running mate.
Mr Kabogo however is playing his cards close to the chest. When contacted by the Saturday Nation, he said: “I have been approached through proxies to join Tanga Tanga, but I can’t because I don’t subscribe to either Tanga Tanga or Kieleweke politics because these are people who want to continue milking money from both the DP and the President by pretending to popularise their agenda. Who said I cannot be President myself? It is too early to start politicking.”
The Jubilee deputy party leader’s team includes politicians, professionals and businessmen who have been holding regular meetings at his Harambee House Annex office, Karen residence and at Weston Hotel.
Dr Ruto has also tapped religious leaders and some entertainment and sports personalities to help boost his image and make inroads across the country.
After President Kenyatta’s handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga in March 2018, which has seen successive moves aimed at clipping the DP’s powers, Dr Ruto has now shifted his focus on building a formidable 2022 team as new political formations appear in the horizon.
Investigations by the Nation indicated that his handlers had also identified a political party where they could jump ship in case the troubled Jubilee Party collapses or becomes “unbearable” for him.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, Mr Gachagua and Kiharu’s Ndindi Nyoro have turned out to be Dr Ruto’s key point people in Mt Kenya.
In North Rift, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok is leading the pack after being snatched from the opposition camp early this year.
He has become a strong confidant who has been tasked with consolidating support in the rift.
Mr Nanok has already indicated the task given to him recently, saying he is pushing to bring together all the 14 governors in the Rift Valley to back Dr Ruto’s bid.
From the group of county bosses in the Rift Valley, only four, including Mr Nanok, do not belong to the ruling Jubilee Party and have been the main focus of Dr Ruto, who seems interested in ensuring a bloc vote from the Rift Valley, his home turf, before venturing out for more votes.
They are Mr Nanok (Turkana, ODM), Prof John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot, Kanu), Mr Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia, Ford Kenya) and Mr Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia, Independent).
The other 10 who were elected on the Jubilee ticket are Mr Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Mr Stephen Sang (Nandi), Mr Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Prof Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Dr Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Mr Samuel Tunai (Narok), Mr Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Mr Joseph Lenku (Kajiado), Mr Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo-Marakwet) and Mr Stanley Kiptis (Baringo).
“As the 14 governors from Rift Valley, we are working on a plan to fully support the DP and form the next government. As the Turkana people, we want to be part of that government. I will not accept again to be outside government,” said Mr Nanok.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen is also another confidant, who despite being a divisive figure especially in the Rift Valley, has continued to gain the DP’s trust.
Most of the leaders who have left the DP’s camp recently, including Governor Tolgos, have accused him of being behind their reasons to leave.
Mr Murkomen has however dismissed those claims, saying he was not going to waste time on lies.
Recently, he said the President had not wavered in his promise to support the DP in 2022. “The President endorsed the DP long time ago and that has not changed,” he said.
Water Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui is also a key figure being considered for an important role in Dr Ruto’s bid.
He has hosted the DP in Baringo a number of times this year. Another visit to Baringo was planned this weekend but was postponed at the last minute. He is expected to check Kanu leader Gideon Moi’s growing influence in the county.
In the South Rift, Energy CS Charles Keter still holds a big sway and has been tasked with checking on any probable trouble especially from former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto.
Mr Keter has maintained loud silence on the political situation in the country since Jubilee won its second term but recently expressed his allegiance to Mr Ruto.
After Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago cooled down his support for the DP after last elections, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi is said to have taken the lead role of ensuring that Dr Ruto’s home county did not fall apart as he ventured out.
In Nairobi, the DP has been working with Starehe MP Charles Njagua, Eala MP Simon Mbugua while in Nyanza the DP is banking on Migori governor Okoth Obado, South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro and a host of former MPs.