Deputy President William Ruto’s quest to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 is not certain after Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju said the DP is not the party’s automatic candidate.
Mr Tuju, who has for two months received a barrage of criticism from Mr Ruto’s allies over claims he was against the DP candidacy, yesterday reiterated that the country’s second in command is not their automatic flag-bearer in 2022.
But he said his position does not mean that he is opposed to the DP, noting that their relationship remains cordial and respectful.
“I have no apology to make whatsoever and I can repeat here that there is no automatic candidate for the Jubilee Party for 2022,” Mr Tuju declared during a live interview on Citizen TV.
He went on: “Anybody who says they want to vie in 2022 are welcomed. The person who has repeated this is the Deputy President himself. He has said it and repeated it, but my support for any member of the party will depend on who comes on the table.”
“But you cannot tell me at this particular moment and time that this is the candidate for 2022 — he’s the DP and you either support him or not,” the Cabinet secretary said.
He will be ready, he said, to receive all candidates if “I will still be the secretary-general at that time of elections in 2022.”
He noted that right now Jubilee is keen to ensure that the President’s development agenda is achieved, as well as unity of the country after the Kenyatta-Odinga peace pact of March 9, 2018.
“The President over the weekend talked about being Jubilee damu (Jubilee diehard), but Kenya is more important than Jubilee. I’m also Jubilee, but Kenya is more important than Jubilee. Therefore, at this particular time and moment we want to bring the country together.”
He added: “Some of these guys who do not think beyond their ethnic identity and ethnic attributes, which are sometimes in conflict with the national interest, therefore see me as Tuju the Luo not Tuju the Kenyan. That’s why some people say I should go to ODM. That is ethnic profiling.”
On Wednesday, Deputy President Ruto’s spokesperson David Mugonyi said the DP had repeatedly stated that he was ready for Jubilee primaries and was not keen on endorsement.
During the 2017 election campaigns, President Kenyatta had assured the DP of his endorsement for another two terms, but since the handshake, the Head of State has not repeated such utterances.
Mr Mugonyi said: “What Tuju is saying is what the Deputy President has said before about 2022. He has said it many times. On TV and publicly. He has said he is ready for Jubilee primaries and so there is no other take on it.”
Mr Ruto is on record stating that he was ready to face off with anybody interested in the Jubilee ticket in 2022.
“Jubilee will have a candidate for every position in Kenya,” Mr Ruto said in a past interview. “Nobody will be endorsed for any position. Right from MCA, MP, senators, woman reps, governors and President. If there is any outsider seeking the Jubilee ticket, kindly come early, Jubilee is a democratic party.”
National Assembly Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali said for now only the DP has declared interest in the top seat and hence many members are expressing support for him.
“But if any other person comes out, they will be subjected to a nomination process,” he said.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany also reiterated that the DP is not their automatic candidate, adding that the party is democratic and will give a chance to all contestants.
His sentiments were echoed by Senate Deputy Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata, who is also the Murang’a senator.
He said: “The Deputy President himself has said [several times] that he is not the automatic candidate of Jubilee and he invites competition but within Jubilee.”
During the Wednesday interview, Mr Tuju also said the party may not crack the whip on rebel members any time soon as it has adopted a tolerant approach.
Mr Tuju explained that his “hands are tied” when it comes to such matters, saying that as secretary-general he is instituting disciplinary actions against errant members and it is only the party’s National Executive Council that can expel or discipline any dissenting member of the party.
There has been growing concern over the silence of party leaders in the wake of open defiance from some of its members regarding the party’s position on various issues, including the Kibra by-election.
Several Jubilee members have come out to support the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party candidate Bernard ‘Imran’ Okoth though the ruling party also has a candidate in the November 7 mini poll.
At the weekend, nominated MP Maina Kamanda, former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru and Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi took the defiance a notch higher by openly drumming up support for Mr Okoth.
Other party members, including Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh have also overtly said they will support the ODM candidate.
However, the SG said that those are not the only disciplinary issues the party is grappling with confirming that the party has been inundated by a number of complaints concerning the conduct of some of its members giving examples of Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi over their utterances concerning Arror, Kimwarer and Mau Evictions.
“We have decided to exercise a lot of tolerance because if we were to take action then there will be a lot of people that would be out of the party. We can only take such actions after NEC meeting but I cannot take action as the secretary general,” he said.
He, nevertheless, said the party’s rules dictate that members should support a stand it takes but admitted that the current challenges the party is facing is borne out of a deeper problem in the political space in the country which the only remedy is legislation in Parliament.
The former Rarieda MP reiterated that McDonald Mariga is the party’s bona fide candidate and has the full support of the party’s leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I can confirm that the President is supporting Mariga and he was not sneaked into State House as some people are insinuating. I was there and I am the one who took him there,” he said.
This came after a section of Jubilee Party leaders allied to Kieleweke team over the weekend claimed that the former footballer does not have the Head of State’s blessings and has allegedly been imposed on the residents by Deputy President William Ruto.
He, defended the step to field a candidate in the upcoming by-election, saying the decision was taken because the party stands a chance in the race and has nothing to do with the Handshake, which he said most people have misunderstood its purpose.
“We fielded a candidate in this by-election because we do have a chance of winning the seat and if we didn’t think so then we would not have a candidate. We treat every case on its own and you may be surprised that in the future we might take a different decision to this,” he said.
He laughed off claims by ODM that the party, in complicity with the Independent electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), was planning to rig the by-election, saying they have no capacity to rig an election.
Mr Kositany yesterday said it would not be wise for the party to take action against Mr Kamanda and his team at the moment terming them “tiny.”
“We have party elections early next year and the new party officials will deal with any rebels then,” he said.
Mr Kang’ata noted that at the moment, nobody had complained against the perceived party rebels to warrant any action.