President Uhuru Kenyatta has described as petty and selfish sentiments by his deputy William Ruto and his allies that opposition leader Raila Odinga is out to destroy the ruling Jubilee Party.
In a rare thumps up to Mr Odinga after he praised his dalliance with him during the State of the Nation address on April 4, President Kenyatta said it is strange that some individuals insist the ODM leader wants to ruin Jubilee.
Mr Ruto has repeatedly insinuated that Mr Odinga harbours ill motives against Jubilee.
Calling him a busybody and a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Mr Ruto has rubbished Mr Odinga’s truce with the President, and recently said the Opposition chief had failed in his mandate only to turn around and join Jubilee to offer unsolicited advice.
But the President on Thursday endorsed the March 2018 handshake and disclosed that Mr Odinga, who has vied for the presidency four times and claimed his votes were stolen, had never confided to him that he will try his luck for the House on the Hill again in 2022.
Speaking when he officially closed the inaugural AfroChampions Boma forum on African infrastructure financing and delivery at Windsor Hotel, the Jubilee Party leader said he also had not indicated that he wants to extend his term.
The Head of State, who had maintained a low profile since returning from a trip to Mauritius last week, only to emerge at the conference on Wednesday evening, said he had never discussed with Mr Odinga any Jubilee Party or ODM issues.
It is thus petty, he said, for people to claim that his handshake with Mr Odinga that has helped cool political temperatures is about political schemes.
“Oooh, Raila anavunja (breaking up) Jubilee; which Jubilee have we talked about? Oooh, Uhuru anaingilia mambo ya ODM (Uhuru is interfering in ODM matters); I have no clue even who ODM is,” said President Kenyatta.
In a candid disclosure, President Kenyatta, whose agreement with Mr Odinga and their discussions before the deal have remained top secret, said their talks usually centre on improving Kenyans’ lives and economic growth.
“We have just been talking about issues affecting our people. If its infrastructure, what do we need to do? We discuss and we support each other,” said the President.
“We sit; we discuss; we agree. He (Mr Odinga) also gives me ideas that enhance something and make it even better. What is wrong with that?”
He continued: “The most important thing to us is our people and our continent. Let’s focus on ‘Africa positive’, not always ‘Africa negative’. ‘Us’ includes all of us. We need one another. We are not going to achieve anything by being small thinkers.”
He challenged Africans to deal with and block leaders who want to stop them from achieving their goals.
The Jubilee Party leader recalled his fights with Mr Odinga, whom he referred to as his brother, over the Opposition chief’s rejection of the 2017 election results that led to a repeat vote.
He said that at “one point we came together and asked what is leadership about”.
Their aim, said Mr Kenyatta, was to unite Kenyans, and so he finds it “strange” that some leaders have forgotten the origin of the handshake.
“Since we are always shy to talk about leadership, there is a challenge that we have not talked about. And I’m surprised that my brother Raila, who is always aggressive when disputing leadership, hasn’t talked about it either.
“As leaders, we have become petty in our thinking. We have become egoistic about our positions and value our pride more than we value being practical,” President Kenyatta said.
He indicated that he finds it strange that, while the two of them have been trying to bring people together, other leaders have been going to funerals and weddings to say that the handshake is all about political machinations and 2022 succession politics.
Mr Odinga, who is the African Union special envoy for infrastructure development, steered clear of politics in his speech, delivered beforehand, and concentrated on development issues affecting the content.
On Thursday, Mr Ruto’s allies in Central Kenya defended their decision to rally behind him, saying it was President Kenyatta who instructed them to support the DP and “to always seek his assistance” since he could not be available to them at all times.
Kikuyu Town MP Kimani Ichung’wa said the President even promised to take the Jubilee MPs on a retreat to elaborate on the Big Four agenda and consolidate unity within the ruling party.
Maragua MP Mary Waithira, who said she and others had been living in panic and confusion following recent incidents where leaders affiliated to the DP had their security guards withdrawn, said Mr Kenyatta should call for a parliamentary group meeting and explain to them their wrongdoing.
However, another faction in Jubilee, dubbed Kieleweke, said Mr Ruto had disobeyed the President and continued with premature campaigns.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said that the biggest obstacle to the Building Bridges Initiative is the DP’s presidential ambitions.
Additional reporting by Ndung’u Gachane