Deputy President William Ruto’s confidence that he will emerge the Jubilee party presidential flagbearer is premised on one key condition; he has numbers within its organs.
It is a reality his detractors have come to appreciate too late in the day given the sheer number of friendly officials within the party.
And insiders now say his detractors are working hard to sway members of the various organs ahead of what promises to be a bruising battle to secure the party’s ticket ahead of the 2022 presidential election.
The Deputy President was one of the proponents of a strong national political party and dissolved his own United Republican Party (URP) to form Jubilee.
Ten other parties were also dissolved in an unprecedented move which took more than one and half years to pull off. Even as it emerges that all is not well within the Jubilee party, Mr Ruto has been going about his political business totally unperturbed.
When Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe dropped a bombshell on December 26 that Mt Kenya region owed Mr Ruto no debt come 2022, this was viewed as a sign of a major rift in the party.
Jubilee — despite its supposed national outlook — owes its support bedrock to the North Rift and Mt Kenya regions and the withdrawal of one will largely weaken it.
On Thursday, when he met MCAs from Bomet and Vihiga counties at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu, Mr Ruto said he did not expect to be endorsed by anyone and would therefore present his candidature like all other aspirants for various positions.
But it is the machinations that may happen between now and the time Jubilee picks its 2022 presidential flagbearer that will determine the DP’s next move.
Kenya’s political history is replete with examples of hitherto powerful parties elbowing out political heavyweights whenever they become unpopular or threaten the party “owners” interests.
It is not lost to political observers how then Vice President George Saitoti and Opposition leader Raila Odinga were elbowed out of Kanu by former President Daniel arap Moi in the run-up to the 2002 General Election after they opposed the nomination of Uhuru Kenyatta as the party’s presidential candidate.
Also edged out alongside the duo was its outspoken former secretary-general JJ Kamotho, former Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama and Nairobi Kanu supremo Fred Gumo.
These moves have led politicians, especially those harbouring presidential ambitions, to form or buy regional parties to pursue their goals instead of risking their careers in the so called national parties where they wield little influence.
It would seem that Mr Ruto — who had a front bench view of these Kanu and ODM machinations — has put the lessons in good use from the inception of Jubilee by covertly planting his allies in key organs.
For instance, majority of those who lost during the Jubilee party primaries, especially from the Mt Kenya region, still blame the DP for their predicament while many elected leaders have him to thank for their victories.
Murang’a senator and the party’s deputy chief whip in the Senate Irungu Kang’ata maintains that whoever controls the party organs will have the final say on the outcome of its elections.
“The appointments were made on 50/50 basis by the President and the Deputy President. No one can say that each has a better following in party organs. In the end what will matter is who has better skills ahead of a major decision,” he said.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany said the history of party politics show that one has to get the composition of various organs right from the start to avoid last minute disappointments.
“The President is the party leader and we have not sat down as a party to decide on any issue that we have not agreed with after extensive consultations. It is premature to say that this side belongs to this or that but in case it comes to disagreement, there will always be a way out. Do not forget that in the end it is wananchi who will have the final say on who leads them,” he said.
The National Advisory Council comprising former chairpersons of the defunct parties this week issued a statement which appeared to target Dr Ruto.
The group asked the party’s rank and file to support the President’s Big Four agenda and the ‘handshake’, which the DP is thought to be uncomfortable with.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) which makes important decisions also enjoys a sizeable number of Mr Ruto’s sympathisers.
The NEC comprises party officials as well as representatives from Parliament, governors and county assemblies.
Apart from President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, who are party leader and deputy party leader respectively, the other members are mainly interim officials and representatives of elected leaders.
The party chair is Mr Nelson Dzuya, vice chairman is Mr Murathe, secretary-general Raphael Tuju assisted by Mr Kositany. The organising secretary is Mr Abdul Haji assisted by Ms Pamela Mutai while the treasurer is Mr Alfred Korir.
Parliament is represented by Majority leaders Aden Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen while governors are represented by Uasin Gishu governor Jackson Mandago.
Nairobi’s embattled speaker Beatrice Elachi represents county assemblies. Party whips Susan Kihika (Senate) and Benjamin Washiali (National Assembly) — both in Mr Ruto’s column — sit in the powerful organ.
Though NEC rarely meets, the growing fissures in the ruling party will make it inevitable that it convenes sooner or later to address the rifts and make crucial decisions on its future.
Both President Kenyatta’s allies and those of the DP have long insisted that they are in the party to stay, painting a united front.
NEC will also have the final say on the party’s views to be handed to the Building Bridges Initiative.
Apart from NEC, the party delegates conference is where the real battle for nomination of a presidential candidate is decided. Delegates conference is made up of all elected leaders and party officials from across the country and representatives of various interest groups.
The DP has been courting ward reps from across the region by hosting them either in his Sugoi home or meeting them at night whenever he visits a county.
Members of Parliament — who will have a big say in who attends the national delegates conference — have a friendly ear in the DP as he is said to pick their calls and facilitate their various political endeavours in their constituencies.