Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Sunday faced the wrath of Jubilee leaders after he launched a veiled attack on Deputy President William Ruto for criss-crossing the country campaigning to be President in 2022.
Mr Odinga, flanked by his deputy Hassan Joho, used an Idd-ul-Fitr baraza in Mombasa on Sunday to train his guns on Mr Ruto, who has rattled the opposition by frequenting its strongholds dishing out goodies, recruiting pointmen, and seeking the support of locals.
Mr Ruto’s forays grew in frequency and voracity after the March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
He has been at the coast six times since then, and has already bagged the support of a number of local politicians in his quest to succeed Mr Kenyatta in 2022.
But, on Sunday, Mr Odinga said he should stop “loitering around" saying he will replace Mr Kenyatta.
“Wacha kurandaranda hapa na pale, kutangatanga ati wewe unasema: ‘Mimi nitakuwa Rais mwaka 2022’. (Stop loitering and wandering around saying you will be President come 2022). How do you know that? It is Kenyans who will elect their President,” said Mr Odinga.
Mr Odinga also questioned the source of Mr Ruto's wealth, especially the monies he dishes out during his political forays.
“You go around giving out money here and there yet we know your salary,” said Mr Odinga, echoing President Kenyatta's recent call for a lifestyle audit of senior public officials, and adding that looters of public money always expose themselves by "how they operate".
But, in a rejoinder, three Jubilee Party governors and 10 MPs told Mr Odinga to stop attacking Mr Ruto and arrogating himself the duty to speak for the party.
Speaking during two church services in Thika attended by Mr Ruto, the politicians described Mr Odinga as an insincere leader who wants to wreck Jubilee.
The Governors were Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Granton Samboja (Taita-Taveta, Nasa), and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi). Others were Mr Kithure Kindiki (Senate Deputy Speaker and Tharaka-Nithi Senator) and MPs Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), Patrick Wainaina (Thika Town), Dindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Wanjiku Kibe (Gatundu North), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Ng’ang’a King’ara (Ruiru), Mpuri Apuri (East African Legislative Assembly), Gathoni Wamuchomba (Woman Representative, Kiambu), Jude Jomo (Kiambu) and George Kariuki (Ndia).
DON'T BE DISTRACTED
Prof Kindiki said Mr Ruto and his troupes are not campaigning for 2022 at all, but "touring the grassroots to explore ways of addressing the challenges facing people"
“Mr Ruto is our automatic candidate who will take over from President Kenyatta when he retires in 2022, alongside Mr Odinga,” said Prof Kindiki.
Governors Samboja and Muthomi told the DP not to be distracted by "leaders who have no agenda for the country", saying his tours across the country are aimed at uniting Kenyans and addressing their challenges.
The Deputy President said the government is committed to the unity and development of the country, which are his current priorities. But Mr Odinga, speaking in Mombasa, stood his ground: “The fight against corruption must be fought to the end," he said. "We will stand together with the government until all those involved in theft of public resources are arrested and jailed.”
Mr Joho, who last week announced a political ceasefire between him and President Kenyatta, praised the Head of State’s efforts to end graft, but proposed that the planned lifestyle audit of senior government officials be done by an international firm to avoid undue influence.
Mr Joho also took issue with those who have started early campaigns ahead of 2022. “You do not have a contract with God," he said. "You should first ask Him to get you there before starting campaigns."
Reiterating that he will vie for the presidency in 2022, Mr Joho, however, said it was too early to start campaigns. He expressed hope Coast will produce a President.
“We have been given responsibility to work for the people and let us concentrate with that as at now but let them know when the right time comes I will show them dust. We will be in the ballot box and I have no worry,” he added.
He hinted of further engagements with President Kenyatta following their improved relations. “The President has promised me that we shall have a meeting soon with him and we will discuss issues affecting coastals," he said.
Mr Joho also met Kanu chairman Gideon Moi recently and agreed to forge a political union with the Baringo Senator. At the coast, however, most of his close allies, including Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, have in recent weeks been hobnobbing with Mr Ruto.
Additional reporting by Mary Wambui and DPPS