As politicians eyeing the presidency in 2022 continue touring various parts of the country to cement their prospects, at least seven Mt Kenya politicians are jostling for the running mate position.
The move, however, has left the region exposed for lack of an automatic successor unlike it has been the case in previous leadership successions.
Of concern is the fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the region’s political kingpin and de-facto leader, is constitutionally expected to vacate the State House at the end of 2022.
The position currently held by the President in the Agikuyu community has also attracted great attention, as there is fear of a vacuum upon his exit.
So far, among the more than 100 elected leaders in the region, only Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria has declared he would gun for the Presidency.
Mr Kuria has in the recent past reduced his participation in Deputy President William Ruto's political camp forums - popularly known as Tangatanga.
To position himself as the next possible de-facto leader in the central region, Mr Kuria has been attending major music concerts organised by both gospel and secular artists in the region to support their talents, he has become the patron of Mt Kenya Football Club and is said to have established his own vernacular television station, apparently to advance his agenda.
Commonly referred as Jamba ya Ruriri (Community hero), the slim towering former accountant who rose to fame due to negative ethnic remarks, is also fighting for reforms in coffee sub-sector.
Coffee farming is one of the main economic activities in Mt Kenya.
On the other hand, among those said to be eyeing running mates position, mostly to deputise Mr Ruto, is Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria.
He is serving his second and last term in office. The two have severally hosted each other in Nairobi and Murang'a.
Since his re-election as the Deputy President, Mr Ruto has visited the Mt Kenya region for more than 40 times, besides holding boardroom meetings with the regional leaders at his Karen office and in hotels.
Others touted to be jostling for the seat are Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Cabinet secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture) and Peter Munya (Trade).
Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and former assistant Minister Peter Kenneth, though they have kept a low political profile after losing in last year's General Election, are also among those positioning themselves to be the community’s leaders.
However, as President Kenyatta’s succession hots up, Governor Wa Iria appears to be already preparing his political path.
His close allies led by a family member named James Mwangi have already registered a new political party known as Civic Renewal Party. The party’ symbol is maize.
“Kenya’s political parties’ history is replete with dictatorial tendencies and special purpose vehicle tactics where parties are formed to win the next election but not to recalibrate for the future generations. As such, political parties have only served their owners,” the party said in a statement on its Facebook page yesterday.
Ms Waiguru, a former Devolution minister, recently got a backing from a section of clerics and traders from Maragua, Murang’a County, who urged Mr Ruto to pick her as his running mate.
Led by Pastors Titus Ngugi of Gatanga AIPCA church, Simon Waweru, Ibrahim Chege and businessman James Gichuki, the group endorsed Ms Waiguru saying she is the only leader in the region who can fit in President Kenyatta’s shoes.
The group hailed Governor Waiguru as a firm person, citing an instance when she raised alarm over theft at the National Youth Service.
The fear of a vacuum is real, as it has made Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata propose that the President should not retire from politics.
Mr Kang’ata, who is also Senate deputy majority whip, clashed with Mr Kuria on a live television broadcast on October 30 when they sharply differed on whether President Kenyatta should leave active politics after the 2022 elections.
Mr Kuria said of concern should be the region's development, not the President’s fate.
“We have a president in power. We can benefit from him. Why are we thinking about 2022 now? Let us ask how we can benefit from the president now,” Mr Kuria said.
But Mr Kang’ata was of the view that President Kenyatta should remain as the Agikuyu community kingpin and also a position should be created for him in the leadership of East African Community.
President Kenyatta swam into the unending debate during his tour in Nyeri when he told the public that he is ‘going nowhere’ and his pick for his successor will shock many people.
During a public rally in Nyeri Town, the President expressed anger that an MP, who he failed to name, had asked about the succession.
“Hari umwe hau ukujiraga ati riu we tondu riu mucinga waku niwathira rithathi, ndamera rithathi iria njikirite mondo ni iria muutoi na nongamukora nacio. (There is one who was telling me my gun has no bullets. I told them I have more bullets in my pocket which are out of their knowledge and I will find them (leader) with those bullets),” said the President.
He also disclosed that he had instructed the leaders to concentrate on development and serving the people.
He told off leaders who think he will have no say in succession politics, stating that he will have to state his position.
“No kuri amwe mareciria ati tondu uyu ndararugama ringi ati ndari kiugo, ndiramera gukira gwakwa niundu ndaugire ngucoka wiraini. No hakinya haria ona nii nongakorwo na koigo. Na koigo kau gakaringana na uria tuteithanitie wiraini wa muingi (There are those who think because I am retiring I have no word to say. I am telling them my reason to remain silent is because I decided to work. But when the time comes I will have a word to say. My statement will be determined on who has worked for the public),” he said.
Though in the 2013 campaigns President Kenyatta said he would rally Mt Kenya voters behind his deputy in 2022, his pronouncements in Nyeri cast doubt.
Also casting the doubts on Mr Ruto’s support from the region is the March 9 handshake between the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga. The ‘handshake’ is crowded by questions and predictions.
A group of former MPs has been meeting Opposition politicians led by Mr Odinga, his deputy Wycliffe Oparanya and ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi. Mr Mudavadi also has presidential ambitions.
Led by former Senators Mutahi Kagwe (Nyeri), Kembi Gitura (Murang’a) and Muriuki Karue (Nyandarua), the politicians said the meetings are to support the political deal between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
“These are communities (Agikuyu and Luos) that are very well-entrenched in terms of academic and political and economic life of this country. It is important for all communities to feel wanted and part of the country. It is not unusual for the Lake and Central coming together,” Mr Kagwe said recently.
Former Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando stated that the former legislators' caucus was ridiculed for meeting Mr Odinga to endorse the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative.
"When we called for Uhuru and Raila dialogue in October 2017, some attacked us. When we supported the President's call on lifestyle audits for state officers they dismissed us. When we visited Raila to endorse handshake, we were ridiculed," he said.
He said the former lawmakers are reaching out to extend 'handshakes' to political kingpins of other regions.
"They will insult us. But let's tell them that we are veterans in this game (of politics). Our exit from elected positions did not mean exit of our wisdom."