Mr David Murathe knew his declaration that Deputy President William Ruto will not be eligible to stand for president in 2022 on account of having served out the two-term limit alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta was arrant nonsense.
Chances are nearly nil that he will make good on his threat to seek a Supreme Court determination on Dr Ruto’s eligibility. Not on such a legally dubious ground.
Of course, no one can ignore the potential for mischief with a Judiciary that is re-acquiring the bad old habits — as seen in the return of those ridiculous court orders giving suspects of white-collar crime virtual immunity from investigation and prosecution.
The point, however, is that Mr Murathe was engaging in naked political posturing rather than giving considered legal opinion.
That he was subsequently forced out as the Jubilee Party vice-chairman does not change the fact that fault lines exposed in the governing outfit cannot be papered over.
If not speaking for his patron, President Kenyatta, Mr Murathe speaks for a wealthy clique from the central Kenya backyard trying to influence the presidential succession of 2022.
The manoeuvres will not cease with Mr Murathe’s exit from Jubilee headquarters, however, as he is now free to stoke the flames from the outside.
The former MP for Gatanga might be a political nobody in his own right but he has never been shy to play up the fact that he owed his position and direct loyalty to President Kenyatta. Even as a ‘free agent’ (in sports lingo), he will most likely continue to play up the link with his long-time political comrade and partner in many a social misadventure.
Dr Ruto’s allies, who have been demanding Mr Murathe’s head, might be purring with satisfaction but they would be foolish to let down their guard for the hostile brigade he fronts is still very much alive.
But if the DP ought to be a worried man, so should his boss. Both ought to be looking at the risk of Jubilee imploding, losing its hold on power, and the more serious threat of revival of tensions in the Rift Valley which their ‘UhuRuto’ partnership was supposed to have healed.
Dr Ruto’s supporters in one of those myriad groupings of Kalenjin elders recently issued dark warnings of a resurgence of ethnic violence should Mr Kenyatta’s Kikuyu bloc renege on an alleged presidential succession pact.
Also of concern to Mr Kenyatta is that, on his final term, he is losing the base that propelled him to power. New fissures in Jubilee indicate not merely the Kikuyu-Kalenjin rift but the President losing his populous constituency.
Reactions to Mr Murathe’s comments were fiercest from central Kenya politicians, many of whom made it clear that they reject the sentiments of the then-party official even if he spoke for the President.
The general position was that it was up the President to call off his attack dog — put colourfully by Bahati MP Onesmus Ngunjiri with unflattering comparisons between President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto, describing the latter as ‘sober’ and leaving unsaid how he judges temperament of the former.
An earlier indicator of growing disregard for the President was provided by Gatundu South Moses Kuria when decrying alleged under-development of central Kenya under his leadership. Mr Kuria — incumbent on the ‘family seat’ previously held by President Kenyatta, his cousin Ngengi Muigai and First President Jomo Kenyatta — apologised under pressure, but his statement cannot be erased. That he received substantial support from fellow central Kenya politicians and ordinary citizens is telling.
The President losing Jubilee and his central Kenya constituency would be fatal for his belated attempts at seeking a legacy through a renewed anti-corruption war and the ‘handshake’ with opposition leader Raila Odinga, both initiatives that make Dr Ruto’s supporters in government and Parliament see red. Attempt at crafting a unity Cabinet under Building Bridges could be shot down by Jubilee MPs.
The harsh reality is that central Kenya politicians are more interested in securing their own post-Uhuru futures than in his legacy projects.
President Kenyatta is history for those angling to catch Dr Ruto’s eye, with the ultimate carrot being running mate position. Rather than wait for presidential candidate Ruto to make his pick, the oligarchy thought to be behind Mr Murathe might be angling to impose their own choice, under threat of fielding a presidential own candidate if ignored.
If unable to dislodge Dr Ruto, they might already have their own outfit waiting to exploit the central Kenya vacuum expected once President Kenyatta exits.
Chances are, Dr Ruto has also retained the insurance of a ‘Plan B’ party.
[email protected]; @MachariaGaitho