President Kenyatta is torn between assuaging the political interests of his mentor, retired president Daniel Moi, and those of his Deputy William Ruto two days after he visited the former at his Kabarnet Gardens home in Nairobi.
Details of the closed-door meeting attended by Kanu chairman and scion of the second president Gideon Moi and West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo indicate the retired president assured the Head of State of Kanu’s support for a second term.
But it is the revelation that Mr Ruto’s camp was kept in the dark that has sparked a fierce storm within the ruling coalition with the DP’s allies saying they will not accept any deal with Kanu that undermines their political standing in Jubilee.
Coming a month after the President’s mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, met Mzee Moi at his Kabarak home in Nakuru on January 21, the agreement could see Mr Kenyatta share some Cabinet slots and plum parastatal jobs with the independence party if he wins a second and final term.
The pact, the Sunday Nation learnt, could further see Jubilee forego the Baringo senatorial contest in favour of the incumbent, Mr Gideon Moi, who plans to run for president in 2022, a deal that is likely to rock the Ruto boat.
Elgeyo-Marakwet senator and the DP’s confidante Senator Kipchumba Murkomen says they cannot accede to such an arrangement with Kanu.
“It (the pact) is merely the wishes of those who fear competition. We have a very strong and competent Jubilee Senate candidate in Baringo and we are confident to clinch the seat. Those who want to stand any chance should not wait for a back door. I don’t need any favour in Elgeyo-Marakwet except the support of my people,” said Mr Murkomen who is also facing a strong challenge from Kanu’s David Kimaiyo, the retired Inspector-General of Police.
Last month’s meeting at Kabarak came against the backdrop of sustained attacks on the government by the National Super Alliance (Nasa) with Jubilee said to be worried about the prospects of facing a united opposition front in the August presidential election.
Having first propped up Mr Kenyatta as his preferred successor in 2002, Mzee Moi is the last person who wants to see the current President serve only one term.
Those close to Mr Kenyatta say the senior Moi has his ears and is one of the few individuals he runs to for counsel when faced with crises. Mzee, according to impeccable sources in government, is also among the few individuals with unfettered access to the State House.
During the Kabarnet Gardens meeting, the retired president and President Kenyatta are said to have agreed that Kanu would on Tuesday convene a special National Executive Committee to officially throw its weight behind his re-election.
Party Secretary-General Nick Salat confirmed the meeting.
“The NEC will take a position on who between Jubilee and Nasa we will support for the presidency,” he said, falling short of admitting he had lost in his efforts to have Kanu join the opposition alliance.
Mr Salat sought to downplay the political significance of the meeting, saying, “He (Mr Kenyatta) was seeing Mzee after the knee surgery.” The retired Head of State was on January 27 admitted to the Aga Khan Hospital for a minor knee surgery and discharged the following day.
However, he admitted that the old man and Mr Kenyatta discussed the current political goings-on. “Once a politician, always a politician, the two discussed the happenings in politics,” he said.
Even though Mr Ruto’s press secretary, Emmanuel Talam, referred us to State House for comment, most of the DP’s allies were of the view that they must be involved in any deal with Mr Moi.
“State House is better placed to respond,” Mr Talam said of the pact with Kanu.
The sensitive nature of the discussions also saw Mzee Moi’s veteran spokesman, Lee Njiru, refer us to the Baringo Senator for comment. Not even President Kenyatta’s spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, was willing to comment on the matter.
The elder Moi is said to have rooted for a closer working relationship between Mr Kenyatta and his son should he win a second term in office. This is bound to set President Kenyatta on a collision path with his running mate in the August 8 polls given Mr Gideon Moi, also the Baringo Senator, is embroiled in a bitter duel with the DP over the control of Rift Valley politics where they all hail from.
Mr Kenyatta also knows too well that, much as he has priceless friendship with the Mois to keep, he, in the short run, is in desperate need of his DP who has the backing of the Rift Valley voting bloc to ride on to a second term in the office. He, therefore, has to do a delicate balancing act so as not to appear to be sidelining the indefatigable DP. The consolation among Mr Ruto’s men is that the President knows he needs them to renew his tenancy at State House.
The DP is a known fighter and will certainly not take any act of betrayal lying down. Aware of the unpredictability of the political terrain, he is reportedly working on a possible game plan for 2022 polls should things fail to work out as fashioned. This entails looking beyond the current Jubilee strongholds.
To Mr Ruto, allowing Kanu to have candidates in all elective positions in Rift Valley and beyond is an attempt to eat into his home turf. This will weaken his bargaining power in Jubilee if Kanu was to become a partner in government at a time he wants to project himself as the natural heir to the throne. Kanu has an existing post-election pact with Jubilee in what has seen it support all positions taken by Mr Kenyatta, both inside and outside Parliament.
Mr Ruto has not shied away from taking the elder Moi head-on in the recent past as he fights to assert himself as the indisputable political leader in Rift Valley.
CHECKING ON POLITICAL MENTOR
Only last month, the DP hit out at the former Head of State, accusing him of standing in the way of the elevation of Baringo Technical College to a university to be situated in Baringo Central constituency.
Addressing a meeting in the county, Mr Ruto affirmed the proposed Baringo University would be situated at Kapsoo in the former Head of State’s constituency.
The move has not gone down well with the retired president who terms the conversion of the college into a university as misadvised.
“Retired president Moi should not dictate to me where to locate the university. We want development and, just as he built several universities in other regions during his tenure, so will I do in Kabarak for the benefit of the children of this country,” Mr Ruto said.
While the official version of the meeting has been that of a President checking on his political mentor, the presence of Kanu officials betrays this narrative.
It is noteworthy that at a time when Mr Salat, below, has been attending political rallies by the opposition, Prof Lonyangapuo and nominated Senator Zipporah Kittony have all come out to dismiss actions by the former Bomet MP as personal and not the position of the party.
Mr Lonyangapuo’s attendance of the Kabarnet Gardens meeting demonstrated who between him and Mr Salat was speaking the language of the party “owners”. President Kenyatta has, all along, distanced himself from the supremacy war pitting Mr Ruto and the younger Moi.
After Mr Moi and the DP tore into each other during the burial of former nominated MP Mark Too in Uasin Gishu early January, President Kenyatta used his speech to urge them to work together for the general good of their people.
“Leaders like Henry Kosgey and Nicholas Biwott need to bring together all leaders because I am sure the late Too would have liked Gideon and Ruto to speak with one voice,” he said.