Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram
For Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, it may have looked unlikely at the end of last year that he would soon stand in a position of so near yet so far.
Apparently seeming to sense early that the makings of an epic battle to scuttle his ultimate ambition has taken shape, Ruto has come out of his corner fighting, giving every indication he is the one candidate every contender will have to beat if they want the 2022 diadem.
That things were not going to flow his way freely became evident on March 9 when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga buried the hatchet at a function not attended by the DP and cemented it with the now much-hyped ‘Handshake’.
Since then, without seeming to be reacting to the new development that had brought his nemesis, Raila, on board, Ruto has noticeably been imprinting his footmarks in every corner of the country, positioning a team of point men and women for his biggest political quest.
He has been to the Western region more than seven times this year, five times to the Coast, 10 times to Mt Kenya region, 16 times in Nairobi, seven times to northern Kenya, five times to Eastern and 24 times in his home turf of Rift Valley.
Early this week he was in the Coast region for three days and is expected to start a tour Nakuru county today. While at the Coast, Ruto sent overtures to outspoken Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi – previously a strong ally of Raila and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho – to join his team.
In the Coast region, Ruto has close allies in Taita Taveta and Kwale governors Granton Samboja and Salim Mvurya respectively. He has also brought into his ambit former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, former journalist Mohammed Ali, aka Jicho Pevu, who is MP for Nyali, former Malindi North MP Gideon Mung’aro, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa who until three months ago was an unflinchingly militant supporter of Raila, Taveta MP Naomi Shabaan, Lungalunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, former nominated MP Joyce Lay and former Kwale Women’s Rep Zainab Chidzuga, among others.
In the former Western Province his expeditions have wooed prominent names such as Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Cabinet secretaries Eugene Wamalwa and Rashid Echesa, Lugari MP Ayub Savula, Malava MP Moses Injendi, Sirisia MP John Waluke, Mumias East MP Ben Washiali, former Funyula MPs Julia Ojiambo and Paul Otuoma, their Budalang’i counterpart (now Foreign Affairs CAS) Ababu Namwamba.
Others are Ambassador Yvonne Khamati, former Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga, Kimilili MP Didmus Baraza, his Webuye East counterpart Dan Wanyama, former Vihiga MP Yussuf Chanzu, Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe, Fred Kapondi of Mt Elgon and Trans Nzoia Women’s Representative Janet Nangabo.
Though he has not stated it publicly, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale has been lately darting, dancing and cavorting around Ruto’s political renditions.
The Deputy President’s own Rift Valley region has a galaxy of shiny political stars swimming in his homestead pond, among them Mining Cabinet secretary Joseph Munyes, Turkana Governor and chairman of Council of Governors (CoG) Josephat Nanok, governor Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Senate Leader of Majority (Elgeyo-Marakwet) Kipchumba Murkomen in addition to nearly all senators and Women’s Reps in the region save for governors Joseph Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) and Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Senators Gideon Moi (Baringo) and Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot), National Assembly legislators Silas Tiren (Moiben), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Bowen Kangogo (Marakwet East), William Kamket (Tiaty), Raymond Moi (Rongai) and Moitalel ole Kenta (Narok North). The nays are seen as allied to Gideon in loathing Ruto.
To affirm that Ruto could expect his biggest embrace from his home turf, South Rift leaders recently described his 2022 presidential bid as “unstoppable”.
Kericho governor Chepkwony, Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Bomet Woman Representative Joyce Korir and Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui assured the DP that Rift Valley will behind him.
“There is no doubt that the DP will be the next Head of State,” Chepkwony said at Kiboibey, Ainamoi sub-county recently.
Mt Kenya region is seen as an area that owes Ruto one, seeing as he stood with Uhuru through thick and thin, with the majority of the elected and former lawmakers from the populous political basket remaining, at least in public, behind the DP with those from Uhuru’s Kiambu county backyard and their Murang’a counterparts being the most notable.
Most visible of pro-Ruto foot soldiers in that geographical zone are governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and his senator Kimani Wamatangi, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungw’a, his Gatundu South counterpart Moses Kuria, Murang’a senator Irungu Kang’ata, area Women’s Representative Sabina Chege, Kieni MP Kanini Kega and former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau.
A considerable percentage of politicians from the region have, however, been non-committal on Ruto’s 2022 presidential candidacy though some like Nyeri Town’s Ngunjiri Wambugu have poured cold water on the intentions.
What used to be known as Eastern Province has two distinct political faces, with the lower region most inhabited by the Kamba community that overwhelmingly throws its political support behind Opposition leader Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper Party while the Upper one composed of Embu and Meru counties standing solidly behind the Jubilee Party. In Ukambani, Ruto is said to have reached out to Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana.
Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire, Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi, his Tharaka-Nithi counterpart Muthomi Njuki and Meru Senator Mithika Linturi are the most vocal crusaders on the Upper Eastern area for Ruto’s presidential bid while the Ukambani region has Rachel Nyamai of Kitui South, Nimrod Mbai of Kitui North, former Mbooni MP Munyao Kisoi, former legislators Joe Mutambu (Mwingi Central), Kalembe Ndile (Kibwezi), Kenya’s ambassador to Turkey Kiema Kilonzo and business magnate Peter Muthoka.
In Nyanza region, Ruto is understood to be close to Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi, former Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC) chairman Charles Nyachae, former Kisii mayor Samuel Nyangweso, former Kisumu Town Central MP Ken Obura and a host of sitting and former parliamentarians. Kitutu Chache North MP Jimmy Angwenyi is seen as the Kisii region pointman.
In former North Eastern province, the DP has the support of his close ally, Garissa Town MP, who is also the Leader of Majority in Parliament Aden Duale, Garissa senator Mohammed Yusuf Haji and all the local governors, senators and Women’s Representatives.
Nairobi remains a complicated matrix for national politicians, due to its metropolitan mix. However, embattled Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko, East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) member Simon Mbugua, are said to gravitate towards Ruto, probably seeking high ally to help them in their woes.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, Nairobi County Speaker Beatrice Elachi and former Nairobi Woman’s Representative Rachel Shebesh lead the pro-Ruto brigade in the City.
Lusaka, seen as a Ruto’s front-line strategist in Western Kenya, told People Daily: “Ruto is miles ahead of the lot angling to challenge him in 2022. We now have 75 per cent of the former Western Province plus the entire Trans Nzoia county in our group,” said the Senate Speaker.
But Murkomen, talking on K24 TV, was a bit cautious: “We still have a long way to go. Of course, we have not closed the door for competition.”
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa, who has been defending Ruto consistently, was also guarded as he said on K24: “Right now we are all focused on the Big Four agenda. Those within Jubilee, it was clear to us, right from 2012 when Uhuru Kenyatta and TNA and William Ruto from URP came together, that we would support Uhuru in 2013 and 2017 and consequently back William Ruto in 2022.”