Deputy President William Ruto’s search for a running mate in his 2022 State House bid is narrowing down to Mt Kenya and Coast regions following revelations by his western Kenya backers that they will settle for Cabinet posts and the implementation of an agreed economic agenda, instead.
For western, it seems, the possibility of Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi running for the top seat makes it unattractive for the DP to pick a running mate from there, especially given that ODM leader Raila Odinga also holds sway over a considerable section of the vote-rich region.
Former National Assembly Majority whip Benjamin Washiali, who was last year sacked from his job for associating with the DP, said the region will settle for other seats away from the running mate post in the DP’s 2022 government.
“Given the kind of support DP is having, he will definitely succeed President Kenyatta. I do not think that we will reach a point where a few of us will force him to pick one of us to deputise him. Again, it is a game of numbers and if we are not counting in terms of numbers, how will we push for running mate position? It will be unfair,” Mr Washiali told the Nation on Thursday.
Besides Mr Mudavadi, Mr Washiali thinks Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula has played a part in injuring the DP-allied team’s chances from western from demanding a running mate position.
“People who have let us down here are Musalia and Wetang’ula because of their political level. We thought they could come to work with us so that we can push for this (running mate) position,” Mr Washiali told the Nation.
The DP was looking at the three regions to shore up his numbers in the race that requires the winner to garner at least 50 per cent of the voters, plus one, as well as 25 per cent of the total votes in at least 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.
Inroads in Western Kenya
This makes the presidential race a tall order for any contestant and the choice of running mate a crucial part of the campaigns.
But while Mr Washiali seems to have thrown in the towel on the possibility of Dr Ruto’s running mate post going to the region, former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, another DP ally, said there was still a chance.
He, however, said that chance is pegged on the team promising the DP 60 per cent of the support in western.
“Some of us are supporting the DP to form a government with him. We must be part of this government. He understands the problems ailing different parts of this country and once he is elected, some of these issues will come into place. If we manage to give him 60 per cent, we will go for a big position,” added Mr Echesa.
The dream, the ex-minister said, was on course, with the DP having already made inroads in the region.
“For now, it is too early. We cannot say that people from Western will not vote for the DP as a bloc. There are still realignments which will take place. Raila has lost touch in the region and Musalia can get 20-40 per cent. This means that if we play our cards well, DP is likely to sweep the entire region hence we will have a chance to demand a bigger stake in the government,” he said.
Western has more than two million votes spread across its four counties; with Kakamega having the largest number of votes at 743,736, Bungoma 559,850, Busia 351,048 and Vihiga 272,409. Trans-Nzoia, located in the Rift Valley, but with a high Luhya population, has 339,622 votes.
But even before the running mate post, the DP’s team in western has demanded an assurance that the DP will focus on the revival of the sugar industry in the region, bring back to life the Webuye PanPaper Mills, as well as revitalise railway transport in the region.
Besides Mr Washiali and Mr Echesa, the DP enjoys support from MPs Dan Wanyama (Webuye West), John Waluke (Sirisia), Janet Nangabo (Trans-Nzoia), Mwambu Mabongah (Bumula), Robert Pukose (Endebess), Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon), Charles Gimose (Hamisi), and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.
The team, led by their professionals, are currently drafting economic demands which they wish the DP to deliver for them when he is elected the fifth president.
According to Dr Khalwale, the region is not demanding any position from the DP in return for their support, but focus is on a bottom-up economic model.
“We are not supporting DP Ruto for the 2022 president on condition that his deputy must come from Western. If, however, he chose one from our midst, it would be a welcome bonus,” Dr Khalwale told the Nation.
After it emerged mid last year that DP was reaching out to Mr Mudavadi for an alliance, Mr Waluke, the Sirisia MP, had disclosed that the country’s second-in-command had tasked the ANC boss to consolidate the region as a bloc before such deals are inked.
The shift of political allegiances has continued to rock the political landscape of the country as 2022 draws nearer, with political figures like Malava MP Malulu Injendi, who has been Dr Ruto’s lieutenant in the vote-rich Western region ditching the Tangatanga camp to join the ANC boss.
Support their own
“Tribalism is so entrenched in a number of our institutions and that is why as leaders from Western region, we must ensure that we consolidate our region and those in other camps will finally join us at the appropriate time but the fact is that, come 2022, Western will speak with one voice,” said Mr Injendi.
This comes months after Kimilili MP, Didmus Barasa, another Ruto man in the region announced leave from Tangatanga activities, which has been interpreted as a silent defection.
But allies of both Mr Mudavadi and Senator Wetang’ula have stressed that they are going to do whatever it takes to ensure that the region produces one of their own for presidency.
Ford Kenya interim Secretary General and also Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa Thursday told the Nation that the Western region has been used by what he termed as ‘outsiders’ for years, so come 2022, they will use their numbers to support their own, a clear indication that they will either support Mr Mudavadi or Senator Wetang’ula only.
“For us, our numbers have never helped us but this time round, a new wave is sweeping across the region. Our people now comprehend the importance of unity and those who have gone astray are on the way coming back home. We must rally behind Mudavadi and Wetang’ula, who are our senior-most politicians,” said Dr Wamalwa.
ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula has also echoed the sentiments, saying the region had played second-fiddle to others for long and the urge for the other regions to support it is long overdue.
Further afield, the DP’s allies in Mt Kenya said they would only demand the running mate post after an agreement on an economic recovery plan.
Factions in Ruto’s camp
“During the Jubilee regime, our people have suffered more than during President Daniel Moi’s regime, even though we had a president from our region for nine years. After we agree with Ruto on economic interventions for our people, we shall now discuss with him which positions our people can hold to help him achieve what we would have agreed on,” Mr Gachagua told the Nation.
In Dr Ruto’s camp, already two factions are emerging in Mt Kenya region.
Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is said not to see eye-to-eye with some of the DP’s lieutenants who accuse him of presenting himself as the undisputed running mate.
Mr Gachagua, who has been hosting the DP’s allies from the region, is also angling to be the pointman in the region.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro argued that the people of Mt Kenya region are futuristic and that’s why they have to start early succession plans.
“We plan ahead. When we voted for (Mwai) Kibaki in 2007, we passively voted for Uhuru in 2013, and when we voted for Uhuru in 2017, we passively voted for William Ruto in 2022,” Mr Nyoro said.