By Isaac Swila
Simmering political tension is threatening to explode in the vote-rich basket of Central Kenya and complicate William Ruto’s quest to succeed his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, in the wake of chaotic Jubilee party primaries, as the 2022 succession race begins to take shape in earnest.
Although Kenyatta is facing a stern challenge to his presidency from a revitalised and a united opposition coalition, Nasa, ahead of the August 8 elections, jitters, murmurs, and disquiet is building up in his traditional political base, which his deputy wants to inherit.
However, Ruto’s desire is already running into headwinds over his perceived role in “fixing” some candidates in the recently held party primaries in a scheme for 2022.
Surprising is the fact that that the succession plan is rearing its ugly head even before Kenyatta, a one-time Gatundu MP, wins the pending political elections.
In an ideal situation, Kenyatta’s lieutenants’ should, by now, be combing every village in his backyard in an aggressive door-to-door campaign aimed at ensuring he wins the forthcoming election in round one.
On the contrary, that is not the case. The foot soldiers are more worried of the 2022 equation and the ripple effect it may have on the region, so much so that they are already scheming on how to stop Ruto’s growing political influence in the region, with a view of ensuring that he does not ascend to the presidency in 2022.
This school of thought is informed by the fact that whichever way the election go come August 8, Ruto has nothing, and everything to gain.
In the event that Nasa defeats Jubilee, Ruto can make political capital by the fact that he has paid his political debt as was required. First, in 2013, when he stuck out his neck in his expansive Rift Valley to whip the electorate to one political accord which saw them vote to the last man for Kenyatta, hence propelling him to State House, the adversities they both faced then notwithstanding.
Also, Ruto’s political game plan in 2013 ensured that two of the most dominant ethnic groups in the Rift Valley – the Kalenjins and the Kikuyus – cast their votes in one basket, leading to the political camaraderie that has been witnessed between them and their communities in the last four years.
So, if Kenyatta were to lose, Ruto would use this as a bargaining chip to reinforce the political thought that he has twice sacrificed his political ambition (in 2013 and 2017) for his fellow “digital brother”, hence the need of the vote rich mountain region to rally behind his candidature.
And in the event that Kenyatta wins a second term, it could make things a lot easier for Ruto, who would ride on this success. His message to the Mt Kenya elite and ordinary voters would be that his support in two elections cycles was not in vain but the cornerstone through which Kamwana was propelled to power, hence the need to return the favour.
Thirdly, as it is now, voters in Rift Valley, the bedrock of Ruto’s support, have been programmed to believe that the 2022 equation is a foregone conclusion. They believe that Ruto will not automatically fly the Jubilee’s flag bearer but also get the support of Central Kenya – as a matter of right.
Kenyatta, has himself, on several occasions, reinforced this school of thought through his roadside rallies, but whether it’s out of sincerity or convenience, only time will tell.
“Wenzetu (Nasa) wanadhani kwamba watatushinda. Lakini nawaambia kwamba sisi tuko hapa kwa miaka ishirini; nitamaliza yangu kumi, halafu William amalize yake kumi. Baada ya hiyo wanaweza kujipanga… (Our competitors are deluded to think that they will beat us. I want to remind them that we’re here to serve for 20 years. Once I have served my full term of 10 years, it will be William’s turn, to also serve his 10 years, after which they (Opposition) can sort themselves out,” Kenyatta has repeatedly said in a blatant mock of the opposition.
However, as the Jubilee brigade puts up a brave face, what may be unknown to them – or maybe known – but which they are conveniently ignoring, is the fact by 2022…
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