President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) Opposition Leader Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi watch the Mashemeji Derby at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on March 8, 2020. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO
Succession headache for Uhuru as experts line up 2022 options
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s falling-out with his deputy William Ruto has left him with no heir apparent as the clock ticks towards the 2022 General Election.
With the crack now a reality following what insiders say is “irreconcilable differences” between the two, state operatives are busy analysing various viable succession scenarios for 2022.
A team of bureaucrats consisting of a few Jubilee Party and coalition officials as well as senior advisers of the President have been burning the midnight oil in search of a viable and acceptable candidate who will then be gradually be propped up, the Sunday Nation has learnt.
Those with insider information on the plan by about seven individuals say it has been kept a closely guarded secret to avoid “undermining the serving leader, but it has his blessings.”
With their sights set on the referendum, they believe their chosen one will immensely benefit from the euphoria of the referendum campaigns to catapult him to the top seat.
The Sunday Nation reveals the three possible scenarios, pegged on successful constitutional amendments that have been put on the table for further scrutiny.
The scenarios point to ODM leader Raila Odinga, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, whose party has already entered into a coalition deal with Jubilee and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, whose recent association with Dr Ruto’s Tangatanga troops has, however, muddied the waters.
The 2022 plan, according to those with insider information, is widely inclined on the 2027 election.
Already, there are reports that as the coalition grows and with the post-election pact between Jubilee and Mr Moi’s Kanu, a looming deal with Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper and Mr Odinga’s ODM, a possible line-up is being crafted for 2022.
Behind the tightly-knit plan, the leaders working with the President want a structure of government that will have a President, a Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers and a Deputy President. Other senior government positions being floated to contain other senior members of the supper alliance include the two Speakers – for the National Assembly and the Senate.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, a former political adviser of President Kenyatta, told the Sunday Nation that several options will be considered, including the likely successor’s popularity across the country.
But this, he noted, will only come after the BBI referendum.
“The reason you have even seen the referendum Bill coming to Parliament is that what is going to unlock all these issues is the structure of government that will be agreed on.”
He added: “Definitely there will be a negotiation process. All of us must be part of the system that is going to come. We are going to see an arrangement like the one for the accord (National Accord) of 2008,” said Mr Kutuny.
He said the discussion “we are having now” was not about who is going to take what but first focus on creating the positions.
“It will be an issue of give and take, but of course we know people who have numbers.
“We will consider a lot of issues and numbers will be held dearly. For the moment, pushing for the referendum and constitutional amendments is our main agenda,” Mr Kutuny said.
According to a source who spoke in confidence, the first scenario is, amid infighting in Jubilee, Mr Odinga being positioned to succeed President Kenyatta “as a stop-gap measure candidate” to serve before handing over power in the subsequent election to “an individual who would want to be the flag bearer in 2022 but cannot be because he still wields minimal support across the country.”
The line-up includes Baringo senator Moi (Kanu), Mr Musyoka (Wiper) and “there are plans to rope in Musalia Mudavadi (ANC).”
“However, you have noticed the association of ANC, Ford Kenya and the Tangatanga troops, as well as the roping in of (Kakamega Governor) Wycliffe Oparanya and CS Eugene Wamalwa. This means that there is a big plan to have the latter two brought on board – probably to deal with Mr Mudavadi’s influence should he make good his indications to join the DP,” said a source familiar with the plans.
With Mr Mudavadi remaining non-committal on a deal at the moment, our source said the President and Mr Odinga asked Mr Oparanya and Mr Wamalwa to take charge of the western region.
Mr Mudavadi has, however, played down links with Dr Ruto.
“Mr Odinga is keener on the Oparanya-Wamalwa duo as Mr Mudavadi could complicate his chances of clinching the 2022 ticket in the super alliance,” the source added.
Even as plans are being made for a line-up to be unveiled after a successful plebiscite is conducted, sources have told the Sunday Nation that suspicion cannot equally be ruled out among the crafters of the “winning formula” for 2022 that they say will finally end Deputy President William Ruto’s dream of ascending to power in the coming polls.
Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli has repeatedly stated that President Kenyatta is too young to retire, which has not gone down well with Dr Ruto’s Tangatanga troops.
President Kenyatta has, however, stated that he is keen on leaving behind a united country and that he has no intention of extending his rule.
Some of the options being explored by strategists in the “Raila plan” are to have him vie for President under the new laws and have a woman as his running mate, preferably from the vote-rich Mount Kenya region.
One of those being mentioned is troubled Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru. In an earlier interview, Ms Waiguru said about such a proposal: “I am not aware of any such arrangements and in any event it is still too early to speak about positions. The principal priority now is to handle the coronavirus pandemic and mitigate its consequences for Kenyans’ health and the economy,” Ms Waiguru told the Nation.
But the elephant in the room on Mr Odinga’s scenario is whether he would play ball in 2027 at the end of his first term.
“Some bureaucrats in the State are not keen on an Odinga candidature and prefer Mr Mudavadi or Mr Moi. However, Mr Moi could be prepared to vie in 2027. That some members of the State are showing a soft spot for Mr Mudavadi could be the reason behind the current insurgency in his ANC party by Mr Odinga’s sympathisers,” the source added.
However, Mr Odinga’s advantage, according to those who favour his bid among the crafters of the 2022 winning strategy, is his age, resources and vast mobilisation skills.
Mount Kenya region, according to insiders versed with the plans, apart from bagging the Deputy President’s position, could also produce a Prime Minister “just like in 2008 when it had a President and Deputy Prime Minister under the Kibaki government.”
Under the National Peace Accord brokered by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan between retired President Mwai Kibaki and Mr Odinga following the disputed 2007 presidential elections, the former President served as the Head of State while his successor, also from Mount Kenya region, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, took one of the deputy premier’s positions alongside Mr Mudavadi.
Mr Musyoka was Vice-President.
So, in this arrangement, Mr Odinga could run for President, while Mr Moi is touted for first deputy premier’s position with Mr Musyoka or Mr Mudavadi (if he plays ball) taking another DPM post.
Another scenario is to have President Kenyatta shelve his ambition “if any” and support Mr Moi for President to alienate Rift Valley from the DP, with Mr Odinga as Prime Minister.
This scenario would leave Mr Musyoka and a leader from Western left with deputy premier’s positions as the Deputy President will have to be a woman if the current BBI proposals remain.
With Mr Kenyatta out of the matrix, the Deputy President’s position in this arrangement will still go to Mount Kenya – preferably a woman.
“It is, however, a tough balancing act for Mount Kenya, bearing in mind their numerical strength. Convincing them will mean addition of another senior position in the succession arithmetic,” insiders say.
The third plan is to have a leader from Western – preferably Mr Mudavadi – run for President, a woman from Mount Kenya as the Deputy, with Mr Odinga as Prime Minister and Mr Moi and Mr Musyoka as deputies.
There are also plans to bring on the table an influential politician from the Coastal region for a bigger position, notably a House Speaker in one of the two Parliaments.
It is not clear how the impasse will be resolved as insiders in Mr Odinga’s, Mr Musyoka’s and Mr Mudavadi’s parties insist they have set their eyes on the presidency even though in public, the ODM leader insists he is not keen on politics at the moment.
ODM national treasurer Timothy Bosire said the party has never been ambiguous on fielding a presidential candidate in 2022 and that remains their focus.
“We are the only party in this country that is well-designed, constituted, prepared and ready to have a candidate.”
“Other things will be additions to our solid programme,” Mr Bosire said.
ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula said: “We are ready to cooperate with Jubilee on matters of national interest, but we are keen on the presidency in 2022.”
The ODM party is said to be banking on the age factor and Mr Odinga’s popularity across the country to bag the presidential ticket.
Whereas President Kenyatta is said to have no problem with Mr Odinga vying for president and even promised his support, there are fears, according to sources, that the so called “deep state” could oppose the move “for fear that he may not play ball by handing over power to their preferred candidate at the end of his tenure”.
“But they are working on all possible ways to contain him to avoid having him strike a deal with DP Ruto.”
President Kenyatta is on record telling unnamed critics that his silence on his successor should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
“They think because Uhuru is going home in 2022, he will not have a word on what will happen. I am telling them when the right time comes, I will have something to say,” the President said during a rally in his Nyeri backyard in November 2018.
Insiders in the President’s administration told the Sunday Nation that several factors will be considered regarding whichever candidate the Head of State will endorse in 2022, including “political support since he does not want to gamble with his plans and leave his legacy in a shambles”.
ODM national chairman John Mbadi said President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have a lot in common owing to their March 9, 2018 handshake.
“Where Raila has reached, it is not just a question of being President but a question of what he is leaving behind. He has played a big role in the politics of this country, so his legacy will be his great concern,” Mr Mbadi said, adding that he does not foresee a scenario where Mr Odinga and the President will go separate ways in the 2022 polls.
“Uhuru has been President for 10 years and his concern is also about his legacy, and so that joins them together. It is what other people have underrated and it can make them do anything for the benefit of the future of this country, including even sacrificing their own ambitions,” added Mr Mbadi.
“I don’t think 2022 is already decided because it is a bit far. But what I foresee is that the two will be on the same page going to 2022 or in the same kind of alliance,” he added.
Given the way they (Uhuru and Raila) have built their trust, Mr Mbadi noted that the stakes were very high for the two and their main agenda is to leave a solid foundation premised on peace and stability.
Political analyst Javas Bigambo argues that “Uhuru is at the tail end of vanquishing Ruto from the succession game plan.”
“…and Ruto now degenerates from the golden boy of Jubilee succession to the black cat in the political class as we move towards 2022,” Mr Bigambo said.
“What remains, therefore, is for Uhuru to map out his succession matrix and guard against Ruto messing up that arithmetic by building possible coalitions outside the game plan of Uhuru,” he added.
He pointed out that in the new Jubilee coalition arrangement, it would be difficult for the President to gamble with his choice, bearing in mind Mr Odinga’s influence across the country.
For instance, he argues that in the Uhuru-Raila-Gideon axis, “Uhuru cannot make Gideon President… unless Raila and Mudavadi and Kalonzo altogether shelve their ambitions and back Gideon.”
That would be highly unlikely, because politically, Gideon will not command the respect of his political seniors in the persons of Raila, Mudavadi and Kalonzo,” Mr Bigambo said.
The bet, according to him, would be to have either Raila or Mudavadi and a kingpin from Central then add Gideon to the arithmetic.
This, he noted, is based on the fact that Gideon has no major support base and is yet to charm the entire Rift Valley region to create a solid ground.
He said that the other senior politicians have their support bases.
“Therefore, Uhuru’s plan must be narrowed down to Mudavadi, Raila and Kalonzo, at least for now, to have either of them as a mantle bearer, and flesh it up with a likeable political name from Central. Outrightly fronting Mr Moi would be a long shot, a risky gamble,” Mr Bigambo said.
Some of Deputy President William Ruto’s allies say they were aware of the plans, adding that the main aim was to block the DP from ascending to power.
“We don’t know their game plan, but certainly they are uniting against one person – DP Ruto and he is okay with their unity against him,” said Mr Caleb Kositany, the de-facto spokesperson of DP Ruto’s camp in Jubilee.
“We are also waiting to see the person they will be fronting against the DP. We have our candidate and they don’t have one yet and time is running out. Our advice to them is to leave the boardrooms and come out and produce their candidate,” added Mr Kositany.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa argues that with the current irreconcilable scenarios between the President and his deputy, “it will be easier for Ruto to work with Raila than Uhuru again.”
This he notes, could be based on how the crafters of the President’s succession plan draw their strategy and that if it excludes Mr Odinga, then they cannot rule out a possibility of him storming out of the deal as he did in 2002 to endorse retired President Mwai Kibaki.
Yesterday, as an indication that various political scenarios will require delicate negotiations, Mr Odinga’s brother, Dr Oburu Oginga, confirmed to Sunday Nation that ODM was still focused on the Presidency in 2022 but had opted to first deliver an amendment to the Constitution through BBI and uniting the country. He pointed out that at the moment, “We don’t see anybody who can pose a challenge to Raila.”
“Some people are saying he goes home, how can he go home before becoming President? He has been contesting but has not been President. So we are saying, let him be President for even one term. Age is just a number.”