By James Mbaka
Reports that President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are grooming Interior CS Fred Matiang’i for the top job will shake up key presidential candidates’ 2022 game plans.
Matiang’i’s entry into the big boys’ club has already triggered jitters within the camps of top politicians who have declared they want to succeed Uhuru.
Deputy President William Ruto’s troops have warned that such an Uhuru-Raila political card smacks of a scheme to destroy the former Eldoret North MP’s grand march to State House.
The DP’s allies have come out guns blazing to claim the President and his new soulmate, Raila, have hatched a plot to obliterate the DP’s ambitions.
They believe Matiang’i’s elevation as chair of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee was a plan to diminish the DP who had been launching development projects countrywide.
The influential committee of the Cabinet is charged with the implementing and monitoring all development projects, a responsibility that has dramatically raised Matiang’i profile in the Jubilee government.
A nasty exchange between the DP and Matiang’i last weekend revealed the growing bad blood between them, clearly tied to succession politics.
In what has rattled Ruto’s men, Matiang’i is seen as the government’s face of the Building Bridges Initiative report, a document that both Uhuru and Raila are supporting to address the country’s ills.
Matiang’i last week held a mega rally in Kirinyaga where he was accompanied by a couple of his colleagues and politicians backing the BBI report.
More public meetings are planned across the country to popularise the document as Matiang’i is said to be positioning himself in the succession matrix.
Analysts say a political dynamo backed by Uhuru and Raila could annihilate opposition figures Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Musalia Mudavadi (ANC).
On Friday, University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora told the Star that Matiang’i would be an unbeatable presidential if backed by Uhuru and Raila.
“That would be a sure bet,” Manyora declared. He added, however, that “it would all depend on how Uhuru and Raila manage to convince their strongholds.”
“Matiang’i is increasingly on the radar of many Kenyans. He is not a man that you can easily ignore in Kenya’s politics in 2022 and beyond,” Manyora said.
Kalonzo and Musalia, both of whom have previously served as vice presidents, have separately declared they would be on the ballot but a pro-Uhuru and Raila force, like Matiang’i, threatens to their ambitions.
Political analyst and university don Macharia Munene admitted that Kalonzo and Musalia are locked in a delicate balancing act in the shifting political landscape.
‘The options are becoming thinner by the day. However, we have two-and-half years to the next general election and a lot is bound to happen,’ the USIU don told the Star.
Munene said, however, that both Musalia and Kalonzo could have some ammunition left, though it neutralised by a dynamo backed by Uhuru and Raila.
“Musalia will have to deal with the challenges of consolidating his Western backyard that is under the grip of Raila,” he said. Kalonzo’s former stranglehold on Ukambani his turf is under threat.
The crumbling of Nasa — the Opposition’s 2017 political vehicle — and the rapidly shifting political sands have pushed Musalia and Kalonzo into a very difficult position with few options of attaining power.
There are claims that Kalonzo is in talks with DP Ruto to seal a 2022 pact, however, Wiper has denied such an arrangement.
Musalia has a less than firm grip on his Western Kenya home turf while Raila enjoys massive support across the Luyha nation. Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula’s popularity is waning.
On Friday, Kimilili MP Didmas Barasa, a key Ruto lieutenant, told the Star Ruto’s brigade is not worried by any schemes by the state functionaries to propel Matiang’i forward.
He did call on the powerful CS, however, to quit the Cabinet and plunge into politics instead of using his position to harass and intimidate perceived opponents.
“We are ready for 2022. We ask those seeking to run for president to publicly declare their ambitions instead of hiding behind others’ coattails,” Barasa said.
The MP also said the DP has made significant inroads in Western Kenya that would thwart Musalia’s presidential bid — “if any”.
“The Jubilee Party has locked out Musalia from Western,” Barasa stated.
In the 2013 presidential polls, Raila crushed Musalia after ODM won the majority of parliamentary seats across Western Kenya, a sweep that gave the outfit firm control of Parliament.
While Raila came second after Uhuru in the presidential contest, whose results were unsuccessfully challenged at the Supreme Court, Musalia settled for a distant third.
During the 2017 presidential polls, Raila, Musalia, Kalonzo, and Wetang’ula cobbled together the now-moribund Nasa, which unsuccessfully took on Jubilee.
With the Matiang’i factor seen as central in the 2022 presidential contest, politicians and analysts say a compromise candidate backed by Uhuru and Raila would be a sure bet for State House.
While Uhuru would bring on board the majority of Mt Kenya votes, Raila would be rally Western, Nyanza and the Coast behind Matiang’i.
Raila has also penetrated Kalonzo’s Ukambani backyard after he successfully managed to bring into his fold the region’s three governors: Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni).
Such an arrangement would be a juggernaut, rolling over not just Ruto but also Musalia and Kalonzo.
“Even if Uhuru rallies just half of Mt Kenya votes behind Matiang’i and Raila brings on board Westen and Nyanza, Matiang’i will win,” Manyora predicted.
Political analyst Alex Odhiambo said Raila’s influence in 2022 would be enormous, shaking the country’s political terrain. His following is fanatic and if Raila told them to vote for Matiang’i, his will would likely prevail.
“Raila’s options remain as either running himself or supporting a compromise candidate. If he decides to converge politically with Uhuru and support a joint candidate, that would be a game shot,” he told the Star.
Odhiambo said it might not matter much who the candidate would be — anyone backed by Riala and Uhuru would be virtually assured of victory.
“Uhuru and Raila’s political profiles would easily propel such a candidate to power,” he said.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei has accused Matiang’i of being too excited about his roles in government to imagine that he could successfully challenge Ruto.
Cherargei, a close ally of Ruto, said the Interior CS is planning to use the BBI campaigns to popularise himself, “though he can’t even win a village elder’s post”.
“Public servants were appointed because of the votes Jubilee garnered across the country. They must not lecture us about this or that. Let them stick to their mandate of serving Kenyans,” he said.
“Matiang’i is undermining his seniors. Insubordination is grounds for impeachment,” he said, calling on the National Assembly to introduce a motion to kick the Super CS out of the Cabinet.
Former Nyamira Senator Mong’are Okong’o said Matiang’i was indispensable presidential material.
“If Matiang’i is on the presidential ballot supported by the President and the Opposition leader, be sure the minister will hand Ruto a humiliating defeat,” he said.
“A compromise candidate would be the best way to go for 2022 if we are serious about redeeming this country and salvaging it from sinking further,” he said.
The county chiefs have turned Kalonzo’s fiercest critics; they previously accused him of pursuing a selfish agenda at the expense of the Akamba community.
During the November 7 Kibra by-election, Raila gave a snippet of his 2022 machinery after he showcased the three governors and a host of key politicians from Uhuru’s Mt Kenya backyard.
The politicians promised that the next president would be a supporter of the Building Bridges Initiative.