President Uhuru Kenyatta has hardly spoken since Kenyans went to the polls on August 9, 2022. He must be still reeling from bewilderment and shock, two weeks after Kenyans gave their verdict. All his futile efforts of wooing the GEMA nation to rally behind Raila Odinga went unheeded.
In his post-campaign airwaves show on August 7, with eight Kikuyu radio stations, President Uhuru in his 12th hour plea to the mountain, exhorted it for three hours, to “vote wisely”, a euphemism to mean vote Raila. That they didn’t, is a really harsh indictment of an outgoing president derided by his very own people. President Uhuru delivered nothing – not even his own polling station in Gatundu South constituency. It was that bad.
In 2017, when the presidential results were announced by the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IBEC) didn’t go his way, he stomped out of State House, soaking drunk, straight to his political bedroom, the famous meat Burma Market on the ever busy Jogoo Road.
President Uhuru delivered nothing – not even his own polling station in Gatundu South constituency. It was that bad
There, he harangued and swore at the Supreme Court of Kenya (SCOK) judges, for overruling his August 8, victory, by swearing his angry infamous statement; “we shall revisit.” He was so hurt by the apex court’s reversal of his victory, that he threatened it with dire consequences, once he was restored as the legitimate president.
As the Azimio coalition brigade assembles its firepower of senior counsels for battle to contest President-elect William Ruto’s win, President Uhuru must surely be agonising over the fate of his pet presidential project and similar mini-projects. How could the electorate (especially the mountain), deal him such a debilitating blow by rejecting his presidential (wise) counsel?
His big project, Raila Odinga and Martha Karua, a package, ran for presidency under the aegis of Azimio coalition, of which, Uhuru is the chairman. His mini-projects included mainly, the Nairobi Jubilee Party governor seat candidate Polycarp Igathe and the Baringo Jubilee Party senator seat candidate Gideon Moi.
We shall restrict ourselves to the mini-projects, since the major project is now a subject of a court determination.
President Uhuru made himself the chairman of Azimio coalition, a strange arrangement, since he is an outgoing president, and plotted for the opposition to capture power from his Jubilee Party government. Evidently, President Uhuru did not have immediate plans of quitting politics, much less, cease control of state power.
To that extent, Uhuru was inordinately invested in the Nairobi governor seat. So much so that he overruled Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) choice of Tim Wanyonyi, who replaced him with Uhuru’s non-negotiable choice, the corporate buff, Igathe. Wanyonyi, who has been re-elected as the Nairobi’s Westlands MP looked like a candidate who could have attracted better traction for the Azimio coalition than the reluctant and greenhorn protégé Igathe.
What shocked many Azimio coalition adherents, was not that Igathe was the favoured candidate of their chairman, but, rather, the manner in which he was forced down their throats and they damn could do nothing about it.
That Raila who was the presidential candidate could acquiesce to Uhuru’s demands unquestioningly, was a telling sign of a future President Raila: Uhuru’s lackey who would always be at his beck and call.
Just after he had thrown himself into the governor seat contest, Tim called a meeting of all prominent Luhya opinion shapers living in Nairobi at the Quakers Church on Ngong Road. “Good people, I’ve some good news for you,” ventured the candidate to the crowd waiting to hear why they had been summoned. “As you maybe aware, I’ll be contesting the Nairobi governor position and Raila has my back. I want you to go out there and spread the word among our people.”
No sooner had he finished explaining himself than a barrage of hands went up. “We hear you mheshimiwa (honourable), but Raila is not a man to rely on, he will disappoint you, be knowing that,” said a chorus of people. “And you know it. We shall support your endeavour, anyway.” When Raila ordered Tim to back off from contesting the governor seat, Tim had no choice but to recoil and when he met the same group again, to appraise them of his political recalculations, they reminded him; “we told you so.”
“The Nairobi Luhya community was so angry with Raila, for playing their son, that they also vowed to teach him a lesson,” said one the people who attended the meeting to me. “The Luhya vote went to Sakaja and you can imagine how many of the presidential votes Raila lost in Nairobi just because of his miscalculations.”
Suffice it to say, Uhuru’s ill-informed Nairobi governor seat mini-project cost the Azimio coalition not only the coveted seat, but the much-needed presidential votes that could have come in handy with Tim’s possible win and that could have richly added into Raila’s basket of votes.
In a bid to ensure that project Igathe was protected from electoral competition, possible and eminent defeat, President Uhuru through his proxies, tactlessly fought Igathe’s nemesis, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate, the equally youthful, but better experienced and skilful politician, Johnson Sakaja. The bid to stop Sakaja from running, apparently because of lack of a college degree, came to naught.
Since the advent of county politics in 2013, Nairobi had not had a Kikuyu governor. Yet, Kikuyus, would like to think, in a manner of speaking, that the county belongs to them
Sakaja triumphed over the project, leaving President Uhuru with egg on the face. Egg on the face, because after the presidency, the other critical political seat that Uhuru desperately wanted to have a control over was the Nairobi governorship.
Why President Uhuru wanted a stranglehold on the politics of Nairobi city, post his presidency, we have said before, is not known to us and we can only conjecture. But one of the (unfortunate) quiet campaigns by Igathe’s minders conducted in Kikuyu language was that, since the advent of county politics in 2013, Nairobi had not had a Kikuyu governor. Yet, Kikuyus, would like to think, in a manner of speaking, that the county belongs to them.
The first governor was Evans Kidero, who hails from Homa Bay county. Unable to defend his governorship in 2017, he retreated to Homa Bay, where he was trounced by ODM’s Glady Wanga in the August 9 governor seat contest. In 2017, the flamboyant Mike Mbuvi Sonko, who hails from Machakos county, but largely grew up at the coast, dislodged Kidero, to the chagrin of the Murang’a moguls who control the city’s biggest businesses.
Hoping to rally the populous Nairobi Kikuyu electorate, by invoking their ethno-nationalism sensibilities, Igathe’s campaign strategists believed their man would scoop the entire Kikuyu vote (1.2m out of a possible 2.45m voters) to vote for their son and reclaim Nairobi from the “aliens.”
That of course was a big pipe-dream: what the Igathe team had not factored in was that Nairobi politics had since metamorphosised with Sonko’s entry. Despite being a non-Kikuyu, Sonko had vociferously fought off the city’s Murang’a tycoons’ candidate Peter Kenneth at the Jubilee Party nominations in 2017, to claim the (winning) ticket. He won the governor seat with the largest vote count that included the Kikuyu vote and the rest of the city’s ethnic votes.
By this feat, Sonko had unwittingly ushered in the Sonkonisation of city politics, whereby he proved one could be elected to the governor position, not by relying on one major cache of vote, but with a multiplicity of the city’s diverse votes which, were multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual.
The other mini-project that went awry was the Gideon Moi’s senatorial contest. A scion of the Daniel arap Moi dynasty, the fabulously rich Gideon has always been the over-indulged last-born child of the late President Moi. Like President Uhuru, he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His political contests have been won over for him by other people deployed, either by his father when he was alive, or President Uhuru.
Word in Baringo county has always been that Gideon first won the Baringo county senate seat in 2013 courtesy of Daniel Moi. Moi’s grip on Kalenjin politics, especially in his home county of Baringo, ensured that Gideon got the seat as a free pass. In 2017, he won the seat through President Uhuru’s patronage, his former schoolmate at the posh Catholic Church sponsored St Mary’s School in Nairobi and a fellow heir of a political dynasty.
Gideon speaks an accented smattering of his Tugen tongue, one of the nine Kalenjin dialects. For a rural county, this is a cardinal and unforgivable sin. Too posh for the rough and tumble of the Kenyan politics, he never mixes with the electorate, when he does, it is to amuse them with his acquired British lisping.
So, this time when President Uhuru was too busy with other projects, he didn’t have the time to solely hold Gideon’s hand and ensure his victory. He was easily trounced by an UDA candidate.
President Uhuru’s grand plan for Gideon was in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) had it taken off. It was ostensibly a scheme for the preservation of the dynastic politics: the Kenyattas, the Mois and the Odingas. But the plot floundered and the dynasties had to face the hustler nation man, William Ruto.
As President Uhuru leaves office, he will surely go down as one of the most popular presidents, rejected even by his own tribe.