The least common denominator in the August presidential election is that the GEMA-nation had the onus of producing a running mate, courtesy of the two major warring factions whose antagonists are seeking to enter State House, once President Uhuru Kenyatta officially vacates office. Both Azimio-OKA alliance led by Raila Odinga and Kenya Kwanza steered by William Ruto assiduously wooed GEMA politicos by anointing them as their deputies.
As Raila created a “razzmarthazz” by appointing Martha Karua as his deputy, Ruto, after a night-long prevarication, in which he forced the media to keep vigil at his official residence, expecting a bombshell, finally opted for a sitting MP as his running mate. The rambunctious Geoffrey Rigathi Gachagua, MP Mathira constituency, Nyeri County, was the odd bet of the coalition’s favourites.
Gachagua’s name had been floated as a possible number two, but the coalition’s top echelons did not expect him to emerge tops
According to insider sources, Gachagua’s name had certainly been floated as a possible number two, but the coalition’s top echelons did not expect him to emerge tops. They all agreed that Ruto’s deputy must come from the GEMA region, what they hadn’t agreed upon was that the person would be the abrasive, boisterous and crass character with a dark past.
Unsurprisingly, Gachagua wasn’t even Ruto’s first pick; but after an intense and heated argument at Ruto’s inner sanctum, the Deputy President was prevailed upon to go with the MP. So, who had been the preferred candidate or candidates and why didn’t they make it. What was Ruto’s “secret” choice? Why did Gachagua trump his competitors?
Had it been left to Ruto’s devices, he would have opted for a person from the smaller GEMA communities; most probably a Mbeere or a Tharaka, Chuka or Amuthambi, the three sub-tribes that make Tharaka Nithi. Prof Kithure Kindiki, the Tharaka Nithi outgoing senator is a Chuka, the urban sophisticate with a smooth academic mien. The brash Justin Bedan Muturi, the outgoing Speaker of the National Assembly popularly known to his friends as JB, is a Mbeere, a people domiciled in the larger Embu County.
Had it been left to Ruto’s devices, he would have opted for a person from the smaller GEMA communities; most probably a Mbeere, Tharaka, Chuka or Amuthambi
“Ruto’s (original) game plan was to pick a GEMA politician, who didn’t command a critical mass of people and who would give him space to breathe in the full knowledge that he wouldn’t always have took over his shoulder, to find out whether he is scheming behind his back, as he goes about consolidating his presidential powers,” said a politician who was privy to the running mate politics.
“Had his game plan worked, he would have hit two birds with one stone: tell the GEMA people, ‘see I’ve kept my part of the bargain by choosing one of your own,’ two, which was to be his “secret card”, pick a malleable and vulnerable deputy, who would do his bidding unquestioningly.”
That person would have been either Kindiki, the academic-turned-politician, or JB, the House Speaker-turned-Ruto loyalist, who was personally handpicked in 2013, to ensure the House was always unequivocally pro Jubilee Party debates and motions. As a speaker, he didn’t disappoint his masters, up to the point he publicly announced on April 9, 2022, that he had joined Ruto’s camp.
“In the initial stages, once JB joined his Kenya Kwanza alliance, Ruto toyed with the thought of making him his running mate, but banished the thought afterwards. Yet, his plan was still to run with a politician from a smaller community. He then turned his focus on the Tharaka Nithi senator, one of his lawyers at the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
Kindiki was a good card, popular among his fellow August House colleagues, “but at the end of the day, his antagonists doubted whether the good prof had what it takes to revel in the murky politics, as the presidential campaigns entered the home stretch that would increasingly see the opposing camps going for their opponent’s jugular.”
But that was not the only reason that threw Kindiki under the bus: the senator was considered not to have the financial wherewithal to wage a war that calls for a real war chest. Apart, of course, from being financed by the party, because the deputy position is a collaborative ticket, it was still expected that a running mate, ought to also significantly contribute to the campaign chest.
Be that as it may, what seemed to have sealed Kindiki’s fate was the fact that he doesn’t command “tyranny of numbers”, among the GEMA nation; “he failed the test on ethnic mathematics,” said the insider.
Kenya’s presidential campaigns, just like presidential campaigns elsewhere, are pegged on the availability of limitless finances, whoever has the financial muscle power rules the day
It is that this point that Gachagua’s brigade comes in and virulently argues for his case: That he is well-armed financially; this was proved by the money he had already spent campaigning for Ruto and was ready and not afraid to spend even more. Whatever one might say of democracy and elections, Kenya’s presidential campaigns, just like presidential campaigns elsewhere, are pegged on the availability of limitless finances: Whoever has the financial muscle power rules the day.
Among the GEMA nation communities, Gachagua’s backers spoke of his “tyranny of numbers”. The fact that he is from Nyeri County gave him the extra edge to prosecute his case for a running mate. The Nyeri people who formed part of the clandestine core cells of the Mau Mau freedom fighters, have been in the forefront of rejecting President Uhuru in his lame duck last years of his presidency. “The Nyeri people aren’t afraid of Uhuru and they have indeed stood up against him,” said the insider.
Gachagua is reputed to be a good organiser and mobiliser
“Gachagua isn’t also afraid of doubling in bare knuckles fight either; which he already has engaged before and which in the two weeks he has been confirmed as a running mate, he has equally engaged in. As the official campaign period begins this week for the next 65 days or so, Gachagua, who is also reputed to be a good organiser and mobiliser will be expected to say crass things and throw jibes at his coalition’s opponents.”
By running away with Gachagua, it is evident Ruto’s heavily invested in the GEMA nation, his effort to please it, the fear of backlash, of losing the single largest voting block in the country, superseded his wish to have a controllable deputy and execute his game plan. Also, he had no qualms side-stepping his deputy’s charges of colossal corruption, theft and brutality in his earlier life a civil servant, if only to ostensibly to attract the numbers.
Gachagua’s selection has created animus and quiet murmurs among sober thinking GEMA fraternity: Is that the best GEMA could offer?
Suffice it to say, Gachagua’s selection has created animus and quiet murmurs among sober thinking GEMA fraternity: Is that the best GEMA could offer? Forget about his ill-fitting wardrobe, is he fit to be president? Does the man look presidential? Wouldn’t Kindiki have been a better sell? These are the question that seemingly and spontaneously sprang to their minds.
Additionally, one of the biggest gripes of the smaller communities that form part of the GEMA brotherhood, has been that they always feel they are treated as secondary partners and not until the election cycle, when they are reminded they part of a union. The selection of a running mate from among their ranks would have at least, assuaged their feeling of marginalisation and show them that they indeed belong.
Amid these unsettling questions, is also the perpetually lurking Murang’a question: When will Murang’a ever be considered? To the Kikuyu purists, Murang’a is the cradle of Kikuyu epistemology: It is considered to be the custodian and home of the community’s knowledge, culture, norms and traditions. A cradle in name only, because it has yet to produce a king.
The two major coalitions – Azimio-OKA and Kenya Kwanza – having finished wooing the vote-rich GEMA nation to their respective corners, it’s now up to the running mates to show what metal they are made of, as they unleash their charm offensives in securing votes for their presidential candidates.