2022: Everyone for himself as top leaders push their agenda

President Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga and DP William Ruto.

Kenya’s top three politicians are shifting gears as they chart their course towards the 2022 General Election.

Recent weeks have seen President Uhuru Kenyatta significantly reduce political engagements to focus on development projects. The President has been on an overdrive in the race to secure his legacy.

His Deputy William Ruto now prefers meetings with the common mwananchi to huge political delegations in a bid to build formidable alliances from the grassroots to beat the bureaucracy he claims is working against him. The DP is increasingly using the class narrative to sell his candidature.

On the other hand, ODM leader Raila Odinga now gives attention to rebuilding his party in preparation for the 2022 contest. Raila is also relentlessly rooting for a referendum, which his allies believe will be a springboard for his bid.

On Wednesday, the President said his priority was to deliver on the pledges he made to Kenyans during the 2017 campaigns. “I will deliver on my pledges. I will deliver on my promise,” the President said in reference to service delivery in Nairobi County.

Kenyatta has less than two years to implement his Big Four agenda as well as other pre-election pledges critical for his legacy. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted various projects, leaving him with little time to implement them.

He has been focused on inspecting various projects. Since last Sunday, he has visited various project sites, including a police station.

Three hospitals

He went to Kirinyaga Road, Ngara, Thika Road, Kangundo Road, the CBD, Kilimani police station, Dagoretti, Mukuru and Kibra, where he commissioned construction of three hospitals.

On Wednesday, the President issued title deeds to city residents at KICC, where he assured the country that he would not be derailed by politics in delivering his campaign pledges to Kenyans.

He is set to issue a further 28,000 title deeds in the next two weeks to members of Embakasi Ranching in the ongoing national titling exercise that has seen the government issue more than 5 million title deeds since 2013.

Last evening, Kenyatta was at the commissioning of the reclaimed Michuki Park in Nairobi, where he launched a campaign to mobilise the public to clean the country, starting with Nairobi. This happened as Ruto and Raila continued with various programmes meant to increase their support base.

Dr Ruto has lately been hosting various groups at his Karen home, where he has been dishing out goodies and funding Jua Kali initiatives.

He is keen on inheriting Uhuru’s support base of Mt Kenya that largely secured Jubilee’s win in 2013 and 2017.

Ruto now prefers reaching out to the voter directly. This strategy, some say, has been informed by his apparent fallout with the President and the belief that powerful people in government are opposed to his bid. On Thursday, the DP hosted two children whose argument on how to spend Sh10 at a shop in Nyandarua went viral. His meeting with Teresiah Nyakinyua, aged seven, and nine-year-old James Mwangi was documented on his social media pages, with a video of him freely interacting with the two alongside their parents widely circulated.

The self-styled hustler seeks to endear himself to the voters as just one of them who came from a humble background. He sometimes refers to himself as the son of a peasant.

“Teresiah Nyakinyua and James Mwangi from Kwa Ng'ang'a village in Nyandarua County remind us of our childhood in rural homes; the daily challenge of budgeting for so little in the face of many needs,” he said. “To ensure they have a stable foundation to make their dreams come true, I have assigned my farm manager to personally ensure their parents establish a fully-funded 500-chicken farm,” the DP added.

That same day Ruto hosted another girl from Bomet County, who recited a poem at his Karen residence. Just like he did for the Nyandaru families, Ruto pledged to support the girl, Vasity Chebet Mutai, by establishing a chicken farm to help finance her education.

He has also trained his eyes on winning the backing of the church by meeting religious leaders and raising funds for church projects.

Church backing

“We appreciate the church for its spiritual and socioeconomic guidance and contribution to our efforts to transform our country. We will continue supporting the church to establish a more united country,” he said when he hosted bishops from Kitui, Makueni and Machakos counties.

On Tuesday, he hosted leaders from Maasai led by MP Katoo ole Metito and Senator Mary Seneta at his home.

Raila has, on the other hand, invested his energies in revamping ODM. This week he disbanded the National Elections Board and Party National Disciplinary Committee, and reconstituted them.

In the last poll, ODM lost crucial seats following bungled nominations that saw members quit to run as independents or decamp to other parties. Some of them proceeded to floor the party’s candidates. Already Raila has received back former MPs who ditched the party in the run-up to 2017 General Election over bungled primaries, with an assurance of a fair process in 2022.

Former lawmakers Jakoyo Midiwo, Reuben Ndolo, Elizabeth Ongoro, Oyugi Magwanga, George Omondi Muluan and Omondi Anyanga were received by Raila at Chungwa House and handed caps branded with the party colours.

Interviews with top party officials revealed Raila’s grand scheme in consolidating the party by reaching out to former members as well as attracting new allies. Speaking in Kisumu yesterday, Raila warned non-party members against interfering with the forthcoming party primaries. He said only genuine members would be given opportunity to lead the party.

According to the Opposition leader, some non-party members had been sponsoring chaos in the party to taint its image. “We have begun to strengthen the party and we will be holding national elections as soon as the conditions allow,” said Raila.

“As a democratic party, we want to be a lesson to others by having peaceful elections. We want to prioritise internal party democracy and discipline so that when we criticise the government, we do it because of what we stand for,” he added.

The ODM chief reiterated his stand on constitutional reforms through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which, he said, was good for the country.

Raila has since renewed his push for the country to have a referendum this year. On Thursday, he said the country needed Sh2 billion to conduct a plebiscite.

He said there was no cause for alarm in implementing the BBI report since not every proposal will end up in the referendum.

Raila added that a referendum should not be held alongside the 2022 elections, as the elections already had too many ballot papers for a single poll, and that there was no harm in conducting a referendum early.

“Britain conducted a referendum and an election within a span of one year, so it is possible in Kenya,” he said.

Raila said he was strong to resume active political activities after a recent surgery in Dubai, but steered clear of 2022 elections, saying his focus for now was to works with the President.