Talk of one-man one-vote stirs up the hornets' nest in the Rift Valley

DP Rigathi Gachagua. Leaders say Gachagua’s support for equitable allocation of resources is insincere. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s support for equitable allocation of revenue and electoral seats to his Mt Kenya backyard has stirred up the hornets’ nest with some community leaders terming his declaration as “theatrics of a desperate political juggler.”

Pundits and grassroots community leaders say that the DP was walking a political tightrope in UDA where he was being fought by a team of party leaders from Mt Kenya and was now trying to appease the Kikuyu community to rally behind him.

The leaders said Gachagua was under siege from well-oiled political forces in the UDA party coalescing around the Kimani Ichung’wah and Ndindi Nyoro axis.

Former National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) boss turned politician Geoffrey Mwangi says the call by the Deputy President is good and timely.

But he quickly adds that Gachagua must incorporate other regions with the same challenges.

“We need to have a national dialogue on the same. The argument for “one-man-one-vote” is simply an application of the principle of political equality. All votes should carry the same weight, it is said, because no justification can be found for singling out certain citizens for preferred treatment,” he adds.

Mwangi, who harbours political ambitions, argues that if minorities are worried about the possibility of majority oppression, the remedy lies not in giving them added electoral weight but rather in settled constitutional procedures.

However, former Molo MP Njenga Mungai who was among the staunch supporters of the one-man-one-vote campaign under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) said Gachagua used unorthodox means to scatter the process and wondered what has changed for him to embrace the idea.

Another leader, Anthony Mwithaga cautions that Gachagua’s pronouncement would put him into a collision line with other communities who have been complaining that communities from Mt Kenya region occupied over 22 per cent of jobs in the civil service while they constitute 18 per cent of the national population.

Both Mungai and Mwithaga further state that Gachagua was diverting the attention of the residents from pressing issues such as low bursary allocation, punitive taxation measures, high levels of unemployment and collapsing businesses.

Mungai adds that Gachagua made the pronouncement in anticipation of the resolutions which would be made at the Limuru III conference which he had dismissed as a non-starter.

“There are two forces driving Gachagua, first he has fallen out of favour with the powers that be in UDA and secondly, he fears that a group of opposition leaders calling for unity of the Mt Kenya region and organised the Limuru III conference will eventually pull the rug out under his feet. These two factors spell doom for his political career,” Mungai explains.

"Gachagua now wants to re-invent himself as the crusader of the interests of Mt Kenya region and rally residents to his defence as he fights his political battles. He knows the issue of one man, one vote, one shilling which he vehemently opposed remains dear to the people of Mt Kenya especially at a time like this when their economic fortunes are dwindling.”

The member of the Jubilee Party’s National Executive Council adds that “Gachagua was not sincere in his declaration but was merely trying to salvage his political career after realizing that he was being isolated in UDA while at the same time the ground in Mt Kenya backyard was shifting.”

He notes the former Mathira MP could be preparing a soft landing as he is now feeling the political heat in his UDA battle. “The disillusionment of UDA supporters in Mt Kenya region with the government and the call for unity by the group led by Martha Karua and Jeremiah Kioni are putting Gachagua in a precarious position hence his attempts to fashion himself as the champion of the region’s interests," he states.

Mungai notes that Gachagua used unorthodoxly to undermine former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bid to market the one-man, one-shilling, one-vote initiative in the region.

“We told Gachagua that the chicken will come home to roost and is now at the centre of a thick political cloud that poses a threat to his political career,” Mungai said.

Mwithaga, who contested for the Nakuru Town East parliament seat and lost, states that Gachagua “has realised that he was losing the political clout in Mt Kenya region as the ground continues to shift due to failure by the Kenya Kwanza government to deliver on the campaign pledges.”

He adds that the intra-party conflicts within UDA have undermined his authority. “Gachagua initially went around Mt Kenya region telling residents that they were the principal shareholders in the KK government but this is not selling any more as the residents have been complaining that their businesses are collapsing due to the taxation regime imposed by the government.”

The leader notes that Gachagua was also facing a political dilemma in the region as some leaders and residents were now embracing and recognizing former President Uhuru as their political kingpin and talking kindly about him.

“You saw what happened the other day, in his attempts to appease the Kenyatta family, Gachagua publicly apologized for the abuses he hurled at former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta and sought forgiveness. He offered the apology after realizing that he could not wish away the influence of Uhuru on the people of Mt Kenya region now that they have realized that what he had warned them against about KK leadership had come to pass,” Mwithaga states.

He notes that Gachagua and his UDA brigade ascended to positions of leadership by peddling falsehood and a smear campaign against Uhuru but now the political reality was dawning upon him that he must deliver what he promised the people.

“Everybody knows that what Gachagua is saying about one man, one vote, one shilling is political hogwash as he has no political clout to push the agenda to facilitate legislative reforms. That is why I am of the view that he just wants to appear to be fighting for the interests of the Mt Kenya community to lure the people to his side as he fights his political battles,” he added.

Both Mungai and Mwithaga say that Gachagua needs to be cautious while championing the idea due to his position as the Deputy President and the negative sentiments he was likely to receive from different parts of the country.

“When Uhuru came up with the issue of the BBI, Gachagua and his team told us that this issue of one man, one vote, one shilling could be implemented through Cabinet resolution. Now that he is the Deputy President, why has he failed to lobby the Cabinet to adopt the idea instead of crying wolf in political rallies while addressing helpless citizens? he poses.

Mwithaga adds that whereas Gachagua had a legitimate right to champion the idea, he must have concrete data to support his claim as other Kenyan communities have also been complaining that residents of Mt Kenya region had a large share of civil service jobs compared to their population.

“The other Kenyan communities complain that residents of Mt Kenya occupy close to 22 per cent of civil service jobs while the communities constitute 18 per cent of the national population. That is why Uhuru came up with BBI to address other concerns of various communities to enable them to support the initiative,” Mwithaga says.

Another political analyst in Nakuru Jimmy Wagakabu says that Gachagua’s hope of emerging as the Mt Kenya kingpin was diminishing by the day due “to forces within UDA party which were threatening his political career.”

He adds that some community and business leaders in the region have been holding consultative meetings to chart its political future as the country heads towards the 2027 General Election.

“Gachagua is increasingly finding himself between a rock and a hard place, as he plots to fight back battles in the UDA party. After the political dust from the 2022 elections campaign has settled, he is realising that Uhuru is a key factor in the region’s political destiny,” he said.