Analysts now say the Constitution is breeding rebellious DPs

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua addresses supporters at Kagumo town, Kirinyaga County on Saturday. [DPCS]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has come out as an aggressive and extremely daring leader as he weathers the storm in the face of adversity amid criticism from leaders in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

From his forays into the Mt Kenya region, it appears he is not going to let the guard down anytime soon despite repeated calls from fellow leaders in government, parliament and the Kenya Kwanza front that he should shun what is being described as divisive tribal politics.

Political pundits say Gachagua is emboldened by the 2010 Constitution because he was elected on a twin ticket, unlike vice presidents who served at the discretion of presidents, like those under presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.

Such vice presidents include, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Moi, Joseph Murumbi, Mwai Kibaki, Njuguna Karanja, George Saitoti,  Musalia Mudavadi, Kijana Wamalwa, Moody Awori and Kalonzo Musyoka. All, apart from Jaramogi, served with little controversy.

Gitile Naituli, a leadership and management lecturer at Multi-Media University, says vice presidents were very cautious and careful because they could be fired on radio anytime. In today's era deputy presidents owe their allegiance directly to the voters.

“They now have their own following and, the way the Constitution is drafted, they are almost co-presidents, only that they do not have the powers of a commander in chief,” says Prof Naituli.

The current Constitution says the term of office of a deputy president shall run from the date of swearing in and shall end when the next elected president is sworn in or if the deputy assumes office of president or upon resignation, death or removal from office.

The office holder may also be removed from office on grounds of physical or mental incapacity or through impeachment on grounds of gross violation of the Constitution or any other law including gross misconduct.

They can also be impeached where there are serious reasons to believe that they have committed serious crimes under national or international law.

Despite pressure mounting against him, Gachagua is growing bolder and more bullish as he continues galvanizing support in his Mt Kenya backyard to the chagrin of visibly very agitated leaders like Leader of majority Kimani Ichung’wah.

He appears to have borrowed a leaf from President Ruto, who, while deputy president rebelled from his boss Uhuru Kenyatta and started campaigning against him. That was three years before the last presidential poll.

Ruto intensified his campaign for presidency in 2020, visiting the Mt Kenya region very frequently, saying nothing will stop him from being the president come 2022.

During his tours of both Mt Kenya East and West, the then deputy president was always accompanied by more than 15 MPs from a group that was at the time called Tangatanga in Ruto’s Hustlers team.

They created a narrative that painted ODM leader Raila Odinga as a selfish and greedy leader who together with Uhuru were hiding behind the Handshake to create confusion in the Jubilee administration.

Ruto also repeatedly accused Raila of using the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) reform agenda that was being driven by the late Senator Mohammed Yusuf Haji to gain power through the backdoor.

Gachagua is today harping on the same string, telling his people that the problem in the Kenya Kwanza government is the President allowing Raila to join government yet he lost the last elections.

He is not happy with Ruto accommodating Raila arguing that the move undermines the will of people who delivered their verdict in the last election. He maintains that election losers should wait for the next round to try their luck again.

Gachagua has also without mincing words made it clear that taxation measures being proposed by the government are targeting his people in the Mt Kenya region and other parts of the country.

He is also drumming up support for the one man, one vote, one-shilling revenue sharing formula which he believes will economically empower his people in the mountain region.

Prof Naituli argues that although Gachagua may appear tribal, his message is resonating very well with the people and he in the process, creating a serious mass following.

 “There is no leadership without followership (the practice of doing what other people suggest rather than taking the lead) and so he wants it to appear as if he is listening to what the people of the Mt Kenya region want and in the process becoming their kingpin,” adds Naituli.

He argues that although currently Uhuru is the undisputed leader in the region, the former president will have no option but to support Gachagua because locally, people understand that he cannot hold any other top political office again after retiring in 2022.

It is also argued that followers admire aggressive leaders who don’t shy away from confrontation and those who speak their minds, especially when articulating issues affecting their people in the manner Gachagua has been doing lately.

The deputy president appears to have got a rude awakening when president Ruto’s allies like Ichung'wah, Ndindi Nyoro and Oscar Sudi began attacking him while his boss remained suspiciously quiet about it.

In Cabinet Secretary Aden Dualle's book On the Record,  Ruto wrote the forward message, saying: “I was alarmed when the President's friends began taking me head-on, including through insults.”

And that is exactly what could be going on in the mind of his deputy, who apart from the repeated attacks from the president’s troops in parliament, is also getting isolated and  denied the use of state resources such as military aircrafts that he has been using for his transport.

The President also raised the issue of tribal politics in the same book, writing: “Moreover, it stung me when the President claimed that the presidency was not a relay between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. All along, I had hoped we had turned a corner, that we were going to change the conversation to real issues affecting Kenyans, not the usual tribal tropes.”

Veteran journalist and DAP-K spokesperson Tony Gachoka says Ruto heavily benefited from the tribal card using MPs from the Mt Kenya region to campaign for many months in the area before making a quick final dash to Rift Valley where he knew the tribal vote was guaranteed.

During the jubilee administration, Ruto negotiated for half of the cabinet positions to be given to his people although that is not the case currently, many slots and other powerful positions still went to people from Gachagua’s region.

The area reaped big after Ruto appointed seven Cabinet Secretaries out of 22 for overwhelmingly voting for him in the August 9, 2022 presidential poll.

Among those who were nominated Kithure Kindiki, Mithika Linturi, Prof Njuguna Ndungu, Attorney General Justin Muturi, Moses Kuria, Alice Wahome and Zachariah Mwangi Njeru.

Leaders from the region were also given the powerful positions of Leader of Majority in parliament, Controller of Budget and chairman of the Finance Committee as other senior positions like the Inspector General of Police also went to Mt Kenya.

In Duale’s book, Ruto said he endured the humiliation of watching his allies getting axed from government by Uhuru as  the grand political idea that was Jubilee Party collapsed, it therefore remains to be seen if he will also use the same card against any person nominated by Gachagua.

"I never thought that President Kenyatta, the man I had campaigned wholeheartedly for in 2013 and 2017, could turn around and stick a sharp knife in my back," the President states of the spectacle of having his predecessor support their 2013 competitor, Raila Odinga.

Gachagua could also find Ruto’s assertion in the same write-up that he was serving at the mercy of the President interesting, when he says: “There was only one centre of power. It disturbed me, but that was the job-serving at the pleasure of the President. I took it like a man.”

But as for now, Naituli says Gachagua loses nothing by sticking out his neck out apart from complicating Ruto re-election mathematics, because he knows the numbers in the Mt Kenya region are crucial.

The political analyst further notes that the President is fully aware that without the support of the Mt Kenya region, the opposition can easily win the 2027 presidential polls.

“They can cripple him financially, something that is already happening. He is not getting what he thinks he should get and so he has nothing to lose. You can’t stop having what you don’t have,” added Naituli.

He adds that the difference between Gachagua and Ruto is that they are both highly transactional leaders and to them, every policy and decision must create personal benefit.