Businessman Jimi Wanjigi has joined the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2022 General Election.
Mr Wanjigi is a shrewd political strategist credited with successfully pairing President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto and their accession to power in 2013.
The billionaire was also behind ODM leader Raila Odinga’s 2017 campaign strategy under the National Super Alliance (NASA).
Wanjigi joins a crowded presidential race including Ruto, Raila, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi and other aspirants.
“This time I shall not be king making. I shall address the rest of your questions at the appropriate juncture,” Wanjigi said in response to a question on his 2022 presidential game plan in an interview with The Standard today.
The businessman, who ails from Murang'a County, will further complicate the supremacy battle to take up the mantle from President Kenyatta and control the Mount Kenya voting bloc.
Others who have shown interest to succeed Kenyatta include National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria.
The tycoon reportedly coined the campaign strategy around UhuRuto that saw them win the 2013 presidential election while facing cases before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The strategy united formerly competing Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities under the TNA-URP merger. The campaign narrative was anchored on the international pressure to block the duo from the race to State House on account of the ICC cases.
"The political union between Uhuru and Ruto was formed in this house," Wanjigi said at some point.
He, however, ideologically fell out with the duo shortly after the 2013 election, and shifted his campaign and financial support to the Raila-led Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).
He is credited with among other backroom strategies, the Cord-led Okoa Kenya push to amend the Constitution by popular amendment. The initiative flopped after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared that only 891,000 signatures collected in support of the referendum push were legitimate of the 1.6 million submitted.
Rejection of the Okoa Kenya referendum push sparked the opposition campaign to eject IEBC Chairman Isaac Hassan-led team of commissioners – which was within political circles credited to Wanjigi's political crystal ball.
“The much I can say now is that there is a time to be kingmaker. However, there comes a time when the kingmaker can no longer operate from the shadows. That time is here,” Wanjigi said yesterday.
The businessman is the son to former Kamukunji MP and long-serving Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi. Prior to 2012, Jimi also worked closely with former Vice President and powerful Internal Security minister, the late George Saitoti.
His entry into the presidential race is expected to upset succession politics in Mt Kenya, where Ruto is already staking a claim through several youthful legislators allied to Tangatanga and UDA.
Despite being a critic of the Kenyatta-Ruto regime that he crafted, Wanjigi has retained a backroom role within the political scene, only returning to the public limelight after the disputed 2017 presidential election.
He was behind the NASA campaign that culminated in Raila’s mock swearing-in on January 30, 2018 – before the state clampdown on opposition sympathisers that eventually got to him.
Insiders within the Wanjigi camp claim he is behind recent town hall meetings across the seven Murang’a constituencies, which analysts argue could be designed to rally the Mt Kenya political base behind his candidature.
“What we know is that he has been supporting Raila. And although Raila never won in 2017, politically he performed very well. The challenge now is how he can turn around that strategy acumen into votes,” says political analyst Prof Macharia Munene.
Sources say although Wanjigi was a Raila lieutenant in 2017, he is among political figures who opposed the March 2018 handshake between the ODM leader and the president.
Early in the year, Wanjigi was among a group of Kikuyu elders who visited Kang'o ka Jaramogi and attended a church service with Raila in Bondo.