With 180 days to the sunset of his 10-year tenure at State House, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s hands are full and time is fast running out.
The president is a man on a mission with specific duties he must fulfill before handing over power to his successor. The enormity of the task is compounded by migration of his Cabinet from government into the political arena.
Like a liver juggler, Uhuru is trying to manage succession, cement his legacy, run government with a reduced Cabinet and minus his principal assistant, Deputy President William Ruto.
And even as he keeps his hands on the steering wheel on day to day basis, his eyes must not waver from the road of securing a safe space for election campaigns. And the contest is getting heated. Uhuru’s legacy could be determined by what he does in the remaining six months, making it the hardest period of his presidency.
With each passing day President Kenyatta will seek to have his government expedite several projects before he leaves office. But the juggernaut for Uhuru is steering the country at a time succession politics has taken centre stage.
Uniting the country during the electioneering period, a peaceful General Election and a smooth handover will be a big litmus test for the president. Kenyan electioneering period can be divisive and the president as a symbol of unity will be duty bound to ensure the country navigates the succession peacefully.
Unlike his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki, who took a backstage and did not publicly show his hand in the 2013 elections, Kenyatta caused ripples this week when he declared that he intended to play an active political role even after retiring.
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On choice of his successor, the president indicated that although he may not wield a lot of influence, he will make known his choice, a move that may sway voters.
Already, there have been grumblings that the Government has a project in the race and that the president appears more inclined towards Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga. His declaration and subsequent endorsement by Jubilee Party as its leader who has a mandate to form alliances with like-minded partners thrusts the president at the centre of Mt Kenya politics where he had a near fanatical following in the last two elections.
It is this region that the president will be trying to wrest from his deputy who in the past four years has been wooing and has even managed to have Kiambaa MP John Wanjiku elected on UDA ticket.
“Now the time for politicking is here, you will hear from us. There is time to work and time to play politics; now everyone is free, those who started before and those of us who are joining the fray,” he told a gathering at Port Reiz Hospital, Mombasa during the launch of Universal Health Care coverage.
Uhuru said he was not rooting for anyone in the political scene but will vote and even convince people to support those who will pay attention to him. Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said it will be an interesting time for Uhuru and the country and particularly for the ruling party.
He said Uhuru had concentrated on development in the last nine and half years and him using the six months to shape the politics of the country was well in order. “Much of his legacy projects have been secured, what remains now is for him to reorganise politics of the country and ensure that whoever comes after him will continue with his economic, political and social philosophy. Otherwise with a few projects pending why would the president be comfortable with someone who will complete them,” said Wambugu.
But according to Garissa Town MP and Ruto ally Aden Duale it will not be smooth sailing for the president. According to Duale the biggest and hardest task will be the political marketing of his State project Raila to take over from him.
“Uhuru’s hardest task remaining is selling Raila Odinga to Kenyans who have never been politically polite to projects and the president has set himself up for failure,” said Duale
He noted that Uhuru’s priority should be to guard his rich legacy by ensuring a smooth hand over of power.
“He should not taint his legacy by trying to manipulate the campaigns. He should borrow a leaf from retired President Mwai Kibaki,” said Duale.
Uhuru’s plunge into succession politics, comes at a time a part of his Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries exited to seek elective seats.
Yesterday, Water and Sanitation CS Sicily Kariuki, joined Charles Keter (Devolution), Adan Mohamed (East African Community and Regional Development) and John Munyes (Mining and Petroleum) who quit to campaign. Principal Secretaries Hamadi Boga (Agriculture), Joseph Irungu (Water and Sanitation) and Fred Sigor (Irrigation) have also quit.
Ms Kariuki is seeking Nyandarua governorship while her colleagues are gunning for the same seat Adan, (Mandera), Keter (Kericho), Munyes (Turkana) while Boga, Irungu and Sigor are eyeing Kwale, Murang’a and Baringo counties respectively.
Several CASs including Chris Obure, Ken Obura, Stephen ole Ntutu, Hassan Noor, Smion Kachapin have also left office.