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How Kioni is taking advantage of DP Rigathi Gachagua's political blunders

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [File, Standard]

There is growing power rivalry in the Mount Kenya region mainly between Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni.

They assume a power vacuum exists because Mountain voters rejected Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership in the August 2022 General Election.

While Mr Gachagua is definite that Uhuru is 'past tense' and he would like to be the 'present tense', Kioni is not vocal and is defensive of the declining Jubilee that he leads. Mr Gachagua sets pace with eyebrow-raising utterances that divert attention from Kenya Kwanza's governing inadequacies.

Mr Kioni seizes the opportunity that Gachagua provides to sound comparatively measured and sober. The Kioni reaction offers alternatives to Mr Gachagua’s claim and has the effect of deflating the DP's political ego.

To Mr Kioni, Mr Gachagua's blunders are an opportunity for political rebooting. Having abandoned his denial attitude and initial tendency to find excuses for his and the Azimio/Jubilee losses in August 2022, Mr Kioni increasingly seems to focus on tearing the DP’s political garment.

From UDF's inception as ‘movement’, Kioni was key to its transformation into a political party, UDFP. Several politicians had joined the ‘movement’ in the belief that it was Uhuru’s vehicle but when Uhuru disowned it, they quickly quit.

Mr Kioni remained put and ran in 2013 as Musalia Mudavadi’s potential deputy. He bounced back to Parliament under the Jubilee umbrella and ended up snatching the Jubilee Secretary General’s post from Raphael Tuju.

He became such a ‘true believer’ that he failed to notice Jubilee’s declining political fortunes, but Mr Gachagua and Mr Mudavadi did and joined the winning Ruto side. With the 2022 UDA tide in the Mountain sweeping Mr Kioni out of Parliament, one of his options is to help Mr Gachagua continue political blundering.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua speaks during a meeting at the Kenya School of Government on January 20, 2023. [DPCS]

The DP, however, does not need Mr Kioni to blunder. His obsession with reducing Uhuru’s - the man he used to work for - public stature blinds him to the inflict damage on his leadership ambitions on two counts within the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

First, he struggles to impose himself as the leader of the Mountain and makes the same mistake that Uhuru made of assuming his official position allowed him to order people around. There is, therefore, silent leadership friction as evidenced in the Kandara by-election. Water Cabinet Secretary (CS) Alice Wahome was at loggerheads with other Murang’a leaders who appeared to look up to Gachagua and supported a different candidate.

Second, at the national level, he appears to be in competition with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and with any other ‘leader’ who might outshine him.

Eager to portray himself as defender and promoter of Mountain interests, he repeatedly offends public sensibilities by asserting that appointments will go to the Mountain people and quips, "kwani iko nini?" This contradicts Dr Ruto’s claim that his bottom-up everything had rested the tribal ghost.

His plan to ‘coronate’ Dr Ruto is similar to Mount Kenya honchos dressing Raila and Ida Odinga as King and Queen. In an effort to endear himself to the Mountain, Gachagua ends up muting the Mountain. His attempt to fight Nairobi Governor Johnston Sakaja over the management of the matatu industry has backfired.

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

His claim that he told the Agikuyu to vote for Sakaja implied that he owns/controls the people, itself an insult. Subsequently, his exaggerated self-importance misplaced him, attracted national wrath, and enabled other politicians to ridicule the Mountain through his political over-reach.

During Dr Ruto’s Nanyuki conclave, for instance, Mudavadi reminded Gachagua that Dr Ruto is the only president.     

Other leadership aspirants, wearing plastic smiles keenly and silently watch and cheer as Gachagua and Kioni 'cancel' each other. Some would enjoy clipping Gachagua’s wings, kwani iko nini?