Deputy President William Ruto is working to line up new point-men to spearhead his first stab at the presidency.
Dr Ruto’s strategists plan to move away from the traditional regional kingpins to pick new faces to drive the “hustler nation” against “dynasties” campaign narrative ahead of the 2022 General Election.
The DP’s allies have disclosed that the point-men will be tasked with leading his presidential campaign in the battle with President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, who they have labelled as dynasties.
Ruto has so far identified former vocal senators Hassan Omar (Mombasa), Johnson Muthama (Machakos), Bonny Khalwale (Kakamega) alongside other politicians to spearhead his campaigns in Coast, Ukambani and Western respectively.
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Mr Muthama ditched Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to join the Ruto camp and has since hosted the DP for a rally in Athi River to consolidate the support of the Kamba community.
Failed to offer
The former Machakos Senator was a key figure in the Raila-Kalonzo 2013 and 2017 presidential campaigns. He was reportedly a major financier of the Wiper leader presidential bid in 2007 polls.
Yesterday, Muthama declared support for Ruto, saying he would ensure the Kamba speak in one voice and join the next government. “I have already begun working on what I have promised to do and have Ukambani under a new leader and in support of Ruto,” he said.
“The other day Kalonzo claimed that I misled him. He has failed to offer leadership in the region and we will guide our people to the next government. He is free to come and join us,” added the former Senator.
In Western, apart from Dr Khalwale, Ruto has identified Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East) and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka to spearhead his 2022 bid.
Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro are some of Ruto’s foot soldiers in South Nyanza. The embattled Migori Governor Okoth Obado is also perceived to be an ally of the DP, though he has recently said he is in ODM.
In Central, Ruto is working with Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, MPs Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu) and Moses Kuria (Gatundu South).
In Nakuru County, Senator Susan Kihika and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri are working to consolidate support for the DP in the region.
In the run-up to the 2017 elections, Ruto was accused of influencing Jubilee primaries so as to edge out senior politicians in favour of new entrants, particularly in Central.
By cobbling up the new team, Ruto seeks to by-pass Kalonzo, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and other regional leaders in wooing the country to back his State House bid.
Mr Barasa and Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said they are going for new faces to spearhead the DP’s campaigns.
“We have already started creating new regional kingpins. We don’t need to go through the traditional ones,” said Barasa.
Mr Cheruiyot said there were more politicians angling to join the DP’s camp but were being intimidated by the State.
“The true support base of the DP nationally will be established once we cross the sell-by date of the current scare tactics deployed by the State against his supporters,” he said.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei emphasised that the DP’s strategy was to unite all Kenyans and that is why he was building networks countrywide.
“His only target is the president and he has to work with all Kenyans. This is the reason for the numerous delegations at his official residences in Sugoi and Nairobi to rally support from all quarters to disabuse the notion of regional politic kingpins,” said Mr Cherargei.
Ms Kihika noted that the DP’s strategy to have point-men around the country demonstrates his commitment to uniting Kenyans as opposed to balkanizing them.
“As a strong supporter of the DP, I believe his strategy to make inroads in all parts of this country is the way to go. He is not engaging elected MPs but former leaders like Bonny Khalwale, Johnstone Muthama and Hassan Omar,” the Nakuru Senator said.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany (Soy) and his Aldai counterpart Cornelly Serem said the game-plan was to reach the voters on the ground and convince them to back Ruto.
Paid to make noise
“We are not like some of them who get paid to make noise. The DP has a plan and we will continue executing that plan moving forward to the next polls,” said Mr Kositany.
Mr Serem said Ruto’s countrywide tours would continue to mobilise support for him in the presidential contest.
“We are in the business of convincing all Kenyans to support Ruto. We are telling them that Ruto is the right person for the job,” he said.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a fierce Ruto critic, said by propping up new political faces, the DP was opening up political battles that might work against him.
He claimed communities tend to identify with self-made politicians and not those created by outsiders.
“These regions tend to be defined by specific kingpins, not random people we see around Ruto. These people will now be seen as project Ruto. People easily associate with self-made politicians, not projects,” said Ngunjiri.
“What he is doing is like telling Muthama to fight Kalonzo or Wahome to fight Uhuru. He will end up opening battles with every regional kingpin that may end up backfiring,” he added.
Political analyst Herman Manyora said using random political leaders to deliver regional votes would work against the DP’s bid since the country’s politics was still largely influenced by the traditional kingpins.
“Our politics is that you can only get the backing of a community if you work with their regional kingpins. If you don’t have the big boys and go for the small boys like Ndindi Nyoro, for instance, you end up alone when they run away at the tremble of the mountain,” he said.
He noted that Ruto had been forced to work with the new political entrants since all the other influential figures had joined the handshake brigade.
“He has gone to those new faces because he has no choice. All the big boys have been grabbed by BBI and the President. It is not that he has gone to Ukambani and ignored Kalonzo Musyoka. It is Muthama who is available for him,” added Manyora.
But university lecturer and political analyst Edward Kisiangani disagrees, saying Ruto has divorced politics of tribal kingpins by reaching out to the common man.
“If you go to a place, you need people to meet and talk to. They are not necessarily political kingpins, but those who admire his kind of politics. If you hear him speak, he doesn’t like this story of a tribal kingpin,” said Prof Kisiangani.
He noted that Ruto had been meeting delegations from various parts of the country, who are not fronted by politicians said to be his point-men.