Plot to force poll runoff and push Matiang’i for top seat

Former Prime minister Raila Odinga and Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang'i during the Mashujaa day celebrations in Mombasa on October 20, 2019. [File, Standard]

There is a plan to crowd the 2022 presidential race and force a runoff, Standard Digital has established.

In the well-thought plan, the weaklings will drop before the actual race while others will be dropped by the count of the ballot, and their support transferred to the finalist candidate.

In the scenarios at play, Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga will run separately, each probably picking a running mate from the Central region.

One Kenya Alliance of Wiper Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu’s Gideon Moi, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya will also front a candidate.

The plan entails rallying a strong coalition of “progressives” including Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, former UN boss Mukisa Kituyi, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, his Makueni counterpart Kivutha Kibwana to stay the course to the end.

Other fringe candidates will be encouraged to throw their hats into the ring to aid the runoff strategy and also to take a bit of wind off the sails of the main guys.

“The strategy is to ensure the presidential field is crowded denying anyone the 50+1 threshold for a round one win,” political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi told Standard Digital.

One of the finalists, it’s hoped by the strategists, will be Matiang’i and his circle of progressive.

Ngunyi agrees Matiang’i could be the surprise choice for President Uhuru Kenyatta in the succession contest. Others like Michael Ndonye, a political economist, however, feel that Matiang’i is part of the many decoys being deployed to create confusion and make the 2022 presidency a moving target.

“What we have seen from Uhuru and his proxies is the quest to feed the public with succession decoys. It is a strategy to satiate peoples hunger for a successor before 2022. It shows that Uhuru is no longer a political greenhorn that he once was,” Dr Ndonye wrote on Friday.

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) confers with Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang'i on January 10, 2019, at Kisii Sports Club during Nyanza BBI consultative meeting. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Several of Matiang’i’s Cabinet colleagues have already publicly voiced support for his possible presidential candidature, either because they believe he is the one, or they have been told to prop him up.

“The president has taught us about politics of development and Fred will do very well in continuing with the good work. He is young and is a new face,” ICT CS Joe Mucheru said in a telephone interview.

Transport CS James Macharia expressed similar sentiments last month in Murang’a County. “That is why we continue saying 'kazi iendelee'. That means having someone like Matiang’i who has been the chairman of the projects implementation committee... When it gets to 2022, Kazi lazima iendelee,” said Macharia in the presence of Matiang’i. 

In the envisaged scenario even if Raila and Ruto were to work together in round one, with the Gema vote going to Matiang’i the duo would still fall short.

Ngunyi says “even if Raila or Ruto got some votes from Mt Kenya, the region has in the Kibaki and Matiba elections voted 66 per cent one candidate and 33 per cent another.

With Uhuru’s endorsement, State machinery and the Gema vote, Ngunyi hypothesises, the Interior CS could easily clinch the presidency in the runoff. 

“To say that they’ll make everyone run to force a runoff is a strategy that is dead on arrival. No one goes into an election to lose. Negotiations always take place before the election and you’ll see it happen,” said a top political strategist who declined to be identified since he fell out with the Jubilee leadership. 

Matiang’i entry into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet in 2013 was orchestrated by State House power operative, Nancy Gitau. The pair met when she worked at USAID as a senior programme officer, running a programme on capacity building for Kenya’s Parliament. Matiang’i was working as the Eastern Africa regional representative for the State University of New York equally providing research support for the Parliament.

Uhuru, in a Cabinet reshuffle in 2015, moved him to the Education docket. Following the death of Joseph Nkaissery in 2017, Matiang'i was appointed in acting capacity as Interior, CS, a position he has held since.  

His appointment as chairperson of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee, composed of Cabinet secretaries, Attorney-General and the Head of the Public Service in 2019, saw him earn the name Super CS. This has seen frosty relations develop between him and Ruto, at times castigating each other publicly.

Sources privy to the efforts seeking to elevate Matiang’i’s political profile say that the Bonchari by-election slated for May 18 will be used to prop him up and have him emerge as the Kisii political kingpin.