Influential businessmen and politicians from the vote-rich Mt Kenya kicked off the process of identifying the region’s preferred presidential candidate by tabling the region's interests to ODM leader Raila Odinga.
It emerged yesterday that President Uhuru Kenyatta instructed the region’s top guns under Mount Kenya Foundation (MKF) to vet five politicians seeking to succeed him.
Uhuru's estranged deputy William Ruto is out of the region’s succession matrix after the officials of MKF disclosed that they have no plan of engaging him.
One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals Gideon Moi (Kanu), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula have been lined up for a meeting on Friday.
It is after a series of the planned meetings that the group will retreat to State House for a meeting with the President to unveil their preferred candidate in the 2022 General Election.
Sources told The Standard that the engagements are part of Uhuru’s larger scheme to have a united front to face off Ruto.
MKF vice chairperson Titus Ibui made the revelation yesterday when the wealthy central Kenya businessmen hosted Raila at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi.
Mr Ibui said that Uhuru tasked them to identify an individual that can succeed him and ensure the interests of the region are protected and his legacy is secured by the new government.
He described the meeting with the former premier as the beginning of a journey by the region to settle on an individual to back for the State House race.
“When the President called us for a meeting at Sagana, he asked us what kind of advice we could give him on who should succeed him. We told him that we will not give you a name but the kind of a person that will ensure continuity, someone we can sit down with and discuss the way forward, and someone who will not disturb our businesses,” said Ibui.
“So we have decided to listen to all the presidential candidates. On Friday we will meet Mudavadi, Kalonzo and Moi and Wetang'ula. This is the journey that we have started and once we are done we will go back to the President and tell him this is the person we want to succeed you,” he said.
But leaders in attendance at the luncheon that lasted for more than five hours appeared to have settled on the former premier.
They cited Raila's contribution in the struggle for the second liberation, his role in making former President Kibaki take power from independence party Kanu in 2002 through his famous “Kibaki Tosha declaration.
The leaders also cited his father Jaramogi Oginga’s role in the release of the founding President Jomo Kenyatta from prison that paved way for his ascend to power.
The Handshake between the ODM leader and the President was also recognised for bringing peace and enabling the business environment.
The foundation chairman Peter Munga said that the region was looking for a leader that will inspire it into economic growth.
Munga said that politicians seeking to turn residents of the region into their followers should forget their support at the ballot.
“You don't have to look for followers because they will only come to you so long as you inspire them. The people of the mountain will be looking for a leader who will is not seeking for followers but will come to inspire us with what we need for economic growth as a region” said Munga.
Governors Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and James Nyoro (Kiambu) endorsed Raila for the top seat.
Mr Kimemia dismissed as propaganda claims that it was difficult to sell the ODM leader in Mt region.
He blamed the negative perception on sustained demonisation of Raila by some of the politicians.
The former powerful operative in the Kibaki government said it was time to dismantle the lies against the former premier.
“It is us who in the past spread propaganda targeting Raila, but we must change the narrative and tell our people that that was politics then,” said Kimemia.
“There has been propaganda that Raila cannot win support in certain areas. We have asked Raila to come to Mt Kenya. It is time we have to say the truth,” he added.
Raila assured the region that his presidency will protect their business interests even as he highlighted his agenda for the youth, women and other interest groups.
He denied claims that he was likely to frustrate businesses owned by the Mt Kenya tycoons, stating that he has been in the forefront in protecting their interests.
"I was accused in Cabinet for knocking down Kikuyu property in road expansion projects but I needed to decongest the city centre. Kibaki told me that structures on road reserve be brought down. He supported me. We worked very closely with Mwai Kibaki," said Raila.
He vouched for value addition to raw protects in response to the demands that he supports coffee, tea and milk in the region.
"We need to do value addition to our raw materials before exporting them and instead of importing we need to promote more local manufacturing; this is the key to economic take-off," added Raila.
The youth and persons living with disability who engaged the former premier sought for inclusion in the next government while small scale traders raised concerns over prohibitive tax regime that has stifled business.
Sammy Karanja, Chief executive officer of Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Association said there was need to protect small scale traders from Credit Reference Bureau listing.
“We are requesting for an amnesty towards that so that when we go to financial institutions for help we can be assisted,” he said.
“We can have policies that protect local traders. Chinese have taken our markets because they have the financial muscles. We also have overzealous tax regimes. We need predictable tax regimes,” he added.
Raila’s elder brother Dr Oburu Odinga dismissed Ruto’s bottom up economic model likening it to “handout economy” in the absence of proper structure.
“You must have structure for whatever economic model to succeed. Without any proper structure then what is being talked about is purely handout economy,” he said.
“Raila intends to empower the people of Kenya to do business and the Mt Kenya people are business people and I’m sure if you were searching for a person who will support business and walk with you all the way then you have reached the destination of your search,” he added.
Siaya Senator James Orengo said it was only Raila who can protect Uhuru’s legacy by ensuring completion of infrastructure projects.
“Part of the work that has been don on the last four years, including the express way and the old railway line; it is only Raila who understands what Uhuru is trying to do to have proper infrastructure in this country,” said Orengo.
“It is in the same hands that he can he assured that his legacy would be protected,” he added.
Similar views were shared by Royal Media Services Chairman SK Macharia and former lawmaker Priscilla Nyokabi, who said it was only under Raila presidency that the country would be assured of unity.
“That handshake, we ask him (Uhuru) to leave it in good hands so that it can continue. We believe President Uhuru Kenyatta will leave this country in good hands; the hands he went to look for,” said Dr Macharia.
Nyokabi said: “We trust that in your government and in your leadership we will be safe, peaceful and stable. Baba you are our Joe Biden, you are our Mandela, we look forward to a bright future and we the women of our country are ready to work with you, please work with us.”