The entry of an exclusive club of billionaires in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession race has ignited debate on the role of the tycoons in shaping Mt Kenya politics.
The billionaires are leaving nothing to chance and are reportedly keen to control the 2022 presidential race having influenced the election of President Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017.
Usually operating covertly, the team that includes members of Mount Kenya Foundation (MKF) has reportedly been canvassing for a suitable candidate to take over from Uhuru.
Some of the members of the exclusive club hosted ODM leader Raila Odinga at Safari Park Hotel on Tuesday to listen to his agenda for the country.
They are expected to host One Kenya Alliance (OKA) leaders on October 7. OKA brings together Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula.
The influential MKF is chaired by Equity Bank founder Peter Munga and is deputised by former PS and Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) boss Titus Ibui.
Ibui is a long-time civil servant and founder of Bell Industries.
Other members include former Cabinet minister George Muhoho, Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia, who also has interests in agriculture, transport, real estate and banking, and Equity Group Holdings Chief Executive Officer James Mwangi.
Also in the club are former KenGen boss Eddy Njoroge, Stanley Kinyanjui, owner of Magnate Ventures, the largest outdoor advertisement company, Isaac Maina Wandere proprietor of Wonder Joy Party World, a company that has been at the centre of many government events and Pius Ngugi owner of Thika Coffee Mills and the Kenya Nut Company.
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In past elections the tycoons have been divided on which presidential candidate to support financially with others opting to back rival camps.
For instance, in the 2007 presidential election, Dr Macharia opted to support ODM leader for the presidency while a majority of the businessmen rallied behind former President Kibaki for a second term in office.
In the 2013 and 2017 elections they were also divided with the majority supporting Uhuru apart from SK Macharia who stood with Raila.
In 2017, the tycoons held a million per plate dinner in support of Uhuru where almost Sh1 billion was raised during the two-hour event.
The contributions were in cadres with the highest being Platinum at Sh10 million followed by the Gold category that involved presenting below Sh10 million but above Sh5 million.
Other contributors were the Silver category that donated about Sh2.5 million, the Bronze at Sh1 million and the last group donated Sh500,000.
Unlike in the previous elections where they have worked at cross purpose, they seem to have closed ranks and are now seeking to have a united front.
Beyond the contribution, the team according to an insider who sought anonymity noted that they raised other funds to mobilise people to go and vote including the hiring of public service vehicles (PSVs) across Mt Kenya for voters to reach polling stations.
“We did not want to lose even a single vote, we were thorough and that is why we got the numbers we raised,” said the source.
But another insider who also sought anonymity said that they are keen to crystalise a super alliance that will bring together top leaders including Raila, OKA principals and a number of second term governors and ensure that they lock out Deputy President William Ruto from winning the presidential race.
In August 2017 after police arrived to search his house, billionaire Jimi Wanjigi said that he was shocked that the Uhuru administration had turned against him when the political union with his deputy William Ruto was solemnised in his Muthaiga home.
“This is a home that this current regime of Uhuru Kenyatta knows. It is a home they have visited; it is a home they have eaten many times. In fact, their government was formed in this home,” Wanjigi noted.
In 2017, the businessman played a crucial role in Raila’s presidential campaign and has admitted that he was behind the mock swearing-in.
Other political leaders that have been actively involved in politics covertly or overtly include KCCI president Richard Ngatia, the late Chris Kirubi, Mombasa-based businessman David Langat, the chairman and founder of DL Group of Companies DL Langat and the founder and CEO of Acceler Global Logistics Peter Muthoka.