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Gachagua's blunders as he seeks to assert his influence

His would-be allies are choosing President William Ruto over him, a choice that many thought they would never have to make.

His decision to reach out to Uhuru has reignited fights with President Ruto's economic advisor David Ndii, which come in the thick of escalating tensions between him and Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria over the latter's transfer from the Trade Ministry, a quote-unquote demotion.

"Factory Settings (Chairman, Nyeri District University Students Association (NDUSA), Oyugi Special DO, Uhuru PA etc etc)," Dr Ndii posted yesterday on X -formerly Twitter) in reaction to the DP's move.

Indeed, Gachagua makes no secret of his intention to be the Mt Kenya region's top politician and has largely confined his politics to his backyard. He touts himself as the champion of Mt Kenya's interests, who he sees as the largest "shareholders" of Ruto's government, owing to their contribution to the president's victory.

"I have only two jobs: to help the president lead the country forward and to unite and guide the interest of the Mt Kenya region," Gachagua said during the burial of freedom fighter Muthoni wa Kirima in Nyeri a fortnight ago.

Many have faulted the DP's utterances as threatening Kenya's unity. The latest rebuke came from the Head of State, who termed his deputy's shareholding remarks "primitive".

"It is primitive and backward for anyone to imagine that any region cannot get development on account of how they voted," Ruto said Friday during a tour of Siaya.

There is a feeling in Kenya Kwanza that the insistence that only those who voted for the government should be considered is a myopic mindset which is not likely to expand the slim 50.5 per cent win that propelled Ruto to the presidency.

Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, argue that what UDA is now doing is gathering as many allies as possible and any talk of exclusivity would jeopardise Ruto's second term bid in 2027.

Some UDA insiders argue that instead of cultivating a father figure for the nation, the deputy president mostly dwells on issues relating to Mt Kenya.

Gachagua's position in the government is complicated by an apparent cold war with Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

The president has appeared to prefer Mudavadi to represent him in foreign assignments and his decision to put Mudavadi in charge of the Foreign Affairs docket is likely to increase friction between Gachagua and Ruto.

At the same time, Gachagua's quest to be a voice for Mt Kenya at the expense of other regions has faced criticism owing to his national duties as DP. His stance is a significant departure from that held by those who occupied the office, which makes one a heartbeat away from being President. Most, if not all, in public, at least, championed national interests.

When he was DP, Ruto never expressly said that his most urgent role was to safeguard the interests of his Rift Valley backyard. But the political circumstances for Ruto were arguably different.

As DP, Ruto enjoyed sizeable support across the country and had established total dominance in his ethnic backyard. The same goes for Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka in Ukambani, from where he hails.

A year after he ascended to the second-highest office in the land, Gachagua is still struggling to climb to the Mt Kenya political supremacy ladder. Indeed, the position of Mt Kenya kingpin, if such a role does exist, has seemed very much up for grabs and that fact has not escaped the ambitious politicians from the region keen to succeed President William Ruto.

Among those billed to be the most formidable threats to the DP for the role include National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah and Kiharu lawmaker Ndindi Nyoro, solid allies of Ruto whose political stars have been rising.

As majority leader, Ichung'wah is in charge of pushing President Ruto's agenda in the National Assembly. The Kikuyu Member of Parliament also co-chairs the ongoing bipartisan talks alongside Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, a role observers have argued could propel Ichung'wah's political career.

Gachagua has been critical of the talks. There have been arguments that he is afraid that a truce between Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga would sideline him as Uhuru's and Raila's handshake edged out Ruto. Equally critical are fears that Ichung'wah could gain significant mileage if the talks are successful.

In apparent reference to Ichung'wah and Nyoro, Gachagua recently threatened to expose leaders who speak to President Ruto directly thus bypassing him, terming them enemies of the community.

Gachagua's elevation to the deputy presidency should have cemented his place at the helm of Mt Kenya's politics. It should have helped him fill the position previously occupied, de facto, by Uhuru. It has not, according to Historian Macharia Munene.

"He claimed a position that was never there. He was given the deputy presidency by Ruto. He did nothing to earn it," said Prof Munene. "Gachagua declared himself king and purported to make Ruto king. Mt Kenya hates the idea of kings."

He further argued that the DP's statements have not done him any favours, highlighting Gachagua's previous attacks on Uhuru, his insistence that Kenya is based on a shareholding principle and other strange remarks, such as the one made to graduands that Kenya had no jobs for them.

"People will always want a mature leader. If you do things that make people question your maturity, they will question your leadership," Prof Munene added.

But Nyeri Town MP Duncan Maina argued that Gachagua is the region's kingpin courtesy of his position in government.

"He is not struggling. In every dispensation, the person occupying the seniormost position is always the kingpin. It is an automatic ascension. Gachagua was put there by fate," said Maina, who defended the DP's move to reach out to Uhuru.

"If you look at the history of our country, every leader, even Uhuru, has tried to unite the country," said Maina.

"During political competition, we tend not to see eye to eye... but the victor will always extend an olive branch to the loser. The time has come for that. The dynamics of our country require us to move towards unity. Even the ongoing talks are aimed at achieving unity. It was never a matter of if, but when," added Maina.

Prof Munene, however, read his move as driven out of desperation.

"He is stuck. He is desperate to try to do the right thing. He has been blundering and misbehaving and whenever he was warned he insisted that he was just saying the truth. He is definitely feeling the heat and has reached out to Uhuru in search for recognition, as he needs the former president to redeem him," Munene added