Watching Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua of late, one cannot fail to notice that something has gone awry somewhere - and it isn’t in Denmark as William Shakespeare wrote.
He is no longer the terribly voluble and vociferous Riggy G we saw in the period leading to last year’s election when he bullied his way to be picked running mate to presidential candidate William Ruto. Kithure Kindiki was the preferred choice but Riggy G forced his way to the high table and ate his lunch.
Neither is Riggy-G the bull in a China shop we heard on the swearing-in day when he told us they had ‘inherited a country with empty coffers’. It was a puzzle how he came to know the coffers were empty even before they took over power.
Maybe he had friends in Ali Baba’s 40-member gang that had ‘emptied’ the coffers. After all, he always had friends with deep pockets since his days as a university student. Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are!
A clear indication that Riggy G may no longer be best of buddies with the boss came when he told us that government resources will be concentrated on the ‘shareholders’ who voted in the Kenya Kwanza administration and the rest of the populace left to scavenge for crumbs. The boss publicly rebuked him and said that such ideas as held by his deputy were ‘naive and primitive’.
Add that to the reported active scheming to have Riggy G’s position undermined with creation of more than one deputy leader position in the UDA party and you can see how deep in hot soup he is. So, what could have gone astray that Riggy G looks unwanted in a ‘company’ where he once had principal shareholder status, or so he thought?
Who owes whom?
His first big mistake was to publicly brag that his boss owes his position to him. That could be true. But in power politics some things are never said, truthful and factual as they may be.
Truth be told, it is Riggy G’s Mount Kenya backyard that put the largest number of votes in candidate Ruto’s basket to enable him clinch the presidency. The region also voted to ensure that with just a few ‘buy-outs’ here and there, the President would have comfortable majority in both Houses of Parliament.
Be that as it may, Riggy G was politically unwise in talking too much. His first goof was to claim for himself the credit of delivering Mount Kenya votes to the President. Mistake No.2 was to shout about it from the rooftops. You don’t do that.
Much as the boss may owe you, keep it to yourself. You are the wiser to credit it all to the boss. Inwardly, he knows it is you who did it. But by being self-effacing and letting the boss take all the credit, you earn his trust and gratitude. Rewards galore follow. But take credit and you make the boss feel overshadowed, if not insecure. He won’t like or forgive you for it.
That was also the major blunder made by the First No.2 in independent Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, when he was vice-president to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Mzee owed much to Jaramogi. To begin with, it was Jaramogi who led a campaign to have him released from colonial detention. Next, Jaramogi mounted a vigorous campaign to ensure Mzee Kenyatta became leader of independent Kenya, first as prime minister then as president of the republic.
Expectedly, Mzee Kenyatta picked Jaramogi as his deputy on rising to power. At that juncture, Jaramogi should have taken a backseat. He did the opposite. He made it his business to remind the boss that he owed his position to him. Definitely, the boss and his inner-circle didn’t like it. In less than two years, Jaramogi had been cut down to a political nobody.
An insider? No sir!
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The third mistake Riggy G has repeated is one made by the Second No. 2 in independent Kenya, Vice- President Joseph Murumbi. Because of his position in the official hierarchy, Murumbi mistakenly assumed he was an insider in Mzee Kenyatta’s government. He was not. He was a rank outsider.
The stark reality dawned on him while on official duty in London only to discover it was his ‘juniors’ in the delegation whom the President had briefed on what to negotiate with the British government, and that the ‘juniors’ were on a hotline link with State House which the vice-president didn’t have!
A few weeks after returning home, Murumbi handed in his resignation letter barely a year in office. He cited health problems as the reason. Many years later in an interview, he told me off-the-cuff that he quit because he saw no point being in a government where he was not wanted or trusted.
Riggy G may have been given, or given himself the impression that he is an insider in this government. But if he were to ask the straight-shooting Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, he would be told: “Hii serikali ina wenyewe!” (This government has its ‘owners’)
No political base
Riggy G’s fourth major handicap is that of the Sixth Vice-President George Saitoti who served in the Daniel Moi administration. Like Saitoti, Gachagua has no regional base where he can say he ‘owns’ votes.
Truth be told, it is William Ruto who took himself to Mount Kenya and worked hard to win the hearts of voters who finally made him President in a show of loyalty to him in person and not through a proxy.
Another truth be told, Riggy G was a johnny-come-lately in the Mount Kenya political landscape. We only heard about him at the very last minute and in the context of who was to be running mate to Ruto. Riggy G reminds me of my boyhood days when some boy would suddenly appear just when we were about to catch the rabbit, then claim it was all his doing when he already found us in hot pursuit of the quarry!
Unlike him, Ruto was in Mount Kenya far way back in 2013 when he teamed up with Uhuru Kenyatta as running mate, and under very difficult circumstances when the duo had cases to answer at the International Criminal Court.
Ruto proved himself a great strategist, team player and energetic campaigner. He was equally helpful in their 2017 re-election bid when they had an even bigger challenge going for a repeat election after their victory was annulled by the Supreme Court.
For standing with their ‘son’, Uhuru, the Mountain voters developed a trust and liking for Ruto for which they ‘returned a hand’ in 2022. So, in reality, President Ruto owes not that much to his deputy.
Indeed, in the line-up of Kenya Kwanza pre-election principals, it is only Gachagua and Tourist Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua who did not put any numbers they can call their ‘own’ in the Ruto basket. The Ukambani vote, which Mutua may have promised to deliver was, and still remains, with opposition Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka.
In comparison, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula can lay claim to the Luhya vote that went to President Ruto. Amason Kingi and Salim Mvurya came with the Coast vote, while Justin Muturi and Kithure Kindiki may lay claim to the Embu and Meru votes, respectively, though in reality it is Ruto who took himself to that side of the Mountain as he did in Central Kenya.
Now, you get the drift as to why Riggy G is as vulnerable as it can get. He is at the mercy of the boss. And much as the boss may have some room left for him, the many competing interests may find him sailing in choppy waters when post-Ruto succession politics gets into top gear after 2027 election.