Gachagua: His many Damascus moments and expected end game

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [PCS]

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is a man of many faces and a politician who is fast discovering that eating one’s words in Kenya’s politics is the norm rather than the exception.

His weekend announcement that he will lead the push for one man, one shilling, one vote revenue sharing formula epitomises one of his many recent Damascus moments where he has somersaulted against earlier decisions which had endeared him to the ruling party.

The proposal for the revenue-sharing formula based on population was first popularised by former president Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga when they anchored it in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which was thrown away by the Supreme Court.

At the height of the 2022 General Elections, the United Democratic Alliance, led by the then Deputy President William Ruto strongly opposed BBI and mobilised Mt Kenya to reject it. In the run-up for the general election, Uhuru said he wanted to gift his community with resources through the BBI Amendment Bill that proposed for the revenue sharing formula, the introduction of the office of the Prime Minister and the Office of the Opposition.

After the BBI bill was declared null and void, Uhuru on December 12, 2022, warned that ‘it was a dream deferred’ predicting that the document would resurface ‘to help mend the cracks in our nation’

And despite Gachagua opposing the BBI document in 2022, he has now declared himself a proponent and a believer of one-man-one-vote-one-shilling revenue.

“The whole issue of resources is about the people. The more you are, the more taxes you pay. It goes without saying, the more taxes you pay, the more you should get,” said Gachagua.

He added “We have no apologies to make. We want equality and equity. We want fairness in the sharing of revenue. We will be pushing that agenda not because we come from a region that has a high population but because it is the right thing to do,” he added.

“It cannot be that Ruiru constituency with a population of 800,000 people will get the same amount in Constituency Development Fund as a constituency with 14,000, it’s not fair,” he said. Gachagua said on Sunday at ACK St Peters Church in Mbeere, Embu County on Sunday.

On November 2022 Gachagua thanked the Judiciary for stopping the BBI report saying;

“I want to salute the judiciary for having stopped the BBI on its track. It was a terrible scheme against the people of Kenya and all of us had given up,” he said.

“It was being taken down our throats, everybody was being coerced, everybody was being persecuted and everybody was being bribed out.”

His recent remarks brought him closer to his political arch rivals Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and embattled Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni who are planning for the Limuru III meeting on May 17 whose main agenda is the revenue sharing formula and boundary review.

Gachagua and the two leaders have been diametrically opposed like day and night. This is not the first time for ‘Gachagua’s Damascus moment ’. In March this year, he sought an apology from Mama Ngina Kenyatta over the political excesses meted out to her by the Kenya Kwanza team in the 2022 electioneering period.

“I am sorry for involving Mama Ngina Kenyatta in the last general elections politics. She is our mother. I therefore ask for forgiveness on behalf of our team for any inconvenience caused to her. I will never allow anyone to demean her or anyone from the region,” Gachagua told Kameme TV.

He at the time directed all leaders from Mt Kenya region not to hurl insults against former President Uhuru Kenyatta saying he was ready to reunite with him.

“The former President Uhuru Kenyatta is our son. We worked together for 17 years and only disagreed for 2 years and now that’s the past. I pray for him in his retirement. Uhuru is one of us. We shall talk with everyone,” he said.

Two months ago,  Gachagua met with delegations of traders from Nairobi Business Community who hail from Mt Kenya region over the effects of the Finance Bill 2023 that saw over 700 containers detained in Mombasa over the taxes.

In the same month, Gachagua met with a section of stakeholders in the avocado value chain who cried foul due to the introduction of the electronic Tax Invoice Management System (e-TIMS) that farmers were supposed to enjoin before selling their agricultural produce to processors.

Prior to his meetings with the aggrieved farmers, Gachagua had pledged that the government would relook into the Finance Act, promising them that they would conduct a comprehensive review of taxes proposed in the Act.

 “On the the issue of taxes that was passed by Parliament we have realised it has some mistakes as it seeks to levy agricultural farmers. I have talked to the President and the Cs for Treasury and we shall talk to our MPs. We can’t help our farmer with one hand while we oppress him on the other. Our government is the one that listens and cares for the farmers,” Gachagua said in Embu on February 29.

He added; “We will conduct a comprehensive review of taxes to address the issues raised and promote a fair agricultural environment.”

Going with these trends, political pundits believe that the Deputy President has ‘listened to the ground’ and is speaking the minds of the Mt Kenya region without ‘fear or favour’.

Although the pundits believe that his remarks may put him at loggerheads with his boss, they are convinced that this will endear him to the electorates.

Public Service CS Moses Kuria said: This is why I will not lie to the people of Mt Kenya region about one man, one vote, one shilling. Our region has produced the sitting Deputy President, nine CSs (including AG, Treasury and Secretary to the Cabinet), Majority Leader, Chair Budget and Chair Finance committees in the National Assembly, deputy speaker and deputy majority leader in the Senate. What other powers would we be looking for? We are government and we can implement one man one vote one shilling by Friday if we are serious. Let us be honest with our people,”

According to Barrack Muluka, Gachagua’s Damascus moment could have been informed by the interests of his people and not by the political position he is currently holding.

“Political positions will not be permanent, what will be permanent will be the interests and interests is power; either exercising it yourself or being part of it. Gachagua could have gone to a point where he feels his boss is marginalising him by having some other people compete against him,” he told The Standard on phone.

According to Muluka, Gachagua may have found the right campaign issue, the one man one shilling one vote, which the analysts say can be used to galvanize the region to appeal to the masses.

“If Ruto starts to think that he should have Mudavadi as his running mate, and tries to use the African Union (AU) post as his bargaining chip for Nyanza and Western, Gachagua will ultimately not follow him and we might see his name in the Presidential ballot in 2027,” averred Muluka.

He added; “By the time us pundits start to see the fault lines, the tectonic plates have shifted significantly and they could be exchanging nasty things when they meet.”

On his part, Prof Gitile Naituli believed Gachagua was following his people and may have read Ruto’s political manual book to endear himself to the masses.

“He is doing what his boss did in the former regime, rallying his people against the punitive taxes and introducing what his people want to hear; the debate on the revenue sharing formula,” he said.

While Gachagua has been cultivating loyalty of the elected leaders from Mt Kenya region, a section led by Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri who are said to be supporters of the President have avoided Gachagua’s meetings in Mt Kenya region.

Mt Kenya region has been split into cells where each Constituency has leaders with their allegiances allied to either Nyoro or Gachagua and spending millions of money to launch development projects.

Today Kiunjuri will be hosting National Assembly leader Kimani Ichungwa as well as members of  the parliamentary house committee during the groundbreaking ceremony of Nanyuki Modern Market where politics will take the center stage

Kiunjuri has gone a notch higher to oppose Gachagua’s call for unity meetings claiming that could isolate the Agikuyu community from the rest of the communities in Kenya.