DP Rigathi Gachagua faces political survival as support wanes

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

For a while now, the clouds have been gathering for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. How long it will take before the storm finally breaks is a matter of conjecture. Mr. Gachagua took to his work with gusto, exuberantly protected his turf and, in a moment of unguarded excitement, likened Kenya to a ‘shareholder company’. 

His unconcealed vitriolic attacks against former President Uhuru Kenyatta and denigration of Raila Odinga portrayed him as a man driven by vendetta. It was evident from the outset that he needed grooming, in diplospeak, in order to function effectively as Kenya’s second in command. It eluded him that whatever came out of his mouth would be interpreted in a million ways; that he needed to be circumspect in his pronouncements. 

The need for a new Mt Kenya regional kingpin and emergence of pleas to President William Ruto to consider Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro as his running mate in 2027 pointed to disillusionment with Gachagua's’ leadership, slightly more than a year into office. The modus operandi of the loquacious duo of Nyoro and Kimani Ichung’wa has not made matters easy for Gachagua in Central.

What also eluded Gachagua is that Raila is a boomerang. That Raila, a consummate, cunning political operator with the nine lives of a cat is most dangerous when he appears to be down. With the March 2019 handshake between him and Uhuru that came out of the blue, Raila drove a wedge between Uhuru and Ruto and killed the spark that once saw the two wear matching attires to state functions. 

Again, it is Raila’s recent surprise truce (handshake) with Ruto that will inexorably drive a wedge between Ruto and Gachagua, and isolate the DP from the centre of power. The Kenya African National Union (Kanu) started its downward roll after Raila, then with the National Democratic Party (NDP), joined Kanu in 2001 in a surprise move.

If Gachagua believed becoming Ruto’s running mate in 2027 was fait accompli, that hope was dashed by Ruto’s declaration last week that henceforth, if UDA’s presidential candidate is a man, his running mate must be a woman. It cannot get any more plain for Riggy G that the party is over, and he must start strategising for his political survival. Clearly, the jinx of ostracisation for the second in command is now staring at Gachagua. 

In all but word, Gachagua has been put on notice that he will not be on UDA’s ticket as number two in 2027. He has three options; give in to fate, stay with Ruto and hope to upstage him later, or break away and create a formidable vehicle for 2027. It is doubtful, however, that he has the street smarts and financial muscle to outsmart Ruto, a wily fox, whichever way one looks at it. 

Yet, as devious as he is, Ruto might also be inadvertently isolating himself by alienating Gachagua. If Central feels betrayed and sulks, that is more than three million votes Ruto will have lost. If he is banking on having Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi in his corner, and his newfound friendship with Raila to win Nyanza and western Kenya, he is taking a gamble that could blow in his face at the most critical moment. 

The stranglehold Raila has on Luo Nyanza is still as strong. It is foolhardy to imagine that having Raila sequestered in Addis Ababa will bequeath his constituency to Ruto. Western is fluid, and Ruto’s recent forays into the region should have alerted him to that. 

Even if Raila will win the chairmanship of the African Union Commission, nothing stops him from resigning and coming back in time to rain on Ruto’s parade. Ruto must therefore be circumspect in his political machinations lest he ends up being too clever by half.