The fight is fully on to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta as the Mt Kenya kingpin after 2022, amid much jostling among the region’s politicians.
A Wednesday lunch meeting hosted by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi at a Nairobi hotel, though described as a “political lunch”, had the who-is-who from the region, signalling a plan by big political names in Central Kenya to align their interests with Mr Kenyatta’s 2022 strategy.
In the meeting were Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Lee Kinyajui (Nakuru), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi) and Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru.
On Thursday, the Nation gathered that it was the first of many to come, with an insider saying it was to lay the ground for the region’s political roadmap.
“Everything is about timing and the people will be let in at the right time. The meeting, and others to come, should be a big pointer to events in Mt Kenya politics. Community engagements will remain a potent tool to manipulate national politics,” said a source who attended the meeting.
Although Mr Murungi said the meeting was to congratulate Mr Kimunya on his latest appointment, the Nation has established that Mt Kenya political deliberations also took centre-stage.
“What makes something political is if the players are political… even if there is a football match being played by politicians, it becomes political…the same principle applies to our lunch, because it was being eaten by politicians,” Mr Murungi said.
The presence of Mr Kenneth, who is not in the government, was also not lost on observers.
The former presidential contender has been slowly earning the support of some MPs in Nairobi and Murang’a County to take up Mt Kenya’s leadership mantle.
Speculation has also been rife that Mr Kenneth, the former Gatanga MP, is poised for bigger things.
Observers say he could be the heir apparent for President Kenyatta’s mantle as the face of Central Kenya politics and thus, a potential running mate in the 2022 General Election.
Some say he could also run for the seat. Political analyst Beautah Omanga believes Mr Kenneth is an astute leader who is “tested and proven”.
“He has an impressive track record and is easygoing enough to attract support from Mt Kenya and beyond,” Mr Omanga said.
“Bear in mind that he is the only unelected leader who attracts the attention of elected leaders. If Uhuru gives him any kind of support, he will easily carry the electorate to whichever side he supports come 2022.”
Already, intense lobbying is underway to have him appointed into the Cabinet in the much-anticipated reshuffle that will include nominees from the President’s new political allies Raila Odinga of ODM, Gideon Moi of Kanu, Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani and Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper.
The Building Bridges Initiative has offered a new platform for a political showdown among those seeking to succeed Mr Kenyatta, pitting the current crop of governors against their predecessors, as well as serving MPs and ex-lawmakers still holding sway in the region.
“BBI will do the region a lot of good in anchoring in law sharing out of resources based on population,” said a source who attended the meeting at the Panafric Hotel.
“If population strength will be rewarded with mightier resources, the same be rewarded with higher political stakes.” But as succession politics intensifies in Central, there is a general consensus that it should not compromise the region’s unity.
The ongoing political activities around Mr Kenneth come in the wake of a declaration by Jubilee vice-chairman and the President’s right-hand man David Murathe that Kenyans should not buy into the political lie that Central Kenya cannot produce another candidate in the coming election.
Asked whether Mr Kenneth is one of those likely candidates, he said: “He is ideal, why not him? But first things first: We first pursue development and we shall revisit.”
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Further, Mr Murathe opines that the BBI holds the key to future math for Gema, saying power must be exercised according to the ratio of votes cast for the government. He said Mt Kenya region has at least eight million votes and one of their own must get power that is commensurate to the numbers.
This has been interpreted to mean the region will be lobbying for the powerful premier post recommended in the BBI preliminary report hence why a lot of interest is being directed at Mr Kenneth.
According to Education Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Zack Kinuthia, it is not Mr Kenneth who is begging to be in government.
Rather, he explains, it is the people from the region who have identified him as the most qualified to partner with the President and represent the interests of the region at the negotiating table.
Last week, Mr Kenneth said he is ready to work with the Jubilee government to help achieve its vision for the country.
He said he would not mind serving in any capacity that will see the President achieve his objectives for the country.
He added that Mt Kenya, being advantaged numerically in the voter register, will be at the negotiating table from a position of strength.
Mr Kenneth, being the party leader of the Kenya National Congress Party (KNC), unsuccessfully vied against Mr Kenyatta in 2013.
Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said Mt Kenya has had structured way of having a spokesperson in place and those eyeing the position should wait.
Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng’