By WANJOHI GITHAE
December 4, 2012 turned out to be a bad day for then Deputy Prime Minister and presidential aspirant Uhuru Kenyatta. The previous evening, a close relative had delivered a message to him about an early morning appointment with retired President Mwai Kibaki at State House, Nairobi.
At the crack of dawn, Uhuru was at State House accompanied by two close aides. He was ushered in to find the President seated with a top civil servant, two top security heads and a senior State House official.
Sources privy to the meeting said, President Kibaki had not much to say except the welcome greetings, after which he asked Uhuru to listen to the gentlemen assembled and then he could give his response. Said the source:
“The four gentlemen took turns to speak. They made it clear in very polite language that Uhuru’s presidential bid faced too many hurdles to stand any chance of him winning.If he pushed on with his campaign, it would give advantage to his main rival, then Prime Minister Raila Odinga. His best option would be to relinquish the bid to another candidate and then ask his central Kenya bedrock to support him.”
Their first line of argument centred on Uhuru’s still pending case at the International Crime Court (ICC). The four maintained that an Uhuru presidency could not augur well for Kenya’s economy as well as diplomatic standing, given that leading development partners in the West had openly expressed reservations against him and running mate, ICC co-accused William Ruto..
Next, they argued that Uhuru would be a hard sell as successor to the incumbent â€“ Kibaki â€“ since both hailed from central Kenya, as had Uhuru’s father Jomo Kenyatta. A third argument was that the UhuRuto ticket might attract hostility towards communities they came from since the past three Kenyan presidents came from their communities.
Their recommendation: “Uhuru and his running mate Ruto should step aside for Musalia Mudavadi. The argument powerfully articulated by the senior State House ally of Kibaki was that Mudavadi was a ‘neutral’ candidate who could easily appeal to the whole country.”President-
The final pitch by the four gentlemen was that Uhuru was to try and prevail upon Ruto to take up the position of majority leader in the National Assembly, in a ticket where Mudavadi would be the presidential candidate and Uhuru the running mate. Sources say it was at that juncture that Uhuru spoke for the first time.
He said, while he needed time to digest all that had been said, he could right away answer to the last bit which was; in case of a Mudavadi candidacy, then Ruto would still be the number two while Uhuru would take majority leader.
He said it had taken long and delicate deliberations to have Ruto accept to go to the elections as a running mate in the first place, and that to turn around and tell him to abandon that for a majority leader would be untenable. Given the urgency of the matter, it was resolved that Uhuru, Ruto and Mudavadi meet the very same day and thrash out the issue of joint candidacy.
Throughout the meeting, Kibaki was said not to have uttered a word, but just kept nodding. On the very same day, rival Cord coalition was unveiling its presidential candidate and his running mate at a ceremony held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). From State House, Uhuru was driven straight to Mudavadi’s city residence at Riverside Drive, where he linked up with Ruto.
Following day-long deliberations with their respective legal and political advisers, the three came up with a late evening announcement that they had signed a memorandum of understanding to work together, and to unveil their line-up in 14 days.
Apparently, the new development didn’t resonate well among Uhuru and Ruto top aides. We can now disclose that for the next 36 hours, Uhuru did not leave his Nairobi residence, and would limit communication to just a few trusted confidants as he mapped out his next move.
We are reliably informed that Uhuru’s biggest agony at the time was how to make a counter-move when the top State hierarchy was dead set that his name not be on the presidential ballot.
Fortunately, for Uhuru, he had a loyal team working in the trenches but communicating with him through a back channel, to use the language of espionage. It was this team that discovered the loophole to use to torpedo the Mudavadi narrative crafted by State House honchos.
It occurred to the Uhuru back-room team that what Uhuru, Ruto and Mudavadi had deliberated upon was all a gentlemen’s agreement. For it to acquire a legally binding status, it had to be endorsed by delegates from their respective political parties, TNA, URP and UDF.
Immediately, a spanner was thrown into the works. Forty MPs aligned to Uhuru’s TNA called a press conference to announce they would not endorse any deal that could leave Uhuru’s name out of the presidential ballot.Â If it came to that, they said, “all roads would lead to Bondo” (meaning they would vote for Raila).
In the meantime, we can report, Uhuru had used a back channel to get assurance from President Kibaki that he had no personal position on the matter, and that should Uhuru supporters decide he must run, the State would not block the will of the people. With that, the die was cast. On
December 18, 2012, the day TNA/URP/UDP alliance was to be unveiled, what would be the Jubilee line-up, Uhuru and Ruto showed up without Mudavadi at the Multi-Media University where they declared there would be no deal with the UDF leader, after all, and that the ticket would remain UhuRuto as it were.
That was the day Uhuru uttered the phrase, “Shetani wengine” (some dark forces) as being opposed to his candidacy. Nominated MP, Johnson Sakaja clarifies that while at the time the phrase “dark forces” was misinterpreted to mean Mudavadi, it was actually in reference to individuals who had come with the theory that Uhuru’s candidacy was untenable.
Says Sakaja: “We had no quarrel with Mudavadi as a person and he knew as much. However, being campaign period, the Mudavadi people as well as our competitors in Cord were only too happy to capitalise on the “dark forces” thing to suit their agenda.Â That is expected in an election where propaganda counts for so much, anyway.”
This article first appeared in The People