Behind-the-scenes struggles are threatening to spoil Jubilee’s Nairobi game plan as claims emerge DP William Ruto is secretly bankrolling a faction opposed to Peter Kenneth.
Kenneth has announced he’s running for Nairobi governor and seeking the Jubilee ticket. The office could be a springboard to the presidency in 2022, when Ruto aim to ascend to power. Kenneth says he’s not interested.
The Deputy President is said to be behind Team Nairobi, which includes Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, TNA nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, former Starehe MP Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Dagoretti South MP Denis Waweru.
Kenneth’s run is backed by Starehe MP Maina Kamanda, Nairobi woman representative Rachel Shebesh and a number of city MPs.
Yesterday sources close to Team Nairobi told the Star it has been receiving “support from the DP’s office”.
From 2008-2012 Kenneth was assistant minister of Planning.
Yesterday Kenneth, a 51-year-old Murang’a native, joined President Uhuru Kenyatta as he toured parts of Muranga to promote voter registration.
It was not clear whether Kenneth was allowed to address the crowds.
Senate Chief Whip Beatrice Elachi, who wants to run for Dagoretti South MP, supports Kenneth.
Kenneth’s entry into Nairobi politics has destabilised Jubilee’s strategy to wrest the influential seat from ODM’s Governor Evans Kidero, seeking reelection on a Cord ticket.
Sonko’s team has launched a vicious verbal assault on Kenneth, calling him an “outsider”, a latecomer to capital politics, disloyal to the President and unfit to hold the county’s top job.
Kenneth’s entry dashes hopes for consensus on a single Jubilee candidate.
Some observers interpret Kenneth’s Nairobi run as part of an elaborate scheme by a section of Central Kenya power brokers to undermine Ruto’s quest to inherit President Uhuru Kenyatta’s vote-rich region in 2002.
Central’s Kikuyu voters may argue that in 2022 it will be Murang’a’s turn to occupy State House — and the obvious choice is Kenneth.
This is because the Kiambu region of Central has occupied State House under Presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Uhuru Kenyatta, and Nyeri region has been in control under President Mwai Kibaki.
Kenneth has said, however, he will not oppose Ruto in 2022 but will support him. Still, five years is a long time.
It is understood that Ruto is taking no chances and believes Kenneth will use the Nairobi governor’s office to launch his own presidential bid in 2022.
“Kenneth is following what Kenyatta did. He will inherit the Kikuyu vote after Uhuru and that will complicate Ruto’s bid,” source close to Ruto told the Star yesterday.
Yesterday Sonko told the Star his team will do everything possible to prevent Kenneth from from winning the Jubilee ticket for governor.
“If it is a must for a Murang’a person to be the governor, there are many Murang’a elites in Nairobi,” he said in an interview.
The flamboyant senator, who also wants the JP ticket, said Kenneth will only be accepted as a Jubilee hopeful “after he publicly apologies to President Uhuru Kenyatta as he pushed for the President to be jailed at the International Criminal Court”.
“We don’t fear competition. Jubilee is a democratic party but PK is not the candidate. I am ready to step down for any other Murang’a candidate if it is a must for the seat to go to someone from the county,” Sonko said.
He added, “He (Kenneth) is yet to go to the public to apologise to the President over his remarks over ICC. And in the 2013 general election, he was used to divide the Kikuyu vote.”
On Tuesday four MPs from the Kalenjin community joined the Sonko-led brigade.
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, Bernard Bett (Bomet East) and Leonard Sang of Bureti appeared to confirm Ruto’s preference for the Sonko team. They urged Nairobi residents to back Team Nairobi to unseat Kidero.
Yesterday Keter denied Ruto sent the team. He said they were only joining Nairobi counterparts to mobilise voter registration.
“The DP is out of this. We were just mobilising supporters to register. We’ve all been told to ensure our people are registered and that’s what I am doing in Rift Valley,” Keter told the Star yesterday on the phone.
On Tuesday Cord leader Raila Odinga dismissed Ruto as a village politician without a grasp of capital politics.
“I have heard Ruto say they will do anything to capture the governor’s seat. I want to tell him he has never been an elected leader in Nairobi and cannot purport to control its politics,” Raila told a registration rally in Nyayo Stadium. “Yeye ni jogoo wa shamba ambaye hawiki mjini” (“He is a village cockerel that cannot crow in the city”).
Nairobi is a crucial constituency because it’s the seat of power and the country’s economic powerhouse.
Last week on Wednesday, the DP hosted all the elected JP leaders and all aspirants from Nairobi, urging them to stick together after nominations to ensure they capture all seats. He said losers must support winners for party unity.
“I want you come up with candidates, even through consensus, where you amicably agree and share various seats in Nairobi county and these must reflect the wishes of all the city’s communities,” Ruto said at his Karen office.
He said any leader picked will get necessary support to capture the seat.
Shebesh, who backs Kenneth, said leaders have learnt from their mistakes in 2013 when disunity cost Jubilee the governorship and some seats.