Mt Kenya politicians have in successive elections portrayed ODM leader Raila Odinga as the region’s bogeyman who must be stopped from being president.
Consequently, Raila lost narrowly in 2013 and the first election of 2017 to the region’s candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.
Raila boycotted the fresh 2017 presidential election after the Supreme Court nullified Uhuru’s win.
But times have changed and so have Raila’s fortunes.
Following Raila’s handshake with Uhuru and subsequent partnership to drive government agenda in Parliament, Mt Kenya appears to be warming to a Raila presidency.
In an unprecedented move, hundreds of Kikuyu elders will Saturday troop to Raila’s Bondo home alongside influential Kikuyu leaders to endorse him for the top job.
Sources say former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth will lead the team for the historic visit that has evoked memories of the friendship between the country’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta and Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
At Independence, Kenyatta and Jaramogi were best friends and at one time had a joint bank account. Their relationship soured in 1969, when Jaramogi left government and formed Kenya People’s Union. An acrimonious by-election and ensuing ethnic tension have persisted for decades.
Contacted for a comment, Peter Kenneth’s spokesman Alhajj Amin could neither confirm nor deny whether his boss will be in Bondo on Saturday.
Kenneth has become a close Raila confidant and is touted as his possible 2022 running mate or premier in an expanded Executive.
“Let’s wait and see. But remember palipo na wazee haiharibiki (things don’t go wrong where there are elders),” Amin, brother of Suna East MP Junet Mohamed told the Star.
Veteran politician Maina Kamanda confirmed he would be in the Bondo delegation.
Kamanda said the Kikuyu community is ready for a Raila presidency “more than ever”.
“The divisions are now behind us. As a community, we are ready for Raila’s candidature as a good gesture for the support his father gave our son Jomo before and after Independence,” he told the Star.
In previous polls, Raila has been marketed as a divisive and vindictive character who could destroy the Kikuyu nation.
This was amplified by British firm Cambridge Analytica that ran apocalyptic campaign adverts against Raila in the 2017 campaigns.
But now, the narrative is different.
“The question of whether Mt Kenya can support ODM leader Raila Odinga is an important one. It’s like asking can Kikuyu’s act in a non-tribal fashion? The answer is yes, they can,” said political analyst Peter Kagwanja.
National Assembly Majority Whip Maoka Maore said Raila has an impeccable development and anti-graft record that can protect Uhuru’s legacy projects after he retires.
“Raila has never killed anyone or stolen from anyone. I don’t understand where the bitterness of ‘don’t sell Raila to us’ comes from,” he said.
Maore said the President’s backyard will overwhelmingly vote for Raila if he vies because “he is the right man to succeed Uhuru”.
He added: “Let people start preparing to think how it will look like when Raila becomes President in 2022.”
Some critics have, however, warned ODM supporters that the new narrative could be a project of the intelligence services to ensure Raila supports Uhuru to the end of his term.
For instance, when Raila served as Prime Minister, some Kikuyu leaders visited his home and assured him of their political backing.
It was also at the time that his late son, Fidel Odinga, married his first wife Veronica Wanjiru who hails from the Mt Kenya region.
But Raila’s confidants believe Uhuru cannot afford to play both their man and Deputy President William Ruto as the two men who worked together in 2007 are likely to reunite.
Since his March 9, 2018, handshake with Uhuru, Raila’s influence in government has been growing despite holding no executive office.
Raila’s surprise place has complicated Ruto’s hopes of succeeding his boss with the DP boxed into being an outsider in his government.
Most of Uhuru’s allies from Mt Kenya have become cosy with Raila and dismissed Ruto’s campaigns in the region as a waste of time and resources.
The President has also plotted to scuttle the DP’s early 2022 campaigns by banning all political meetings unless approved by the police.
The Cabinet on Thursday approved stringent measures proposed by the National Security Advisory Council in a move likely to slam brakes on the DP’s campaigns.
The Star has established that strategists working on the third Luo-Kikuyu political marriage are careful to avoid falling into the traps that suffocated past ties.
Jomo and Jaramogi had an acrimonious split in 1969 while Raila fell out with Kibaki’s regime barely a year after forming the Narc government following the historic victory of 2002 polls.
The Building Bridges Initiative report is expected to stir the 2022 succession politics once released.
Raila could dangle the prime minister or the deputy president position to appease the President’s backyard in the 2022 polls.
Although Raila is yet to declare his 2022 political plans, Uhuru’s inner circle has concluded only the ODM leader can stop Ruto’s march to State House.
On Friday, Raila told a funeral in Bobasi, Kisii county that he is not worried about Ruto’s premature 2022 campaigns.
“I am just watching him (Ruto), with the energy he is using he will get worn out soon even before we start,” Raila said.
This was Raila’s first-ever remark about a possible duel with Ruto in the 2022 general election.
Political analyst Amukowa Anangwe said it would be too premature to suggest that one particular candidate is unstoppable come the next election.
“It would also be misleading to suggest that ODM leader Raila Odinga, with the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta, could keep Ruto from ascending to the top seat,” the former Butere MP.
According to Anangwe, two years to the 2022 general election is a long time to predict the political scenarios that would play out.
“Politics is the art of possible. It is possible, impossible and unstoppable. If I can put it in a clear way, one day in politics is long enough for so many things to change,” he said.
On Friday, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu termed premature debate on who will succeed the President, saying he prefers to cross the bridge when he gets there.
“When we do get to that point, we will evaluate who gets our (Mt Kenya) support based on what they offer the region’s people,” Ngunjiri said.
The politician is a fierce critic of Ruto and a founder member of the Kieleweke political caucus that supports the President and Raila.
But Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, a Ruto ally from Mt Kenya told the Star that the region should support the DP because he is determined to improve the lives of the poor.
“The conversation in the country at the moment must shift from who gets which position into how to get young people jobs and food on their table to economic empowerment,” Nyoro said.
The DP has launched his 2022 presidential campaigns and has been dishing equipment to youth and to convince them more will come when he takes charge.