After sealing two victories for President Uhuru Kenyatta, DP William Ruto has now embarked on a vigorous campaign strategy to cement his 2022 presidential prospects.
Ruto, a shrewd politician and Jubilee’s kingmaker, has hit the campaign trail four years from the election with potential running mates queuing up to get his attention.
Central Kenya, Meru and Luhyaland are all hoping to provide his 2022 running-mate.
Governors serving their second and last terms, senators and MPs are all angling for the ticket giving Ruto a wide and complicated range of choice.
The former Eldoret North MP has been meeting politicians behind closed doors and holding public rallies across the country, stirring speculations he is in full campaign mode.
Meeting delegations was a signature of retired President Daniel Moi’s campaign machine during the Kanu days.
As a former Kanu youth winger, Ruto appears to be copying that same strategy by hosting frequent meetings with elected leaders from across the country at his official Karen residence.
He has also stepped up his tours across Kenya since the ‘handshake’ between Uhuru and Nasa leader Raila Odinga on March 9.
Yesterday leaders accompanying Ruto included Muranga Mwangi wa Iria (Muranga) and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru; MPs Sabina Chege (Muranga), Dindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Duati Ngugi (Gatanga), George Kariuki (Ndia), Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Mary Waithera (Maragwa); and Senator Charles Kibiru and Women Representative Purity Ngirici.
In Murang’a High School on Friday, Ruto damped down speculation that he had started campaigning for 2022.
“Our transformative agenda for the country can’t wait, can’t be postponed and can’t be challenged. We are working to ensure the success of our agenda,” said Ruto.
He said nothing would deter the government from implementing its Big Four plan – manufacturing, healthcare, housing and food security – to uplify the lives of its citizens.
Launching the Kerugoya-Rutue-Kiandieri and Njega’s- Mutito-Kagumo-Mukinduri roads in Kirinyaga yesterday at Gakoigo and Njega school grounds Ruto urged leaders to unite and serve the people.
Uhuru has promised that Central Province will back Ruto in 2022 but some Kikuyu politicians say that it is not guaranteed.
Ruto’s frequent visits to the region are intended to shore up his support there and to also scout out possible running mates to become Deputy President to secure the Kikuyu vote.
Nevertheless, wary of fickle Central support, Ruto is intending to expand his Karen meetings to include elected leaders from Nyanza, the heartland of Nasa.
Yesterday Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said Ruto’s networking would propel him to State House in 2022.
“This is a very good approach politically. Ruto is wary of the many players in 2022 and knows that he must go ahead of the pack,” he told the Star.
“Ruto wants to eliminate chances of anybody overshadowing him in Jubilee. He is shedding off the tag of a political bouncer for Uhuru and putting on a presidential image. He must get pockets of supporters from every corner of this country,” he added.
“He knows that if things settle in NASA and we have a new opposition outfit, that would mean that they will start on the same footing. He must be way ahead by the time they reorganise themselves,” said Kutuny.
Another political heavyweight from Rift Valley, who did not want to be named, told the Star that the DP had to be careful campaigning outside Rift Valley.
“If I were him, I couldn’t be doing what he is doing. Here at home people are divided and he could have better started by meeting both elected and former politicians from Rift Valley to consolidate his support,” said the former MP and Cabinet minister.
Referring to KANU chairman and Baringo senator Gideon Moi, the once powerful minister said “nobody can write off Moi’s son.”
“Moi has his own followers and Isaac Ruto says he is not with him (DP). The Kikuyus are miles away from Ruto judging by the emotions we are seeing,” he said.
However North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko said that that he does not see politics behind Ruto’s intensified meetings with politicians.
“He wants to refocus government energies on the implementation of the Big Four projects which will be the bedrock of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy when he retires,” said Nyamoko, a key Ruto ally.
“He wants to see what can be done to fast-track the implementation of projects. I don’t see any politics really,” he said.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi defended the DP’s flurry of meetings with leaders saying that was just his leadership style.
“Jubilee has a lot of dictatorship but the DP is more accessible than anybody else,” Linturi told the Star.
Linturi recently led a team of elected leaders from Meru county in a meeting with Ruto at his Karen home and said their agenda had nothing to do with 2022 politics.
“There is nothing wrong with what the DP is doing. In fact, he is firefighting the wrongs within Jubilee. Politics round-the-clock hurts the economy,” he added.
Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja also said Ruto’s meetings are primarily to align the Big Four with the realities on the ground.
“The DP is the most energetic leader we have in this country. He understands the political terrain. His exuberance coupled with the refocusing of our priorities with the Big Four will be crucial in delivering our blueprint,” he said.
“2022 can’t be a reality if we can’t deliver on our mandate. We know our candidate for 2022 but now the focus is on development,” said Sakaja.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa dismissed claims that the DP’s tours were 2022 campaigns.
“This government was re-elected by Kenyans because of its development track record. Development can’t be achieved when the country’s top leaders spend their entire time in offices. They must be at the grassroots to get the peoples’ priorities right,” said Ichungwa during the DP’s tour on Friday.
“Your Excellency, you must continue to tour all parts of our country to help initiate development projects. Just ignore those criticizing your tours because they have lost touch with the reality,” said Ichungwa.