Unwavering loyalty, deep pockets, oratory skills and ability to mobilise crowds has all but convinced deputy president William Ruto to pick Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua as his running mate in his planned presidential run next year.
Dr Ruto’s Saturday pronouncement fronting Mr Gachagua as a possible pick for his deputy came as a surprise to many, but few would doubt the embattled MP’s tireless efforts in popularising the DP’s presidential campaigns in the Mount Kenya region.
The DP, in one of his many public rallies around the central Kenya region this weekend, could not hide how impressed he was by Mr Gachagua’s ability to bring out the masses.
“I have never seen a meeting this big in Nyeri. Some people had said we would not be allowed to come here but this MP of yours really knows his job,” said DP Ruto.
He was President Kenyatta’s personal assistant in the 2000’s and a key campaigner in his failed 2002 presidential bid. Mr Kenyatta lost that election, but Mr Gachagua’s decision to stick around his boss came to pay off when he decided to enter active politics in 2017.
He won the Mathira MP seat in the landslide Jubilee “suit” sweep in the Mount Kenya region, but in addition proved to be a valued campaign asset that caught the eye of the DP and his inner circle.
When the split between the president and his deputy began to emerge, Mr Gachagua picked DP Ruto’s side and stubbornly stuck by him.
This political choice was behind the bitter fallout with President Kenyatta.
According to Mr Gachagua, his allegiance to the DP is also the cause of what he terms as political persecution by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, which has relentlessly pursued corruption and money laundering investigations against him.
Mr Gachagua has made it his personal mission to popularise the DP’s presidential bid and his party of choice, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) earning his spot as the DP’s right-hand-man.
He proved his mettle by delivering two key wins for the DP’s corner in the Juja and Kiambaa MP by-elections, where he was lead campaigner.
He has since been by Dr Ruto’s side in all his political events.
On Saturday the DP seemed to elevate him to the position of possible running mate when he asked his Mathira constituents to allow their MP to “help him” in the next phase of the vote-hunting mission.
“Allow your MP who delivers to join me in the next stage. Will you allow him to help me get the votes?” Dr Ruto posed.
Disquiet and friction
For UDA politicians in the Central Kenya region, this could be a big win since they have been pushing for the DP to pick someone from the mountain as his running mate.
But could picking Mr Gachagua be too big a risk for the DP, who also has to convince voters in other regions of the country to back his candidacy?
Political analyst Wambugu Nyamu argues that the choice could cause friction within the UDA political factions, especially since there have been other frontrunners who have been actively trying to position themselves for the same post.
Allies from the Mt Kenya East region led by Senator Kithure Kindiki had been pushing for the running mate position.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has also been eyeing the position since 2017, despite the on-and-off association with the DP.
“Should Mr Gachagua be picked of course it will result in a lot of disquiet and friction within UDA especially with those eyeing the post. It is not just those within UDA, but even with others looking to join UDA for that very post,” said Mr Nyamu in an interview.
He also feels that the pronouncement by the DP could be nothing more than just a strategy to test waters and bait the real targets, who might be sitting on the fence, but eyeing the running mate position.
“He is just baiting the one he wants to deputise him. He wants to create the impression that there are other options,” Mr Nyamu said, arguing that it is still too early for anyone to be playing their real cards now.
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