President Kenyatta might not step out to personally lead campaigns for ODM chief Raila Odinga in Mt Kenya so as to spare him the state project tag.
The Star has established that while Raila remains the President’s preferred successor, the former prime minister will have to be his own man in his forays to win over the vote-rich region.
The region, which is projected to have an excess of six million votes next year, will for the first time not present a joint presidential candidate, setting it up for grabs as Uhuru retires.
However, there are fears that campaigns led by the incumbent would be counterproductive by packaging a Raila presidency as Uhuru project, handing his rivals a massive campaign tool.
There is also the need to streamline and manage Raila’s messaging to ensure it appeals to the region.
The President’s men believe Raila is the only person who can best weave and package his Mt Kenya messages before they jump in to reinforce them.
Also at play is a strategic move to avoid handing over Jubilee’s baggage to Raila at a time when Deputy President William Ruto is distancing himself from government failures.
Most of the allies of the duo fear openly speaking about why the President is politically reserved on taking Raila across Mt Kenya because they would be seen as betraying Uhuru’s strategy.
“This is a very sensitive matter because it talks about the President’s political plans but all I can say for now is that there is a need for Raila himself to build his personal appeal with the people first,” said a Central Kenya MP.
As things are, the ODM boss will have to make a direct pitch in Mt Kenya as he seeks to turn the tables on Ruto and deal with the bogeyman tag that has been blamed for his rejection in the region.
On Sunday, Royal Media Services chairman and business mogul SK Macharia warned that there is a lot that needs to be done on the ground to shore up Raila’s support ahead of the 2022 polls.
Macharia, a staunch Raila supporter from Mt Kenya, insisted that the handshake alone will not deliver the presidency to Raila, appearing to prod the President to step out and lead the charge.
“Don’t cheat him (Raila) that the ground is so okay. If we were to go and cast votes today, those people who have disrespected you including the President, they are the ones who will win,” he said at a church service in Murang’a.
The President had last week declared that he would not dictate to Kenyans whom they will elect as his successor but insisted he has a role to play in guiding them on what to look for in elections.
Although he revealed that Raila had decided to run for the presidency next year, the President was cautious not to paint the image of a sitting president campaigning for an opposition leader to succeed him.
Quietly, the President’s allies have rolled out an aggressive campaign to spruce up Raila’s image in the region, attending funerals, church services and meeting influential Kikuyu tycoons.
In the last two months, Raila has attended at least six events in Central Kenya and received red carpet receptions, including one in Nakuru where he launched his 2022 manifesto.
This week, the ODM boss is expected to again return to the President’s turf where he will attend at least two events in Nyeri and Kirinyaga as part of the elaborate scheme to shore up his fortunes.
The President, who is said to have availed the ‘system’ to Raila, will soon unleash his political might and state power in a charm offensive to fend off Ruto and prepare his people for a Raila presidency.
Uhuru’s allies say he has given express instructions to them to host Raila as many times as possible in efforts to rewrite history in which he has been projected as a dangerous politician.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, a key Uhuru ally, however, denied that the President will be a fence-sitter in Raila’s Mt Kenya campaigns, saying the head of state will very soon hit the ground.
“Time is coming when the President will personally lead the campaigns. Very soon and very soon,” the former Starehe MP told the Star, insisting that there is a grand plan by the President to market Raila.
The MP, a key cog of Raila’s campaign teams from Mt Kenya, said the claim that the President has snubbed the ODM leader’s campaigns is unfounded as he is at the “centre of the programmes.”
Political analysts have warned that the failure by the President to personally lead the charge for Raila in his backyard could perpetuate that perception that Ruto is well entrenched and spoil the party for the former PM.
Some of Uhuru’s allies from the region have said his absence and loud silence could trigger confusion in the region and give Ruto an advantage.
They want Uhuru to hit the ground and be the public face of Raila’s campaign.
“Things will remain static until the President decides to hit the road. The majority of the people at the grassroots want the President to step out and declare his support for Raila,” said another Central Kenya MP.
There have been hopes among Raila’s allies that the President will lift Raila’s hand and traverse with him across the vast region to shore up his chances in next year’s election.
However, with the President being strategic, the ODM boss has moved to reassure the Mt Kenya region that he means well for them.
On Sunday Raila said he has good intentions for the people of the region, opposing claims by a section of leaders that he shall harm them if he becomes the President.
“We want to unite the country and lay a foundation for the growth of this country for the future generations,” he said during a church service at Bible Fellowship Church in Kangari, Kigumo constituency.
He went on, “I have the interests of the people of Mt Kenya region and I mean no harm to you because I am not a bad person.”
Raila has also turned to Kikuyu vernacular media stations to make a passionate pitch for his presidency in a high-stakes battle for the region’s support.
The ODM boss is expected to soon meet the Kikuyu Council of Elders in Nyeri after the event was called off last Saturday over the Covid-19 protocols.
Last week, Uhuru held a Jubilee Party Parliamentary Group meeting at State House, Nairobi, in which he directed his allies to hit the ground to market Raila.
This was the first time the President was whipping his troops to back Raila at a time when his relationship with his deputy is irretrievably broken.
By The Star