As he races against time to complete his Big Four Agenda projects, a key plank of his legacy, pressure is piling from competing quarters to name his successor – both in his Mt Kenya backyard, where he is the de facto kingpin, and in the race for State House.
The Head of State also has to factor in his commitment to making Kenya politically and ethnically cohesive, in line with his 2018 ‘Handshake’ with ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Add to this a politically restless Deputy President and a groundswell of rebellion in his home turf that has seen his key allies cast their lot with his politically estranged deputy, and the Catch-22 situation President Kenyatta finds himself in becomes clearer.
Dr Ruto’s inroads in Mr Kenyatta’s backyard are giving him a run for his money if the ruling party’s recent losses in Kiambaa and Juja by-elections are anything to go by.
A troubled King, the president is also staring at a looming fallout in Jubilee Party as his men go for each other’s necks and trade blame over his misfortunes.
Observers had pointed out that in the event he won a second term, he would almost immediately plunge into a lame-duck phase, as did his predecessor Mwai Kibaki, who either chose to play no active role in politics or was unable to control the politics around his succession.
Significantly, Mr Kibaki was unable to convince his central Kenya home turf – which had voted almost to a man for him in 2002 and 2007 – to support one particular candidate in that year’s polls.
The Head of State and his handlers have remained tight-lipped on his succession, only saying he will be actively involved in succession politics towards the end of his final term.
He also finds himself prematurely reduced to a lame duck, with the Jubilee Party, which would be critical in driving his agenda, split down the middle.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which sought to spearhead a constitutional referendum ahead of the next polls, was not only met with suspicion and open hostility in the ruling party’s strongholds, it is now in limbo after the Court of Appeal said it would release its verdict on a date that does not favour the August deadline set by the BBI proponents.
Even as rebellious elements in Jubilee pivot towards aligning themselves with incoming political powerhouses, President Kenyatta’s allies say he is still a political force to reckon with.
Imenti North MP Rahim Dawood says what is important now is for Mr Kenyatta to focus on his administration’s objectives.
“His options are limited at this time. He can ignore those pulling him back and instead choose to focus on what directly impacts the people, including ensuring projects are complete and fighting corruption,”Mr Dawood said.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu in a previous interview told the Nation that recent by-election losses should not be misconstrued to mean the President has lost support in his turf.
DP Ruto’s allies say it is clear the President is not bound by the power-sharing agreement with his deputy as was the case in his first term.
They, however, believe Dr Ruto has the requisite clout to take over from Mr Kenyatta through the 2022 General Election.
Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba said the President’s apparent low profile in party politics and preoccupation with other matters, especially teaming with political opponents without wide consultation, have clouded his support in his backyard.
“These agreements and political marriages, which were arranged without proper consultations, have put us where we are. We are moving to where we can be heard,” she said.
Kandara MP Alice Wahome said the President should ensure his legacy does not include a return to the 1990s police state.
The MP is among the DP’s lieutenants who have incessantly accused State House operatives of witch-hunt and misusing the security agencies against leaders they view as associated with Dr Ruto.
The Jubilee Party is facing a fresh storm following the loss in last week’s Kiambaa parliamentary by-election, even as the party’s technical committee is set to meet today to review its performance and plan a retreat to salvage the ruling outfit.
This as, a growing list of leaders— including Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Jubilee parliamentary coalition secretary Adan Keynan, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, Mr Wambugu, and Ndaragwa’s Jeremiah Kioni — push for a change of guard at the party’s secretariat.
The secretariat is led by secretary general Raphael Tuju, chairman Nelson Dzuya, and vocal vice chairman David Murathe.
Yesterday, Jubilee deputy secretary general Joshua Kutuny said the party’s technical committee will meet today in a meeting also expected to be attended by the party’s parliamentary leadership ahead of a planned retreat the party says will be used to plan for its future.
“We are meeting on Monday to decide when we are going to have the retreat. We should be meeting as a small caucus so that we start rolling out some of these reforms. It is going to be a continuous process,” Mr Kutuny told the Nation yesterday.
Additional report by Onyango K’onyango and Nicholas Komu