President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday launched a full-blown attack on his deputy William Ruto and the latter’s “premature” 2022 campaigns, as he defended the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in a passionate appeal to his restive Mt Kenya backyard.
Speaking in a pre-recorded address aired on Gikuyu FM stations, the Head of State dismissed DP Ruto’s hustler-versus-dynasties talk, terming it potentially dangerous and divisive to the country.
Keen to address concerns that he has been laid-back and hands-off in the succession politics of the vote-rich Mt Kenya, leaving his deputy to roam free and build sizable support, Mr Kenyatta asked the region to allow him to focus on development, promising round-the-country tours at the tail-end of his term.
He dismissed fears — captured in a bare-knuckle letter by Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata — of an impending flop of the BBI in Central, accusing the Ruto camp of manipulating its contents and agenda to mislead Mt Kenya voters.
He warned Mt Kenya residents that they stand to lose should they be misled to reject the BBI.
“The funny thing is that they are telling you that they will deliver heaven to you… I believe you are wise to realize that the very big things they are promising you can be delivered to you today,” the President said in comments seen to be targeting the DP. “They are in government and no one is opposed to them delivering those promises now.”
The DP has been endearing himself to Central voters through his ‘wheelbarrow movement’ that pledges to address issues affecting the common person — including joblessness, hunger, poor healthcare among others.
He has dismissed BBI as a “big man project” whose focus is on sharing power as Kenyans struggle with Covid-19, high taxes and poor services. Mr Kenyatta took issue with those telling Mt Kenya residents that he has not delivered development to them.
“I also watch and listen to them in those meetings and the first thing they start telling you is how the government has built roads, has delivered water projects… Whose government do they refer to? Who is the head of that government?” he posed.
Confident of his support in the region, the President said he will not compete with Tangatanga in touring Mt Kenya, this coming on the backdrop of loud murmurs that he has become inaccessible, aloof and recalcitrant.
Saying he will not be quick to arrest those insulting him, suggesting it was what they wanted to gain political relevance, President Kenyatta, however, warned against what he said will be crossing the line: Utterances that endanger the peace.
“Some say I will send police to arrest them when they insult me, but since the foul words do not stick on my body, I’ll remain disinterested. But he or she who attempts to curtail development and peace will truly know I might look like a rained on lion but certainly I’m not a cat,” he said.
He dismissed the hustler-versus-dynasties narrative being peddled by the Ruto-allied Tangatanga outfit, repeating his call for a rotational presidency.
Two weeks ago, the President had suggested that Kenyans elect someone outside the Kikuyu-Kalenjin group for president, citing the fact that presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki, and himself are from the Kikuyu community while second president Daniel Moi was Kalenjin—the deputy president’s tribe.
The DP has hit back at his boss over the comment, arguing that Kenyans should be left to elect their Head of State based on his or her manifesto and plans.
Mr Kenyatta defended the BBI, saying, it sought to benefit the region in getting guarantees that even without their own as president, their resources and power share will be well catered for.
Referring to the proposed 70 additional constituencies — where Nairobi will get 12, Central 11, Rift Valley 23 — as well as entrenchment into law the one man, one shilling, one vote approach to sharing national resources, the President asked the region to take the win.
He accused Tangatanga team of using his ‘Handshake’ partner Raila Odinga as a bogeyman to whip up emotions against BBI in the region, adding, “these are lies being peddled that the BBI is my intention to hand over power to him in 2022.”
Both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have insisted that the BBI was not aimed at the 2022 succession, but the DP has consistently painted the initiative as Mr Odinga’s magic bullet in what will be his fifth attempt at the top job.
Yesterday, the Head of State reiterated that, while Tangatanga posit that the Handshake and BBI was an arrangement between him and Mr Odinga, “I consulted them and they were very much aware of my move, only to nowadays hear them lying that they were not in the know.”
In the radio interview, the President trashed the raging debate on the cost of a referendum saying “those quoting figures are the better placed to tell us how they arrived at their computations.” While Mr Odinga has said the cost should not exceed Sh2 billion, the electoral commission has cited Sh14 billion as their estimated cost.
We should ask ourselves whether it will be worth it in comparison to the huge amounts they have stolen from us through corruption and which culture of plundering our resources we seek to neuter through BBI,” President Kenyatta said.