He is a stalwart within the precincts of power. He is petulant yet a shrewd technocrat. And he now has his eyes trained on the big seat.
Powerful Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has reportedly secured the backing of two of the country’s most influential leaders. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga are said to be quietly positioning the super CS as their possible compromise candidate.
The details emerged as Matiang’i and Deputy President William Ruto openly clashed — signalling that no love is lost between the duo — who could face off in the 2022 presidential duel.
Already, the anxiety at Ruto’s camp has hit its apogee with palpable tension thrusting the team into panic. This is exacerbated by the revelation that Matiang’i is being propped up by powerful people, including influential individuals within the First Family- read- Mama Ngina.
Matiang’i earlier frosty relationship with Raila has thawed and most of the ODM leader’s trusted allies are warming up to him.
He has recently made several trips to Raila’s Luo Nyanza backyard in the company of several ODM leaders, launching a couple of development projects and presiding over fundraisers.
The tough-talking CS has also taken up communal activities, visiting his rural Kisii backyard several times, in a strategy to rally the region behind him.
He is touted as a worthy scion to fill the void left by former Cabinet minister Simon Nyachae who retired 12 years ago as the spokesman for and unifying figure of the Kisii community.
Since the handshake, the CS holds Raila in high regard and has in various public fora heaped praise on him as a “statesman”.
The latest signal of Matiang’i growing influence was witnessed on Friday in Kirinyaga where he led a host of pro-handshake politicians, among them six governors and at least 50 MPs, to a fundraiser.
Matiangi chairs the powerful National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee, charged with the implementation and monitoring of all development projects.
The role puts Matiangi at the heart of the Executive and is seen to have enfeebled the influence of the DP who had been launching development projects countrywide.
Just a day before, Matiangi had been dispatched by Uhuru to a goat auction in Kajiado county where he was accompanied by Environment CS Keriako Tobiko and Governor Joseph Lenku.
During the Kirinyaga event, Matiangi openly lashed out at Ruto while extolling Uhuru and Raila and drumming up support for the Building Bridges Initiative.
Matiangi publicly announced that he had been sent with donations from the President and Raila, “our two leaders”.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta is aware we are here and sent us with his contribution, and the Honourable former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has also sent greetings and his contributions through ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho,” Matiang’i announced.
Looking like a man who has secured the backing of his Kisii community, Matiang’i landed in Kirinyaga with a majority of the region’s elected leaders, including its two governors James Ongwae (Kisii) and John Nyagarama (Nyamira).
Also in attendance were Governor Joho (Mombasa), Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli.
During the Kirinyaga event, Matiang’i accused some unnamed politician of hiring individuals to taint his name and that of Interior PS Karanja Kibicho.
“Somebody paid some people to claim that we are the terrible duo from the office of the President,” Matiang’i said. He went ahead to launch a tirade against Ruto, making it clear that they [he and Kibicho] only take instructions from the President.
“A country is led like a family. Is there a family that is led by two men? No. A family is only led by one man,” Matiang’i declared, insisting that his loyalty was only to President Uhuru.
Deputy President (DP) William Ruto on Sunday hit back by warning senior government officials against chest-thumping and showing disrespect.
“Nataka niwaulize wafanyikazi wa serikali. Kila mtu ambaye amepewa kazi na Uhuru Kenyatta na serikali ya Jubilee, wacha kupiga kifua, wacha madharau. Msione eti hawa wananchi ni wajinga, eti kwa sababu hawana ofisi kubwa kama yenu (Let me want government officers. Everyone who has been given a job by [President] Uhuru Kenyatta and Jubilee government, stop your chest-thumping),” said DP Ruto.
“Matiang’i comes out as a serious presidential candidate from his demeanour and the forceful way he has been doing his work. He has outshone his colleagues and is definitely telling the big boys, ‘Bring it on and I will win the presidency’,” political analyst Herman Manyora told the Star.
“On his own, Matiang’i may not have the muscle because he is a newcomer in this game. But if he is propped up by Uhuru or Raila, then he comes out as a strong candidate…All over the world, ministers who have outshone their Cabinet colleagues have come out to be presidents or prime ministers.”
But Ruto’s allies have corked their guns.
“Matiang’i should know that the position he holds is a very small one and he knows nothing about leadership and politics. I dare him to face me in a contest for an MCA seat in is Nyamira county and he will lose terribly,” Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany said Matiangi’s decision to respect only Uhuru and Raila meant his days in government were numbered.
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