Politics

Moi played Kenya: Why politicians died to visit him…and not Kibaki

Baba Jimmy is said to be formal, mean and aloof while Baba Gideon was open, generous and still was ‘professor of politics’

Listen, young man: President Uhuru Kenyatta with his mentor, retired President Moi at his Kabarak home in Nakuru County.

By Undercover Reporter

Retired President Mwai Kibaki remains-so far- the best Head of State Kenya ever had. Former President Daniel arap Moi will go down in history as the worst.

Yet, it was common to see Kenyan politicians begging, jostling, pushing, shoving and fighting to visit Moi all the way to Kabarak, Nakuru County and not Kibaki-who is holes up in Muthaiga, Nairobi County-where most operate from.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his mother, former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, were regulars at Kabarak, ostensibly tapping into Moi’s storehouse of paternal wisdom, or what remained of it. Yet, the Kibakis and the Kenyattas are nestled in Muthaiga where they’re neighbours.

But the political record of either president pointed to more wisdom in seeking Kibaki’s counsel than Moi.

Among reasons advanced in choosing the nincompoop over the brainbox were as interesting as the politicians who made a beeline to see the old geezer in Kabarak. Yet, to say Kenya went to the dogs under Moi’s 24 year rule, would be insulting the dogs.

Moi turned the country into a single party dictatorship where the freedom of the press, expression, association, and movement were curtailed. 

There was no rule of law, the media was gagged and he emasculated parliament and the judiciary. He reintroduced detention without trial which had been suspended in 1978. He ruined the economy which back peddled to a negative two percent growth rate by the time he left power in 2002.

In the seven years to 1987, what grew under Moi’s presidency was government: the number of civil servants ballooned at a rate of 5.4 per cent annually — faster than the population, faster than the private sector, and faster than the gross national product, according to Richard Sandbrook’s The Politics of Africa’s Economic Stagnation.

Other growth areas involved grand corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, negative ethnicity and White Elephants which came to grief after comical waste of taxpayer’s money via ill conception and implementation.

What transformative ideas did Moi possibly dish out? 

Kibaki, on the other hand, nosed north access to social services making Kenyans the ‘happiest people on earth’ in the first years of his presidency. The economy galloped at annual rate of 7.5 percent by 2007, the first such in 32 years. Kibaki opened democratic space and was not the omnipresent Big Man in every news bulletin. He left in 2013 with his legacy pegged on unprecedented infrastructural development.

Dynasty: Retired President Moi with Mama Ngina Kenyatta at Kabarak in January 2018.

So, why did politicians fall over each other to visit Moi-who ruined our lives-and not Kibaki who built it? What transformative ideas did Moi, who preferred handpicked incompetent loyalists, possibly dish out? 

For starters, political pundits argue that politics is about intangible things like charisma which Moi had and Kibaki does not. Moi was open, approachable even in Nakuru. Kibaki is closed up, bureaucratic here in Nairobi where he prefers sipping muteta soup on the lawns of his home with his former golfing buddies from Muthaiga Golf Club.

But more importantly, Moi had the advantage of old political connections. His four decades in power gifted him with invaluable favours owed to him by influential families like the Odingas in Luo Nyanza, the Salats in the Rift Valley, the Nassirs at the Coast.

They come in handy as opinion leaders, they have strong grass root networks for mobilization purposes. A serious political player would need them, but alas! Kibaki has no such pervasive political links, even in his Central Kenya backyard.

Then there is that small matter of political dynasties.

The Kenyattas, the Odingas and the Mois feel safe with one of their own in power. While all three dynasties play significant roles, Kibaki did not cultivate a political heir. None of his children took to politics. Jimmy Kibaki tried with Inuka Kenya but nothing much came of it. Jimmy has no political constituency or base. The Kibakis, therefore, have little political sway in Central Kenya.

There is thus no dynastic advantage in playing Kibaki courtesy calls.

In Moi, observers point out, there was political continuity. Two of Moi’s sons are politicians. Raymond Moi is MP for Rongai while Gideon Moi is Senator for Baringo.

Kibaki is also aloof, a tightwad and without time for niceties while Moi was open, generous and spent more years in power and still remained ‘the professor of Kenyan politics.’

Moi was president for 24 years, Kibaki for only 10 and thus he had more experience

Another political insider intimated that Moi made Uhuru Kenyatta his project and he eventually became President after the political anointment meaning he had a “bigger political eye” than Kibaki who was largely made president by Raila’s declaration of ‘Kibaki Tosha.

I am here too: Kalonzo Musyoka was also counted in.

“Moi was president for 24 years, Kibaki for only 10 and thus he had more experience, was on people’s lives longer and thus still has latent political power,” says a seasoned political reporter adding that “politics being about perceptions and not the reality of how Kibaki developed the country with highways. Moi had charisma, Kibaki does not and that in politics matters more than infrastructure projects.”

When former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta visited Moi in January 2017, their meeting took political undertones despite her explaining that “I am here to check on a friend.”

Insiders later intimated that Mama Ngina was not leaving anything to chance in a bid to have his son re-elected in the 2017 elections which were only seven months away. Chief among discussion points as the two dug at beef-ugali with greens was DP Ruto’s controlling and garrulous methods as Uhuru’s second in command.

 Mama Ngina thus exercised ‘soft power,’ the shadowy pulling of political strings with eyes on the larger political chess board where the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin are veritable pawns. That Deputy President William Ruto, a perceived political kingpin in the vote rich Rift Valley, was ‘fighting’ Gideon Moi, could have ruined Uhuru’s chances had he opted to support the opposition’s National Super Alliance (NASA), yet Gideon was not running for the presidency!

That Uhuru should have Rift Valley as a bloc without Gideon and Ruto ‘dividing votes’ was Mama Ngina’s concern.  Gideon Moi was instrumental in facilitating the meeting, even dictating that “no one in politics should be seen hovering around the home.”

Mama Ngina then had a photo taken.  Only the photographer and Mama Ngina’s daughter Kristina Pratt were allowed in.

Mombasa Raha: Governor Ali Hassan Joho was in the house.

Indeed, photo-ops with Moi were later splashed on social media as an insignia of political endorsement and membership into inner sanctums of power.

Among those who paraded photo-ops with retired President Moi included former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Veep Kalonzo Musyoka, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat, former presidential hopeful Peter Kenneth and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir.

 Some politicians didn’t seem to mind embarrassments in their bid to visit Moi. Like Deputy President William Ruto. In April 2019, Moi lost his eldest son  Jonathan Toroitich. Ruto was barred from condoling Moi at Kabarak and instead, was forced to pass his rambi rambi at Jonathan’s rural home in Kabimoi, Baringo County.

Last year, Ruto failed to meet the former President, leading to a political storm between Jubilee and Kanu leaders in the Rift Valley.

Why can’t Ruto pay his courtesy call to retired President Kibaki who is mostly free?

Lee Njiru Moi’s spokesman at the time confirmed that DP Ruto had visited but did not see the former president as his visit “coincided with the time of Mzee Moi’s routine physical exercise with his doctors. Mzee Moi agreed to meet the visitors at a convenient time another day in the very near future,” but being denied access had been interpreted as part of Ruto’s supremacy battles with Senator Gideon Moi on who would take the mantle as Kalenjin political kingpin.

No Country for Old Men: Mwai Kibaki has been visited less than thrice in retirement. (Right) Jimmy Kibaki, Governor Nderitu Muriithi, Raila, Governor Mike Sonko and Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o in April 2018.

It is also deemed as the continuation of a well-calculated plan to isolate Ruto in the run up to the 2022 General Election in which he is a key contestant to replace President Uhuru Kenyatta when his terms ends.

As Ruto was toughing it out being humiliated, the Moi family had no heart burn hosting President Kenyatta at Kabarak. Uhuru was received no less, by  Senator Moi before holding talks with the retired President and in the company of Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis, MPs Moses Lessonet (Eldama Ravine), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) and Caleb Kositany (Soy). 

Why didn’t Ruto pay his courtesy call to Kibaki who is mostly free, smarter and left an enviable legacy?

In any case, since Kibaki left office in 2013, the politicians dropping by his Muthaiga home can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, now firmly in Jubilee government visited Kibaki in April 2018, a month after the March ‘Handshake’ which is credited with cooling political temperatures.   

Raila was in the company of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang Nyong’o, Raila’s lawyer Paul Mwangi and Jimmy Kibaki. Others were Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua and Kibaki’s nephew and Laikipia Governor Nderitu Muriithi, Analysts viewed the two hour meeting as part of reorganizing Succession politics via realigning the Mt Kenya voting bloc which is being primed through secret meetings by players in Deep State. 

Insider whispered that the whole choreography was to make “Raila the Mt Kenya candidate” for 2022 elections.

Political observers told Undercover that there were other reasons why politicians preferred Moi to Kibaki. Moi encouraged politicians to pay him courtesy calls at State House Nairob, a tradition they continued into his retirement. Kibaki, on the other hand, banned casual visits to State House where he was not known for dishing out favours and financial handouts.  “You might visit Kibaki and be kept waiting and still leave with nothing but with Moi it was different,” offered a media practitioner who covered politics” adding “the fact that you were allowed to shake hands had political weight and you did not leave empty handed.”

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