By Joab Apollo
They have been in the lips of coveting Kenyans for a long time about the multibillion shillings business empires, farms and homes they own, but their influence in the country’s presidential election has always been underestimated by an electorate given to the clarion call, “People Power!”
But on Tuesday 28th September, 2021, the men and women who have now earned the moniker, “Wenye Nchi”, Kiswahili word for “Owners of the Nation”, majestically stepped out of their state-of-the-art offices in downtown Nairobi to unapologetically announce their influence in Kenya’s social, political and economic development.
Emboldened by a bitter succession politics, the powerful group of industrialists and senior government officials seen to be the innercore of President Uhuru Kenyatta, hosted former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the prestigious Safari Park Hotel and threw their weight behind his 2022 presidential bid, igniting public debate about their ability to sway the voters.
In their speeches, aired live on TV, they came hammer and tongs against the embattled Deputy President William Ruto, who has since bitterly fallen out with President Kenyatta, while heaping praises on Kenyatta’s enemy- turned-friend, Odinga, as the safest hands for Kenya’s resources.
Peter Munga, founder of the Equity Group Holdings, the biggest bank in asset base in East and Central Africa region went ahead to liken Odinga to former South African President the late Nelson Mandela.
“You don’t need to go looking for followers, your inspiration will simply draw them to you,” he said
“Mandela never looked front for followers. Instead, they were attracted to him. We are going to let you know our expectations when you occupy plot number one (State House)” He added
Media and Real Estate mogul SK Macharia said, “We believe President Uhuru Kenyatta will leave this country in good hands, the hands he went to look for to shake.” in an apparent reference to the famous handshake between Kenyatta and Odinga, believed to have cooled political temperatures in the country.
While Odinga’s supporters are now more buoyant than before about their man taking the country’s leadership mantle, thanks to the support of these tycoons, those of his rival, Deputy President William Ruto, are breathing fire and brimstone. They branded the Deep State meeting as a congregation of self seekers who cannot match the power of the people.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, a close ally of the Deputy President, said the businessmen have no tangible record to convince the masses.
“They are there to protect their ill-gotten wealth and dirty deals. There’s nothing they have done to the common man.” He scolded in a video on the internet.
Ruto’s group on Wednesday announced the formation of the National Hustlers Foundation, which they intend to use to counter the influence of the business leaders. They argue that their’s is a movement that champions the plight of the poor, which they have christened “hustlers”
In the past, the tycoons have played a silent role in the election of former President Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. Their public show of might is viewed as a statement to the Deputy President and supporters of the ruling party that Dr. Ruto isn’t their choice.
Will they hold sway once again? It’s a matter of wait and see.