Six days after the widely publicised lunch date between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto at Harambee House Annex, details of the talks are starting to emerge.
Interviews with those familiar with the deliberations revealed that, while choreographed as a sign of an end to the strained relationship and set a new sense of camaraderie, Mr Kenyatta was on a mission last Tuesday to psychologically prepare his deputy over impending “drastic actions” he intends to take in the ongoing war on corruption.
Those who were present in Mr Ruto’s office block at the time of the meeting say April could be the turning point for Mr Kenyatta’s legacy as the chief state prosecutor Noordin Haji institutes charges against three Cabinet Secretaries.
The prosecution of the three CSs at a go would trigger a Cabinet reshuffle with far-reaching political ramifications.
Before meeting Mr Ruto, the President had met Opposition leader Raila Odinga at State House. The Sunday Nation was, however, unable to immediately establish what the two discussed before the ODM leader later left the country for Morocco.
We gathered that Mr Kenyatta will use Thursday’s State of the Nation address in Parliament during a joint sitting of the Senate and the National Assembly to make the strongest declaration yet that he had made the fight on corruption his singular goal to achieve his legacy projects.
Action is then expected to follow. During the meeting, the Head of State is said to have delivered a firm message to Dr Ruto: Support me in the fight against corruption.
“The Head of State asked the DP to join hands with him to slay the dragon of corruption. He told him should he see any high profile arrests, he should not take it personally,” a source said.
According to a senior official at the Presidency, Mr Kenyatta had brushed aside accusations from Rift Valley politicians like Oscar Sudi that Directorate of Criminal Investigation boss George Kinoti was being used to fight political wars in the name of the anti-graft campaign until the DP picked up the matter himself.
He is said have taken the matter up during the Tuesday meeting. The sentiments are corroborated by another politician who was present.
National Assembly Majority Whip Ben Washiali who attended the meeting said it was not official but an opportunity for the leaders present to have lunch together.
Observers however say that, like celebrated Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s analogy and as unusual as the trip to Annex looked, a toad does not run in the daytime for nothing.
Initial claims had suggested that the President had summoned the Jubilee Party parliamentary leadership to discuss plans for the State of the Nation address.
“It had nothing to do with the address. The President visited and it was purely a lunch date,” Mr Washiali said of the meeting that caught the country by surprise owing to the strained relationship between the two leaders. State House was reluctant to discuss details of a private meeting their boss had with the DP.
The DP’s office also assumed the same approach to a subject considered sensitive in the government circles with Director of Communications Emmanuel Talam saying: “I can’t know what they discussed because they were alone. No one else knows the details of the discussion.”
Mr Kenyatta first had a private meeting with his deputy before they invited other leaders like Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Mr Washiali to join in. The information we have obtained is courtesy of what they shared out with their close allies or aides.
Earlier in the week, Dr Ruto’s press Secretary David Mugonyi said: “The workings between the Deputy President and his boss, the President of the Republic of Kenya are not available to me. All I can say is that when the President visited they went into a working lunch.”
As a sign that they may be privy to what is in the offing, Jubilee MPs allied to the DP have become bolder by the day, even directly charging at the President, something hitherto unheard of.
President Kenyatta on Friday declared that he will not allow politics to derail his government’s anti-corruption drive. He maintained that investigative agencies should be left to do their work unhindered.
“It is not me…corruption has been identified as a stumbling block towards achieving prosperity and equality. Again there is no politics there…let us allow the agencies to do their work. Let us not turn this to community fights, to individual fights,” the Head of State said.
Aware of the old habit of politicians playing the tribal card when authorities narrow down either on them or individuals from their regions, Mr Kenyatta cautioned that the country would not develop if the habit was to be tolerated.
“You will hear that so and so is being targeted but we must deal with corruption. The fact is that whether we want to accept it or not, it exists and it is an impediment and a stumbling block. Let us not politicise it, or tribalise it. Let us find the formula to fight it,” he said.
If any of the DP-leaning ministers is touched, a pandemonium not seen when Sports CS Rashid Echesa was fired at the beginning of the month will likely be witnessed with reverberations in his expansive political base, the Rift Valley and other areas he has tentacles. The net effect would be escalation of hostilities.
Close associates of the DP like the Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen have already vowed that “enough is enough”.
“We are aware that there are dirty tricks up the sleeves, targeted corruption investigations are part of them and we will not sit and watch as wrongs are done,” Mr Murkomen said.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is among high ranking government officials who have been questioned by the DCI and remains within their radar.
While some analysts had intimated that DP could storm out of government before the next elections to properly take on his enemies, he ruled that option out on Friday. While attending a fundraiser in Vihiga on Friday, Dr Ruto said he would keep his seat until 2022 when he plans to run for president.
By coming out to reassure supporters that he was staying put, the second in command was indirectly acknowledging the fact that things were getting hotter by the day.
It would see more members of the Jubilee Party beginning to talk at the president. Those who are “forward-looking” and working on the assumption that Mr Kenyatta will soon be a lame-duck President have chosen to cast their lot with the DP.
Mr Sudi, the lawmaker from Kapseret has challenged the President to begin his plans for lifestyle audit for public servants by looking at how his own father, Jomo Kenyatta-the founding president, acquired his wealth to be taken seriously.
Unlike Mr Kenyatta who is doing his final term, working for Dr Ruto comes with a promise for the future for most of the MPs. This, together with the fact that he takes care of their welfare has guaranteed him most MPs from the ruling party since the cold war with the President began after the handshake.
But the lawmakers could also be mistaken since President Kenyatta is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.