Wanjigi turns 2022 Presidential Election into battle of the Kingmakers

Every now and then in Kenyan elections, a grandmaster arrives and transforms the game with a new and unexpected gambit.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, businessman Jimi Wanjigi and Deputy President William Ruto

The country is inching closer to the 2022 elections and in true political fashion, billionaire Jimi Wanjigi has emerged as the surprise presidential candidate to watch.

The race which has largely been considered as a battle between career politicians is now likely to turn into a battle of the kingmakers.

Political analysts often use chess as a metaphor to describe the nature of Kenya’s politics.

Every now and then, a grandmaster arrives and transforms the game with a new and unexpected gambit.

At the moment, the state of affairs in Kenya looks badly in need of some brilliant new thinking.

Many of the experienced leaders are in a mess. The ruling party is hemorrhaging members, the deputy president is locked in a cold war with his boss, the opposition is non-existent and the economy is on its knees, the government’s cash crunch notwithstanding.

The political chessboard seems to be crying out for bold new moves. What might they be?

Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Wanjigi are some of the individuals who have impacted Kenyan politics the most in the last two decades.

Raila was the kingmaker in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s huge success in 2002, while Ruto contributed immensely to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in 2013 and 2017.

However, perhaps the most common denominator in both governments is the reclusive billionaire Wanjigi who has now decided to take a stab at the Presidency.

Wanjigi had been operating in the shadows of Kibaki’s government and is credited for his role in the formulation of the original plan to construct the Standard Gauge Railway.

His dedication to the project saw him fall out with Jubilee which diverted his vision for the railway and turned it from a commercial project to a government to government project.

This resulted in the inflation of the project's costs, contributing to the increase of the government's debt by more than Sh300 billion.

Wanjiigi also employed his strategies in the former PM’s camp, culminating in a closely contested presidential election. He also led the team that convinced the Supreme Court to nullify the August 2017 presidential poll.

This resulted in a raid at the billionaire’s Muthaiga residence, giving Kenyans a glimpse into his fortress which police searched for him for three days with no luck.

After winning the firearms case, Wanjigi took a back seat on the political front.

Opinions differ as to whether Odinga is a political grandmaster or a pawn who is on the verge of being checkmated.

His relationship with President Kenyatta has pushed him closer to power but at risk is him being linked with the failures of the government of the day.

Perfected over many years, Ruto’s hustler strategy is based around the principle of offering hope to a nation that has been through tough times courtesy of the same government he serves.

While Odinga is yet to declare his intentions to vie for Presidency, it will be interesting to watch how the former PM, Ruto and Wanjigi play their pieces and how it will affect the political dynamics in Kenya.


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