Scramble for Hustler cake: Key faces eyeing William Ruto's Cabinet positions

people eyeing Cabinet positions

Some of the people eyeing Cabinet positions in the government of President-elect William Ruto. From left: Alfred Mutua, Peris Tobiko, Josephat Nanok, Moses Kuria, Musalia Mudavadi and Justin Muturi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

By moving fast to formally name party leader Musalia Mudavadi as its nominee for Prime Cabinet Secretary in the government of President-elect William Ruto, the ANC party was not only going through a routine, it was also staking its claim to the position.

Mr Mudavadi was promised the role when he and his Ford-Kenya colleague Moses Wetang’ula spurned the Azimio la Umoja coalition of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and crossed over to Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance.

The payoff for delivering the western Kenya vote was the role of Prime CS, a Prime Minister in all but name, for Mr Mudavadi, and National Assembly Speaker for Mr Wetang’ula.

It was reported at the time that the agreement was contingent on the two winning for Dr Ruto 70 percent of a vote that has traditionally gone to Mr Odinga.

Far short of target

They delivered far short of the target, so maybe they needed to remind Dr Ruto that the pact still holds.

It is worth noting, however, that Mr Wetang’ula achieved far much more in swinging votes Dr Ruto’s way in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties, than Mr Mudavadi, the presumed senior partner, managed in Kakamega and Vihiga counties.

There are many others expecting rewards for having stood with Dr Ruto since his break with President Uhuru Kenyatta. They include politicians who backed his campaign and extracted promises of government roles, key allies from way past, and technocrats who crafted campaign strategies and position papers.

Having embarked on having the majority in the Senate and National Assembly, Dr Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua will soon be retreating to come up with a Cabinet.

While some are angling for Cabinet slots, others in the inner-circle are eyeing principal secretary jobs and there are those who will find themselves in the corridors of State House, the Office of the President and many other strategic institutions.

‘Many others positions’

Dr Ruto, however, on Tuesday seemed to be deliberately moving to manage the expectations of the large number of people who were eyeing ministerial slots, saying that there are many others positions in which one can serve.

The constitution limits Cabinet secretaries to 22, but already, those being mentioned as likely nominees exceed that number. Dr Ruto also promised 50 percent of the slots to women, and so far, there are a handful on the radar.

Taken together with Western Kenya leaders’ demand for a third of the slots, and a similar demand by leaders from Mt Kenya, who expect a significant piece of the pie, saying the region contributed 42 per cent of Dr Ruto’s total votes, the delicate balancing act for the President-elect is clear.

Criteria

Sources close to the President-elect Tuesday told the Nation that he is looking at the profession, experience, competence and integrity as the criteria for picking his Cabinet.

Among those eyeing Cabinet slots is former Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, who served as director-general of Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign.

Outgoing Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, who lost out to Mr Gachagua for the running mate position, is an almost sure bet. He is the custodian of the Kenya Kwanza agreement and was also Dr Ruto’s chief presidential election agent.

Former Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya is also likely to find himself in the Cabinet, especially since Dr Ruto once mentioned him as a coalition principal.

Angling for top seats

Outgoing National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, former Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua and outgoing Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba, who headed Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign’s international relations wing, are also angling for top seats.

Dr Mutua, the Maendeleo Chap Chap leader, on May 15 disclosed that after ditching Mr Odinga, he was promised a deputy slot under Mr Mudavadi.

“Dr Ruto offered me the deputy chief minister position with a ministerial portfolio in Infrastructure Development,” he claimed.

It is not clear if the offer was backed by a written agreement deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties as was the deal with Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula, but it is an indication that Dr Ruto intends to retain the office of Cabinet Administrative Secretary, controversially created by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Chief of Staff

Former Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir, who is the chief of staff in the Office of the Deputy President and the chief executive of Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign, is expected to be State House Chief of Staff as well as the Head of Public Service.

Mr Muturi and Mr Chirchir are among Dr Ruto’s representatives in the Assumption of the Office of the President Committee.

Dr Ruto’s aide, Augustine Cheruiyot, who was the secretary in all of Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign formations, is likely to be State House Comptroller.

Policy wonk Dr Lindah Musumba, who has been the head of legal in the Dr Ruto’s Presidential Campaign Steering Council, is eyeing the Solicitor-General post.

Following the UDA primaries in April, those who were disgruntled by the outcome and wanted to vie as independents were urged to shelve their ambitions on the promise of state jobs.

Peris Tobiko

While campaigning in Narok and Kajiado counties in mid-June, Dr Ruto publicly said Ms Peris Tobiko, who lost to Katoo Ole Metito in the UDA governor nominations, and Narok Woman Rep Soipan Tuya, who agreed to step down in favour of Mr Patrick Ntutu in the gubernatorial race, could get a slot in his Cabinet.

“I want to assure you that Peris Tobiko will be the first one in the Kenya Kwanza government. She is well-educated. First, we have included her in our nomination list and if she likes, if she feels that there is another job that is superior to that, we will give her that because I have promised in our Cabinet, we will have 50 per cent women,” said Dr Ruto.

It is unlikely, however, that both women from the same region will get the top seats.

Given that UDA listed Ms Soipan second in the list of women nominees to the Senate, she is likely to be excluded from Cabinet consideration in favour of Ms Tobiko who is ranked seventh on the list.

Mike Sonko

A controversial figure eyeing a role in the Dr Ruto government is former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, whose pursuit of the Mombasa governor seat was halted on account of his impeachment in the capital city.

Mr Sonko defected from the Wiper party to Kenya Kwanza on July 30, disclosing that had been promised a Cabinet seat, three posts of principal secretary and four ambassadorial positions, as well as slots in the Mombasa and Nairobi county governments.

Even without the impeachment, it is unlikely that Dr Ruto, who wants to project the image of a clean and competent administration, will give Mr Sonko a senior public office, though that does not preclude his nominees getting something.

Also expecting a Cabinet slot is the outgoing Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo, who was to be Mr Sonko’s running mate in the Mombasa gubernatorial race.

Others who were part of the campaign team that was being coordinated by Mr Nanok and are highly touted as likely to get key government positions include former economists Dr David Ndii and Dr Irene Asienga and Eliud Owalo.

Economic forums

Dr Ndii led the team that coordinated all the county bottom-up economic forums, which later on developed the 47 county economic charters, culminating in the Kenya Kwanza manifesto that was launched on June 30.

Dr Ndii co-founded the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya’s first independent policy think tank. He was a key player in the development of Kenya’s economic recovery strategy in 2002 when the Narc government came to power, and provided key technical support to the 2017 Nasa presidential campaigns before switching to Dr Ruto’s side.

Mr Owalo also served in the Presidential Campaign Steering Council. He was also the deputy secretary-general of UDA responsible for policy and strategy.

He was also tasked with spearheading Dr Ruto’s campaign programmes and activities in Mr Odinga’s Nyanza stronghold. He was the head of Mr Odinga’s presidential campaigns in 2013.

Likely Attorney-General

Flamboyant lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who has been vocal on Twitter supporting Dr Ruto’s presidential bid, is mentioned as a likely Attorney-General, although some sources say he might be more comfortable providing legal services as a private practitioner.

Outgoing Sabatia MP Alfred Agoi who unsuccessfully vied for the Vihiga gubernatorial seat, might find his way into the Cabinet courtesy of Mr Mudavadi.

Outgoing Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who failed in his bid for Kiambu governor, is also likely to get a top position.

The Chama Cha Kazi party leader was a vocal critic of President Kenyatta from his home constituency, and played a vital role in driving propaganda that turned Mt Kenya against the outgoing Head of State.

Outgoing Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, who was floored by Mr George Natembeya in the Trans Nzoia governor race, is also being suggested for a government position. He is very close to Mr Wetang’ula.

Legal hitch

Dr Ruto could face a legal hitch in replacing chief executives of top state-owned firms, with a majority of their contracts running up to 2024.

His ministers will either have to wait longer to replace the CEOs or tear up their contracts in a move that could attract lawsuits.

Traditionally, a change in administration often triggers shake-ups in parastatals as the President and ministers move to assert their influence over government-managed firms that continue to be used for patronage.

Besides the contract hitch, the outgoing administration has in recent weeks increased the pace of appointments to parastatal boards, with dozens of state corporations tapping nearly 200 directors in weeks.

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