An old man can see far seated than a boy perched on a treetop - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 21 February 2021

An old man can see far seated than a boy perched on a treetop


Celebrated Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once remarked that Africans are at their best when telling their stories in proverbs.

In the Mount Kenya region, there is a saying that an old man seated on the ground can still see farther than a boy perched on a treetop. Here is my story.

In February 2016, 90 year-old veteran politician John Keen (he would pass away on Christmas day the same year) and I were headed to his ranch near Namanga border town riding in his vehicle. Just past Isinya township, his telephone rang.

His personal assistant had message that Deputy President William Ruto would be dropping in for dinner at his Karen home that evening. “We have to turn back to Nairobi,” Mzee Keen told his driver.


The following day, we were back on the road to Namanga. Journalists’ curiosity had me asking the old man how was dinner with his VIP guest. “It went on very well”, he told me. “We served him ugali, goat meat, greens, and sour milk (mursik) which he liked.”

They also transacted business and talked politics. You can guess what kind of business the DP was doing with the old man – he was buying some land from him.

Former Senator Johnstone Muthama once gave the DP the nickname “Bwana Mashamba”. I wonder whether he still calls him by same name now that they are great buddies in the wheelbarrow party.


My interest was in what politics the old man talked with his special visitor. He told me the DP was keen to learn about the complex Maasai clan politics which very much determine election outcomes in Kajiado, Narok, and Samburu.

The three counties have about a million votes, a mouth-watering figure for anybody with presidential ambitions.

On his part the old man too, wanted to hear something from the DP. He asked him whether he expected his political dalliance with President Uhuru Kenyatta to last to 2022 elections.

Mzee Keen told me the question caught his guest by surprise. At the time, everybody thought UhuRuto alliance was a marriage made in heaven.

Nobody contemplated that in just two years the marriage would take a trajectory for the rocks – and a likely messy divorce. But purely on political sixth sense born of experience – not any secret information privy to him – Mzee Keen could see it coming.

The old man reported to me that after some pause to reflect on the question put to him, the DP said he fully trusted the friendship with the President would last the whole stretch and he would back his presidential bid come 2022.

But Mzee Keen wasn’t about to let the matter rest at that. He pursued: “What about the eventuality of the President abandoning you midstream, or that he sticks with you but his Mount Kenya backyard has other ideas?”

After yet another long pause, Mzee Keen told me, the DP said in the event the President backslides on his pledge, he would take himself to Mount Kenya and ask for votes.

 Secret plan “B”

In retrospect, and going by scuttled disclosures from various sources since relationship between the President and his deputy headed south, either the DP had secretly been putting in place a plan “B” even as he talked to Mzee Keen, or began to assemble one after the conversation that evening.

Just sample this: Only last Sunday during a talk show on vernacular FM station, Kieni MP Kanini Kega disclosed that the fall-out between the President and his supposed principal assistant began immediately after 2017 elections when the President learned the DP has secretly lined up over 100 MPs to be doing his “bidding” behind the President’s back.

Parallel centre

The first agenda, the MP alleged, was to remove current Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi – a staunch ally of the President since their days in Kanu -–and replace him with the DP’s man.

When the President learnt about it, said the MP, he hit the roof and angrily told a closed door Jubilee parliamentary meeting, the very first after the August 2017 election, that he knew there was an attempt to create a parallel centre of power in Jubilee and in the country but he wouldn’t allow it.

The MPs account somehow collaborated an account by Senator Kipchumba Murkomen late last year when he told a local TV station that he saw a different President Kenyatta during the first Jubilee PG meeting after 2017 elections when the head of state spoke with “rare hostility” and unfriendly body language to his deputy.

The outspoken senator alleged the President was only slowed down by the Supreme Court decision to nullify his election, hence necessity to have a united Jubilee to win in the repeat election.

And this week, a confidential source revealed that even as early as 2017, concern had been raised at high places over the huge financial war chest the DP had amassed and questions raised as to the motive.

The handshake

The source says the state machinery only hesitated to move against him only because there was a coming closely contested election where a slight shake-up in the Jubillee house would have been to great advantage of the opposition.

It would also appear a plan had been put in place for President Kenyatta to seek rapprochement with opposition leader Raila Odinga and creep the DP wings long before the March 2018 “handshake”, at least going by remarks by Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe in yet another TV talk show this week.

He said: “All along we knew we couldn’t get far with that man (the DP).

We knew his character well and just wanted to get past 2017 and we put him in his place.”

 ** ** **

Well, in the light of the recent events including last week challenge by the President’s that the DP take a walk if he feels dissatisfied in Jubilee, and the decision to lock him out of a cabinet meeting on Thursday, wonder what the late Mzee Keen, were he alive, would tell the DP if they were to have another meal together. Maybe something like: “Look young man, I told you so!” By Daily nation  

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