In Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex, one of the characters Teiresias, a blind prophet, is asked to divine who it was that had offended the gods by killing the king.
He says, | “How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be, when there’s no help in truth!” In short, Teiresias was asking the powerfully philosophical question: “What use is knowing the truth if it cannot help you?”. And that is the question we are asking President Uhuru Kenyatta today.
In naming the partial list of his Cabinet, he has deeply offended many people. And he knows it. He also knows that proceeding on this path could cause irreparable damage to Jubilee and injure the chances of Deputy President William Ruto ascending to the throne. In fact, there are those who now think that the naming of the partial Cabinet has occasioned sharp differences with his deputy, who also sent a strong message by skipping the naming. And that is the truth. But then what help can the truth be to Uhuru at this point? Of course, very little. But even then, we will not spare him the dreadful knowledge of the same.
THE HIDDEN HAND
In forming his next government, Uhuru has two prime motivations. One is that he must secure his legacy in his second and final term as President, and also ensure that Jubilee has a better chance in the coming election. Uhuru, however, seems to want to do things his own way and it appears that his legacy is top on his priority list. Ruto, however, needs allies in the Cabinet who will champion his quest for the presidency — either through getting the regions he would like support from or consolidating those regions that have supported him in the past. Uhuru appears not to be too keen on this. That, however, is not where the problem is. The problem is that there seems to be a hidden hand in Uhuru’s current appointments and a hidden direction.
But while we must wait to be sure after the final list comes out, from what we can see so far, we can safely conclude that there is indeed more than meets the eye.
THE DARK HORSE CANDIDATE
In American politics, the dark horse candidate is the one who goes into the presidential nomination with little or no formal support at the National Convention or even outside, but wins beating favourites. Senator Gideon Moi has turned out to be the dark horse in Jubilee. He comes to Jubilee with little support on the ground, with his party only controlling a small following in the Rift Valley. He has, however, raised his influence in Jubilee to the extent he is causing disquiet in the party. His influence is growing by leaps and bounds and is threatening to upset the applecart. It is now without doubt the recent appointments to the Cabinet, especially the partial naming of it had his shadow over it.
Gideon comes to Jubilee with his old friendship with Uhuru as his major asset, not the people on the ground. And since they went to the same school, Gideon knew Uhuru at a personal level when they were kids. Ruto, on the other hand, came into the picture only recently. Uhuru has a great political debt to the Mois and he seems focussed on paying it back during his final term. The big question is: Will he sacrifice his friendship with Ruto because of this debt? Uhuru was himself the dark horse in Kanu during the evening years of Daniel Moi’s presidency. He emerged from nowhere to become the presidential candidate.
He knows that if President Moi had appreciated Prof George Saitoti’s undivided loyalty, experience and devotion, then Uhuru would have had no chance at all at the presidency. President Moi sacrificed an important relationship so that Uhuru can be who he is today. Will he turn around close to 2022 and say ‘Huyu naibu wa rais, ni rafiki….’
DAYTIME FRIENDS AND NIGHTTIME
DP Ruto and Senator Gideon cannot pretend to be friends. Uhuru is like a polygamous man, and both his wives are fighting each other and urging their husband to divorce the other. But because they both bring different things to the table, Uhuru must keep both of them. A polygamous friend of mine told me that if you have one wife, she fights with you. If you have two wives, they fight for you. Gideon and Ruto are both fighting for Uhuru. Uhuru knows that the Moi name means a lot to him personally, and is largely responsible for who he is today. However, Ruto on the other hand vigorously campaigned for him and warded off a strong NASA onslaught against Jubilee.
For the time being, Uhuru must have both friends, only that he must not appear to be too close to the other, lest the other feel jealous. Jealousy, at least in the political sense, is defined as that feeling you get when an important political relationship is threatened by a significant other. Ruto needs Uhuru’s undivided attention to get to 2022 and so the increased dalliance with Gideon is not sitting pretty with him or his allies. Gideon, on the other hand, sees Ruto as the one who stole his divine right, and destiny.
CRISIS OF FAMILIARITY
But perhaps Uhuru and Ruto are suffering a crisis of familiarity. They now know each other so well that one can afford to snub or ignore the feelings of the other. This comes to all relationships over time and a closer look will tell you that there is probably more than meets the eye between the two. What often exacerbates the situation is the role of the advisers. Unfortunately, leaders such as Uhuru must have a set of advisers who never know what it really means to get dirty in the political trenches. They are ‘advisers’ because they cannot be anything else. Some are failed politicians, who can do no better but to engage the President in openly skewed political talk disguised as advice.
Their ‘advice’ often hinges on propping up the person of the President and the prestige of his office. They must make him look like he never needed anyone to get to where he is. We all saw the role of advisers in the tensions between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga after the 2002 Narc Revolution, and also when the latter became Prime Minister in 2008. Their role is increasingly playing the part in UhuRuto.
MOVING FRED MATIANG’I
There are those who are suspecting that in moving Education CS Fred Matiang’i to the Interior docket, Uhuru may have played to the gallery with the Mois. Being heavy investors in the Education sector, the Mois have considered Matiang’i’s reforms detrimental to their business. Their flagship educational enterprise Kabarak University has, like most private universities, struggled to attract students following the nearly 100 per cent absorption of qualified students by government institutions.
Even Kabarak High School, consistently topped the rankings for many years, is today a pale shadow of itself, thanks to Matiang’i’s reforms. Other schools owned by the Moi Family include Sunshine Secondary School in Nairobi and Sacho High School in Baringo as well as the Moi Educational Centre in Nairobi. The situation is the same in all of them. They can’t have the performance that they need to dazzle prospective students into joining. This is of course not unique to the Moi-owned institutions. Many private educational entities, particularly private universities, have suffered business attrition thanks to the Matiang’i reforms.
The reduction in the number of students going into university has left many owners of private universities scratching their heads. Even when Matiang’i offered to send publicly sponsored students to the private universities, most students do not like the restrictions imposed by the mostly faith-based institutions and simply do not turn up. Besides, the government capitation for each of the students is far too low and doesn’t meet the high establishment costs in private universities. They are considered to be loss leaders. What private universities want is many more candidates obtaining the minimum university entry grade so that they can absorb the spillover. And they can’t have this with Matiang’i.
ELEVATING GIDEON TO CHANCELLOR
Removing Matiang’i from the Ministry of Education is coming only weeks after Gideon was made the Pro-Chancellor for Kabarak University, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate. The university is now in the hands of two powerful politicians the other being Prof John Lonyangapuo, the governor of West Pokot, who is the chairman of the University Council. Gideon presided over the graduation at Kabarak, in which about 676 students were conferred with various degrees. However, as things look, they would be very lucky if they graduate half that number in the next three years. This is why Matiang’i had to go.
While Matiang’i has rubbed up many the wrong way, it is curious that the rise of Gideon to an important function in his father’s educational empire, has coincided with the CS’s transfer from the Education ministry. While we all lauded the reforms instituted by this maverick minister in such a short time, it appears he may have stepped on too many toes. Even the Kenyatta Family being heavy investors in education through their flagship Juja Preparatory and Peponi School have not been spared by his reforms. He has insisted that teachers in the international curriculum (who tend to be foreigners) must also be vetted and licensed by the Government just as those of the local curriculum. This might affect their ability to attract staff to Kenya.
WHO ELSE IS JOINING THE PARTY
At a press conference earlier this week, Gideon came out with a self-assured confidence and his body language and speech betrayed a hidden satisfaction at how things were going. When asked if he had a hand in the impending appointments, he categorically denied it. But if his mission were to include his nominees, then things seem to be going well for him. If his mission was to create a fallout between Uhuru and Ruto, then indeed things were going just fine. We had seen for the first time Ruto skip such an important state function, given his enthusiasm with everything to do with Uhuru.
This, however, is the first time since Independence that we have seen a partial naming of Cabinet except when Kibaki was struggling to support his fragile government after the 2005 referendum debacle. But Uhuru does not have such extra-ordinary circumstances as Kibaki had. There is an unhealthy sense of hesitation from the part of Uhuru, particularly after sacking so many. Gideon Moi may just be shaping up to be the dark horse in Jubilee.