ATTEMPTS TO FRUSTRATE RUTO BID WILL STRENGTHEN HIS RESOLVE AND ENHANCE HIS CHANCES
By Ochieng’ Kanyadudi, Political and Public Policy Analyst
Soon after the swearing-in of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto for a second and final term, things did not look rosy in government.
Schemes appear to have been hatched to scuttle the succession plot as earlier anticipated. Signs that all was not well begun to emerge as the Cabinet was being unveiled. First, it took longer and when the President finally announced it, it was incomplete. Then the camaraderie earlier displayed in the announcement of the first Jubilee Cabinet was no more. Instead, the President appeared alone as he announced the nominations to the nation.
It was no longer a coalition government. This was now one-party government, with a single head determined to stamp his authority. The other sign was crafting of the Big Four agenda, which appeared to have been done without consulting the partners. It was not lost to keen observers that while Uhuru made the announcement at the swearing-in ceremony, many leaders were caught unawares. It was a radical departure from the campaign manifesto. The President was clearer on the need to bear the responsibility of leadership for the country. Talk of the 2022 elections wasput in the back banner and focus was shifted to service delivery. This was meant to secure his legacy, and it became necessary to reorganise the government. Senior officers were shuffled, redesignated and redeployed at Harambee House and State House. It was apparent the Deputy President was playing insignificant roles in these grand exercises. Then out of the blues, talk of “no debt owed” begun to filter from some key Central Kenya leaders.
Coincidentally or in a deliberate move, Uhuru reached out to his nemesis Raila Odinga in the now famous handshake. The tension within the national political sphere eased like a punctured balloon. With the strong opposition deflated, Uhuru now had ample space to push his agenda as President without much encumbrances. The country witnessed the thawing of hostilities that characterized the political fabric for decades. In these mega events, Ruto seemed to have been left to play catchup. Some people within the Jubilee ranks then launched overt schemes to undermine the influence of Deputy President within the support base. Tiaty MP William Kamket introduced a Bill to revise the structure of the Executive. The intention was to expand it and create another centre of power. The position of Prime Minister had been presented as a panacea to the heavily centralised executive power at the presidency. However, this was immediately interpreted by Ruto men, as attempts to water down the presidential powers as Ruto inched closer to the throne. The handshake deal also begun to unfold and its key plank was constitutional review.
These two processes could not have just been coincidental. Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli might have let the cat out of the bag a little too early. On Labour Day he decleared that Uhuru was still too young to retire from politics. At the same time he made it known that with Raila working with the president, Uhuru did not to worry about anyone else. Pundits wondered whether he was not speaking from a script. Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu’s earlier lone voice in opposing Ruto’s ascendance to the presidency received boost from other Mt Kenya MPs. Soon, they were trouping to Capitol Hill to pay homage to Raila Odinga.
As the Building Bridges Initiative started to take shape, new alliances were being worked on. Raila flew to Kabarak to visit the convalescing Mzee Daniel Moi. On hand to receive him was Baringo Senator and Moi’s preferred successor son, Gideon. This is seen as an attempt to bring in the hand of the old professor of politics into mainstream national politics.
A day later Ruto was refused audience when flew to greet his political mentor. Mzee Moi was reported to have been with his doctors. Observers saw this as a warning to the man from Sugoi that he was not in the right company. Then came the high profile corruption cases, where senior Jubilee leaders allied to the former URP wing were hauled before courts. There was hue and cry that the renewed fight against graft was targeting people close to the Deputy President. National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale could not bear the heat any longer. He sensationally dragged in the president’s family name in the ensuing parliamentary debate on the importation of poisonous sugar duty free. The president’s response was swift — anyone culpable must face the law even if it was his kin and kith.
Then the Mau debacle which saw Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen lead some Kalenjin leaders to defy the government’s exercise to flush out illegal forest settlers. However, it was in Charles Keter that the pain of isolation got clearly demonstrated. The Energy CS was almost tearful as he bemoaned the departure of the top management of Kenya Power. In one fell swoop, the entire management was sent packing and arraigned before the courts on corruption charges.
The latest clear machination at scuttling Ruto’s rise to the presidency is by Kisumu Central MP Fred Ouda. He is sponsoring a motion to stop the Deputy President from even attempting to stand in the next election.
The purge on corruption and succession politics have assumed a dangerous ethnic dimesion.
History is replete with instances when attempts were made overtly or covertly to frustrate the political fortunes of heir apparents. In the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Politburo considered Josef Stalin not a worthy successor of Vladamir Lennin. The leaders thus erected numerous roadblocks on Stalin’s path to the Kremlin. A little earlier, Adolf Hittler, a rank outsider in German politics had outmaneuvered established leaders to become the Furer. In Kenya, Moi was treated to almost similar circus as Jomo Kenyatta became frail with old age vagaries. His friend during these tribulations, Mwai Kibaki, would later be subjected to such misfortunes while serving as his vice president. These leaders have been able to weather the storm and emerge victorious by dint of luck, hard work and sheer tenacity. It should be noted that as the resistance to Ruto’s journey to State House increases so does the intensity and expanse of his activities.
He is more energized and resolute as the challenges to his vision increase. He is building new alliances and seem to ignore those not keen on his leadership. His opponents seem to have reached desperate levels. They are releasing their arsenal in quick succession and may soon ran out of options. The anti-Ruto forces have exposed themselves too much too early unnecessarily. They have a clear objective and strategy but are deficient in tactics, an essential war ingredient. Leaders who are subjected to such indignified treatment always benefit from their victimhood situations.
People normally sympathise with those seen to suffer mistreatment from authorities. Fortunately for them, the forces ganging up against them never find a united front and a single torch bearer to compete. The challenge is that these processes produce likely insecure leaders. Insecure leaders naturally tend to be dictatorial and ruthless. Stalin surmounted the obstacles of the politburo to become the Secretary General of the Party. All those who frustrated his rise to the helm were banished to Siberia or eliminated altogether. It has been argued that Moi’s character as president was shaped more by the maltreatment he was subjected to while serving as Vice President to Kenyatta. Therefore, if history should favour Ruto then, the attempts to frustrate his bid will only serve to strengthen his resolve. The fear should be what political character trait these maltreatment will build in Kenya’s future president.