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January 21, 2019

OKECH KENDO: Clash in Rift: The Prince vs the Peasant

David vs Goliath
David vs Goliath

The two political stars of the Rift Valley may clash in 2022 for the ultimate prize of political power — the presidency.

Each is titanic in his own way: One is ‘gigantic’ by birth and enjoys a deceptive sense of entitlement. The big family name alone, however, has not fired the ambition of the laid-back Prince of Kabarak.

But the next four years could bring out the untested in the scion of the professor of politics. The ‘professor’ was a school teacher who became President for 24 years, when his peers thought of him as a passing cloud. He was also loyal as he marked time for the top.

Still waters ran deep in the case of Daniel arap Moi. Can the prince prove he is a chip off the old block in the countdown to 2022 and beyond?

The other giant is a product of unrelenting, unrefined, unmoderated ambition. The man has gravitas. The ambition is grounded on early experience with the predictable politics of acquisition and distribution. He knew, like his mentor Moi did, and still knows, you need the carrot and the stick to bait the gullible.

He was a Bible-carrying member of the Christian Union at the University of Nairobi in the 1980s and chicken seller. A son of a peasant, who has hustled his way to be Deputy President. But ambition is not a straight line of go-getting always on your terms.

This giant learnt at the feet of the grandmaster of the politics of distribution, but the times are changing. The ‘Big One’ of the Big Four presidential legacy agenda is aiding the change momentum. The Big One is the fight against corruption and impunity.

But the Peasant of Sugoi needs to learn that personal generosity may excite the pillars of a political campaign, but may not influence the masses who suffer the politics of handouts. The electorate want transformative leadership.

Senator Gideon Moi ­— the Prince — lost the crown because he eyed the prize as an entitlement. He is a victim of ambition, without the alloy of craftiness and generosity. William Ruto is the Peasant who fled the kraal with the royal crown.

He does not regret the day he dismantled the Moi empire. The popular fatigue with the 24 years of Nyayo rule aided Ruto’s athletic sprint ahead of Gideon. The National Rainbow Coalition wave of 2002 exploited this fatigue to push for change. Ruto also read the signs when he aligned himself with ODM in 2007. Rallying behind Raila Odinga fortified Ruto’s hustler politics.

The coming clash in Rift Valley could be more dramatic than it was in 2002. The rift could also lack a sense of occasion, if the Prince of Kabarak does not flash the ‘hidden card’.

The Peasant of Sugoi is exciting his lackeys with his famed generosity. The same charm he uses against the Prince of Kabarak. But the election is four years away.

Meanwhile Gideon is sending signals from behind the curtains. Unless this changes to a more effective outreach, Ruto could still outrun him. A second thrashing would humiliate the empire during the lifetime of the King.

Between 2011 and 2012, Ruto met most Kalenjin MPs at his homes and in hotels. During the meetings, the Peasant of Sugoi was the meal ticket. He would give the MPs something for fuel. But it was always much more. In Ruto, the MPs and budding politicians saw a benefactor — a Moi incarnate.

Whenever the same group met Gideon, the Prince who inherited everything but generosity from his father, the plot was different. The bills would be shared. There would be no fuel for layabouts. He wanted them to flatter him merely on account of being the Prince of Kabarak.

Already, the same MPs, and many more from Western to Coast, are hovering around the Peasant, singing the 2022 chorus. They are not trumpeting on empty stomachs. If you want support, you grab politicians by the tummy. Ruto learnt this when he interned at the Youth for Kanu ’92. The grandmaster took good care, the same way Ruto is, of baited MPs. The weaver bird does not sing on an empty belly.

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