Guess who would say an absurd thing like, “Those claiming that the money being collected in taxes is being lost through corruption are misleading Kenyans”? Deputy President William Ruto, of course. He lives in a “tinted reality” as Chinua Achebe puts it in Anthills of the Savannah. Theirs is a life in tinted vehicles and choppers, with bundles of cash handed out regularly to blindfold a restless population. They daily live for that notorious motorcade and clips of themselves on evening television.
Ruto is saying people in government don’t steal money. The DP is duping Kenyans that he is not aware of the anti-corruption war waged by his boss. The DP is pleading the innocence of apprehended culprits. He’s telling DCI George Kinoti and DPP Noordin Haji that they are pursuing non-existent thieves. Were he Sam, the despotic ruler in Anthills of the Savannah, he would upbraid them to “stop wasting public resources”, which in his warped logic amounts to corruption.
Ruto’s impertinence isn’t about living in denial; it’s about living impunity. Ruto is telling us that the annual unearthing of massive plunder of billions in ministries by Auditor General Ouko is just a ritual of lies. The revelation by Central Bank that over one-third of the budget is stolen is cooked numbers by a fertile imagination. Why? Ruto has “data and statistics to demonstrate that the country has changed for the better,” he told a sceptical crowd in Nyeri.
The sidebar to Ruto’s story is that he’s fooling no one but himself. The National Assembly, that despicable house of horror, occasionally sheds off dishonesty and admits the obvious. And guess who can speak out truth when the succession bug isn’t clouding his judgement? Kimani Ichung’wa. When he’s off the excruciatingly boring campaign for Ruto ‘to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta’, as if the presidency is honorary, he’s an articulate MP and sober chairman of the Budget and Appropriations committee.
And guess what, he cannot make it to Ruto’s cabinet if he continues honest self-appraisal such as “nobody ever bothered to find out if the money Parliament gives ministries is used properly. We only react when loss is reported”, against Ruto philosophy of deny, refute, contradict. For Ruto says, “We know our priorities so please respect what we have done in the last five years” and asks leaders to ‘restrict themselves to their mandate’.
Now who are these secluded Knowledgeable “we” that sees a different Kenya? What is ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi’s, whom Ruto’s rebuttal was ostensibly directed at, mandate as an opposition leader? To be Ruto’s cheerleader or to succinctly speak to government against imposing punitive taxes on the poor that go to pay debts which have been stolen? Who doesn’t know the Sh5.4 trillion debt is what the government is grappling with; a debt Ruto is eager to gloss over?
I suggest Ruto’s rage be directed at two accountants at Treasury; dour Henry Rotich and reticent Kamau Thugge. These are economics anarchists with a colonial mentality who believe taxes are deterrent punishment. Such thinking leads to profiling the poor (colonised) as a problem that needs policing through taxation.
Ruto’s speeches phrased in “we know”, “we have done” betray an authoritarian mindset laced with poisonous benevolence. It is a narcissistic disposition resident in dictators that runs contrary to modern governance practice where being in leadership isn’t about ruling but leading or governing. Ruto believes government does things for and gives the people alms for which they must be grateful; an ancient belief that government ‘brings’ development. The Constitution, which he opposed, holds the opposite view. The Constitution ensures the citizenry is involved in their own development.
Ruto’s narcissistic obsession with succession has dulled his ability to distinguish between personal ambition and public resources. Announcing what government ‘will do’ is not too distant from making projects personal gifts. That’s why he invites a perplexing disconnect; the paradox of two Jubilee governments. One which Auditor Ouko audits; and Kinoti and Haji, under Uhuru’s orders, chain its officials over corruption, and another that only Ruto audits.