• When the first coronavirus patient was announced, the Deputy President was among the first national leaders to respond
Last Sunday, a local media outlet ( not The Star) published an interesting article by seasoned columnist, Kwendo Opanga, on Deputy President William Ruto. In the article, Opanga heaped undiminished praise on the government for its prompt initiative to put in place critical measures to combat the spread of the Corona virus.
However, the writer reserved a few lines in his article to launch a blistering attack on DP Ruto. Opanga observed that DP Ruto’s ‘self- quarantine’ during the current Corona virus crisis would dent his leadership mettle. Specifically, Opanga was concerned that when the President announced a raft of measures to deal with the crisis, after the first patient had been identified, DP Ruto was conspicuously absent from the Harambee House function.
Instead, Opanga complains, the President was flanked by, among others, Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiang’i, Joe Mucheru and Mutahi Kagwe. Notably, the gist of Opanga’s article was to demonstrate the DP had deliberately chosen to skip the President’s function. Such an argument is not only arid, it lacks reason and warmth!
Let us start with this interesting post-truth assertion about the DP’s ‘self- quarantine”. It is reckless for such a respected personality as Opanga to intimate that the Deputy President of our Republic had chosen to quarantine himself against the government he serves in. This is outrageous because the Kenya government, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is not a virus to avoid contact with. In a world driven by efficient technology, citizens are now able to trace the movements and activities of their elected leaders.
When the first Corona virus patient was announced, the Deputy President was among the first national leaders to respond when he urged citizens to take seriously directions given by the government and the Ministry of Health. Besides, DP Ruto became the first national leader to cancel all scheduled public meetings in such areas as Trans- Nzoia, West Pokot and Meru. Dr Ruto annulled these meetings to demonstrate his commitment to honour government strategies to stop the spread of the virus.
Likewise, it is on record, the DP has been attending cabinet meetings, chaired by the President, to not only address the Corona calamity but to also tackle other issues affecting our country. My brother Kwendo Opanga calls this ‘self-quarantine’. In legal parlance,, Opanga is no doubt using his privileged presence within the media space to undertake a nasty fishing expedition on DP Ruto.
It is important to appreciate that Presidential functions are not market gatherings where anybody could decide to attend or skip. Prior to such functions, lists of government officials to flank the President are often prepared and approved by the Head of State himself. Consequently, the President has the final say on who attends his functions and who does not.
Moreover, there is nobody, including the Deputy President, who can skip the President’s function unless they are unwell, or on other official duties known to the President. Furthermore, there is no senior government official, including the Deputy President, who can walk into a presidential event without invitation. On his part, the President is not under any constitutional obligation to ensure all his functions are graced by his Deputy. That is why I find Mr Opanga’s article on the Deputy President extremely unfair and malicious.
Before writing his article on DP Ruto, Opanga should have posed the following questions: Did State House invite the Deputy President to attend the Corona virus briefing at Harambee House? Why, if it is true he was invited by the President, did Ruto fail to show up? If, as it is possible, the Deputy President was never invited to the event, why would anybody fault him for not showing up? Is it thinkable that the same Deputy President, who might have ‘refused’ to honor the President’s invitation to the Corona virus briefing at Harambee House, chose to accept a request to attend the national Prayer meeting at State House over the weekend? Would the DP have walked into the State House prayer meeting last Saturday without the President’s invitation and approval?
These are basic questions Opanga should have posed before hurrying into an embarrassing conclusion that the DP Ruto might have insubordinately skipped President Uhuru’s function. Government does not work that way. The Deputy President could only be seen to be undermining his own leadership mettle if he had forced his way into presidential functions he had not been invited to.
We should never lose sight of the fact that there is no co- presidency in Kenya or a nusu mkate arrangement in government. Uhuru Kenyatta is the chief spokesman of the Kenya government in which William Ruto serves as Deputy President. Among other state obligations, the President assigns duties to members of his cabinet and chooses who to work with in every emerging situation. This brings me to another critical point
There is a developing narrative that regrettably blames DP Ruto for everything that has gone wrong in our country. What is the end game for this? In addition to embracing this perfidious narrative about Ruto, some respected members of our society have also colluded with sections of the political class to sanctify those who stole some of our public firms.
Evidently, chief priests of the Goldenberg scandal, the Anglo-Leasing catastrophe, the Triton Petroleum mess, the 2011 Maize disgrace, the National Youth Service tragedy and the obnoxious graft at the Ministry of Health have suddenly transformed into saints of Kenya’s political terrain; they are our new angels of purity and forthrightness! As we all know, the Ndung’u Land Report, which clearly underscored the depth of land-grabbing in Kenya is dumped!
The most upsetting part of our past experience is that the Tecla Namachanja Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report which identified serious historical injustices has also been discarded! Instead of addressing this bigger picture, such respected scribes as Kwendo Opanga have consistently constricted their focus to DP Ruto. This is, of course, enticing for political factions that have habitually reminded us and predicted that DP Ruto will not be on the ballot in 2022. How I wish such soothsayers had also predicted the coming of the Corona virus!
But in a world where uncertainty is a realistic pillar of human existence, such heart-rending prophesies by human mortals are a direct affront to God and the Holy Scriptures. The blatant desperation to diminish the political star of DP Ruto has recently been perfected to a fine art.
The pre-occupation to attack one person in a country of 47 million people only serves to emasculate our collective responsibility to tackle the most important challenges our country faces today. Kwendo Opanga, my respected senior during our undergraduate days at university, should resist the temptation to use his media expertise to enrich false narratives against DP Ruto. He is out of order.
⃰The author teaches Political Economy and History at Kenyatta University.