A two-horse race in 2022? God Forbid!

In Summary

•My hypothesis is that Ruto and Raila will not necessarily be the most politically popular political figures in Kenya in the run-up to the 2022 General Election.

For Raila, his perceived popularity has mainly been emanating from support from regional kingpins, including Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani's Musalia Mudavadi, Ford-Kenya's Moses Wetangula and Governor Ali Hassan Joho, among others. 

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: FILE

In recent months, the Kenyan mainstream media has been bandying along an all too familiar narrative about the 2022 Presidential contest, to the effect that the competition will be a two-horse race between Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement Leader Raila Odinga.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For starters, that narrative assumes (rather wrongly, I think) that Ruto and Raila will be the most popular politicians in the Kenyan political scene heading towards 2022, following the retirement of President Uhuru Kenyatta. But are they?

My hypothesis is that Ruto and Raila will not necessarily be the most politically popular political figures in Kenya in the run-up to the 2022 General Election. For Raila, his perceived popularity has mainly been emanating from support from regional kingpins, including Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani's Musalia Mudavadi, Ford-Kenya's Moses Wetangula and Governor Ali Hassan Joho, among others. It is the support of these politicians that has helped cultivate the fallacious notion among staunch Raila supporters that he has near nationwide political appeal.

My position is that, minus Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Wetangula, Joho, and others, Raila will be stripped of that “national image” and remain just a Nyanza (and specifically, Luo Nyanza) kingpin. Most notably, with the ODM Leader having antagonized his former National Super Alliance (NASA) Co-Principals, he is now dangerously exposed. Not only does he bear the tag of a politician who cannot keep friends, his future candidacy is most likely to be received with a yawn at the national level, given that it is a rather tired, fatigued candidacy.

Furthermore, with most of his former colleagues within the Coalition on Reforms and Democracy, Cord (2013-2017) and NASA (2017) having declared that they, themselves, will be gunning for the top job. With the 50+1 constitutional rule on Presidential election victory still holding, Raila’s chances of garnering the magical number are very slim indeed. This is due to the fact that his erstwhile comrades in Cord and NASA will be going flat out to reclaim their vote bastions for themselves – and not for Raila. This makes the situation for the four-time presidential candidate quite complicated. (Critics say this is the reason Raila is pushing for a referendum on the Building Bridges Initiative, so that he can get a winning "cohort" for 2022. However, this topic will be dealt with in detail in future write-ups.)

What about William Ruto? What are his chances of success in 2022? Ruto's position is equally problematic, if the current political scenario is anything to go by. You see, Ruto vied on Jubilee ticket as Uhuru’s running mate in 2013 and 2017. In between them, the duo managed just over 50 per cent of the national presidential tally, in both instances. Assuming both of them shared this tally on equal basis, it would mean that Uhuru managed 25 per cent (or slightly above that), same for Ruto.

At the time of writing this piece, the President and his Deputy were reading from a totally different script. While the Head of State is keen to use the two remaining years to cement his legacy in development, his Deputy is busy working towards a winning team in 2022. Briefly, the two are working on completely different scripts. So, what does this mean for Ruto? Methinks it simply means that Uhuru’s vote bastion (Central) will not take Ruto’s shenanigans lightly, and would most likely go with its man (Uhuru) than with Ruto. The end result would be having Ruto with his 25 per cent Jubilee share, with Uhuru carrying away the other half (25 per cent).

With the foregoing scenario, where does Ruto, with his 25 per cent potential national vote (mainly from the Kalenjin Nation), expect to get 25 per cent (or more) of the extra vote to make 50-Plus-One and make him President? My argument is that it will be extremely hard for Ruto to get these extra votes from the Cord/NASA vote bastions, because these bastions will already be claimed by Raila, Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Wetangula, and Joho! And remember, the DP had already gravely hurt his chances of getting supporters from these (Cord/NASA) regions through his snide, desparaging remarks against leaders such as Raila, Kalonzo, and Wetangula. For most of the voters in these regions, Ruto represents the image of a spiteful, proud and arrogant politician who does not respect other leaders. For Ruto, therefore, the 50-Plus-One mark seems insurmountable, too.

To make matters worse for the DP, the Hustler Nation narrative has failed to hold among the majority of voters, especially upon the realization that the creator of the narrative is himself a well-known multi-billionaire who can never be himself termed as a "Hustler".

Still, the burning question remains: What, then, makes Ruto and his supporters so confident that they can win the 2022 Presidential poll? Is it simply a matter of gutsy bravado, or is this a tactical strategy meant to scare the daylights out of Ruto's perceived opponents? Where are Ruto's numbers?

Whatever factors are at play, Kenyans should not be duped by the clamour for a Raila/Ruto ace card for 2022. This pair is an anathema, especially for those who feel that both Raila and Ruto are highly antagonizing figures who do not hold the interest of the country in their hearts. For this group, the duo, if they were the only contestants on offer, would present a truly horrendous dilemma to ponder. Giving Kenyans those two stark choices will be like asking them to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea! That choice would not be sustainable.

My point, therefore, is that Kenyans need a Third, Fourth, or even Fifth axis for choice for the 2022 Contest. As an irreducible minimum, Kalonzo, Musalia, and Gideon Moi, should (and must) run for Presidency this time round. They must not rally around anyone. By being in the ballot box, these three will provide a breath of fresh air into our political arena, and offer leadership acumen that is so much needed in the country, going forward. The trio are generally untainted by corruption; are unlikely to harbour any feelings of revenge and/or vindictiveness over past transgressions done against them, and are also sober minded and unlikely to upset the “apple cart” as far as peace and harmony within the country is concerned. Let them be part of the race, and possibly proceed to form a post-election Coalition with their like-minded colleagues, each having garnered their fair number of legislators and governors.

So, my Dear Kenyans, there you are! It is not a Raila-Ruto affair straitjacket! You are spoilt for choice!

Onesmus Kilonzo is Head of Communication, Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya

The views expressed herein are his own and do not represent the standpoint of the Party.