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DP RUTO'S OPTIONS

Regimes fatten, then sacrifice

In Summary

• Defiance alone is not enough: A strong home base is necessary to capture national attention

• The abiding lesson for beneficiaries of political patronage is: Do not build a power base that rivals the master during the incumbency

Deputy President William Ruto's courtiers ought to know regimes have always played god with their beneficiaries. Regimes can fatten then sacrifice children of patronage when they deflate the incumbent's vanity.  Stars are bright, but they do not appear in the company of the sun.

The late Prof Josephat Karanja, the late Prof George Saitoti and Prof Philip Mbithi - star intellectuals of their time - shrivelled when the Moi regime spurned them. The system had fattened them for sacrifice.

Karanja was Mathare MP and Vice President when the system orchestrated his ignominious exit. A nondescript motor mechanic, the late Kuria Kanyingi, from Limuru, Kiambu, was used to dim Karanja's star. The former vice chancellor of the University of Nairobi found the conspiracy intellectually demeaning.

Another minion, the late David Mwenje, then Embakasi MP, was co-opted into the cast to humiliate Karanja from the presidential pedestal. They alleged Karanja was playing 'acting president' when Moi was abroad. It was claimed Karanja was forcing other party hirelings to kneel before him.

When the conspiracy matured in Parliament, Karanja said, "Common decency had escaped through the window." Karanja did not build his own turf outside the Moi patronage. He was brought in after the 1988 General Election. He was fattened to cool tempers among the Kikuyu, after Mwai Kibaki was ejected from the vice presidency.

Prof Saitoti was VP and Kajiado North MP when his mentor President Moi threw him under the bus. Friendship and shared party loyalty could not save Saitoti. Saitoti was Moi's political son. But he was told the presidency was way beyond his depth.

DP Ruto can learn from Jaramogi, Kibaki and Raila. For with them, he shares the loyal home turf advantage. Patience and rebranding are key for the DP’s presidential ambition. Memory is fickle and the drawing board can be revisited

Saitoti, a professor of mathematics, whose PhD study is 'The mathematical value of zero', was ejected as casually as he had been picked for fattening. The conspiracy to unpack Saitoti was finalised at Moi Sports Centre, Kasarani, during a party delegates meeting in 2002. The mathematician was ejected from top party leadership.

The final spite was painful: Moi picked Uhuru Kenyatta, then a student in his political nursery, to spite Saitoti, a VP for more than a decade, and a bubble political billionaire. Saitoti used the National Rainbow Coalition wave of 2002 to defy the system and rebrand. But Saitoti did not live to build a political turf outside the patronage of President Kibaki. Kibaki adopted Saitoti after the 2002 General Election.

 

Prof Mbithi, a former VC, was picked and fattened through the powerful office of the Secretary to the Cabinet. The professor of sociology later walked out on Moi, into oblivion. He rejected a junior posting as permanent secretary for East African Co-operation. Mbithi was once spotted wearing a white overall, on the steering wheel of a tractor, ploughing his Konza Farm in Machakos.

Saitoti, Karanja and Mbithi were picked from the academy to give the impression the Moi regime had room for intellectuals. The strategy was to calm the restlessness in universities in the late 1980s, through the 1990s. They had reached their use-by date. The professors fell afoul of the system that had created them.

But there are also cases of politicians who defied the system, bid time and built independent turfs before rising again, on their own accord. This is an option for the DP.

But defiance alone is not enough: A strong home base is necessary to capture national attention.  Kibaki was rejected by the Moi system. He defied, built his base and arrived at the presidency 12 years after the spurn.

The Oginga Odinga legacy was built on defiance, after the system he co-founded betrayed him. The icon of liberation politics - Raila Odinga - is an enduring study in defiance, resilience, co-operation, magnanimity and rebranding. The count continues for the former Prime Minister, now a top African Union infrastructure envoy.

DP Ruto can learn from Jaramogi, Kibaki and Raila. For with them, he shares the loyal home turf advantage. Patience and rebranding are key for the DP's presidential ambition. Memory is fickle and the drawing board can be revisited.

Better still, at age 56, he enjoys the advantage of time. The abiding lesson for beneficiaries of political patronage is: Do not build a power base that rivals the master during the incumbency. Don't yap about inheriting a turf whose king is hail.

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