Close

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Ruto should have studied history

He'd have known that once Uhuru was reelected, he was on his way to the opposition.

In Summary
  • For it seems to be our unbreakable historical pattern that Kenyan vice presidents either end up as leaders within the political opposition; or else they slide into irrelevance.
  • Jaramogi, Kibaki, Saitoti, Mudavadi and Kalonzo all ended up in the opposition, why would Ruto’s fate be any different?

On my first visit to London roughly 20 years ago, the thing I found most amazing was not the impeccably clean streets, nor yet the many famous buildings and monuments I had previously only read about.

Rather it was the indifference shown by many of the young people I met, to the opportunities for higher education that were so easily available to them.

Coming from a country where parents made great sacrifices in order to give their children a good education – and where children left school in tears if sent home for non-payment of school fees – this was a major culture shock.

Which is not to say that I did not meet young Brits who were in college, and very glad for the opportunity. I did meet some of those. But I also met others who had qualified to enrol at some university or other, and not bothered to do so. And they had the oddest explanation for this: “It’s just not cool”.

When I later discussed this phenomenon with one of my hosts, whom I shall define as a “VIP academic”, he told me that there was really nothing surprising in this development. He and his wife had also grown up regarding higher education as a sacred opportunity to be grasped with both hands. But in time, with college education no longer being the preserve of a tiny elite, it was only natural that young Brits took it all for granted. And that this was merely human nature.

His exact words were that “Once anything – anything at all – becomes easily available, it is only natural that people will take it for granted.”

His speculation here was that if Kenya ever became a prosperous nation, with economic opportunity available for all, regardless of education, and welfare state provisions for the unemployed, I would very likely see young Kenyans no longer fiercely determined to get a university degree at all costs.

I am glad that this has not proved to be the case. As far as I can tell, being called a “university graduate” still ranks high among the aspirations of young Kenyans.

Our first vice president, Jaramogi Odinga, ended up in the opposition despite having done much to get Jomo Kenyatta to be the founding president of the nation.

And our Deputy President, William Ruto, showed just how deep a desire for advanced degrees can run, when – despite being weighed down by matters of state, and after having to resubmit his thesis at least once or twice (if I remember correctly) – he did not give up until he got his PhD.

This was done – no doubt – in fulfilment of a childhood dream, as he has long passed the stage in life where such a PhD is a practical requirement for any job he might seek.

And of course, there is really only one job he desires at this point: To be the president of Kenya.

Now here is where a deep irony arises. Dr Ruto’s PhD is in Plant Ecology. Which might have been useful if he aspired to be the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture. But as he wants to be president, what he should have studied right up to a PhD in history.

To give but one example of what I mean here, I would point out that a proper study of Kenyan history would have revealed to him that the moment President Uhuru Kenyatta won his second term as president (in all ways assisted by Dr Ruto) – from that point, Ruto, as his deputy, was on his way to the political opposition.

For it seems to be our unbreakable historical pattern that Kenyan vice presidents either end up as leaders within the political opposition; or else they slide into irrelevance.

Our first vice president, Jaramogi Odinga, ended up in the opposition despite having done much to get Jomo Kenyatta to be the founding president of the nation.

Retired President Mwai Kibaki, was the first VP to our second president, the late Daniel Moi. Kibaki too ended up as an opposition party leader.

The late George Saitoti, Moi’s longest-serving VP, also ended up in the opposition.

And two of our leading opposition leaders at this time, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka, are both former vice presidents too.

Why then would Dr Ruto have imagined that his fate would be any different?