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PEDDLING HOPE

Hustler: What's in a name?

Ruto has created an ideological brand.

In Summary
  • The hustlers-dynasties dichotomy resonates with millions of people who live from hand to mouth.
  • It is a potent political tool because Ruto has pointed out an enemy most people can see.
Deputy President William Ruto addresses a meeting with Kikuyu leaders from the Rift Valley in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County on December 19, 2019.
Deputy President William Ruto addresses a meeting with Kikuyu leaders from the Rift Valley in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County on December 19, 2019.
Image: DPPS

In a country teeming with jobless millions whose dreams have gone up in smoke, where the rich get richer and the poor sink deeper into hopelessness, the hustler narrative has a redemptive quality to it.

Deputy President William Ruto believes he has invented a powerful national narrative.

“Finally, we have the conversation of our lifetime: the hustler. Until now, our politics was hostage to the stupidity of ethnicity/our person, which is the reason why almost half of Kenyans live in poverty and 16 million are jobless. The tribeless hustler imperative is a revolution in our politics,” he tweeted recently.

The DP attached to the tweet two photos from the front-page of the Star captioned, “Ruto and Raila lock horns over hustler narrative”.

A hustler is an aggressively enterprising person; a go-getter. Ruto has for years styled himself as the Hustler, son of a peasant who rose from selling chickens on the roadside to the pinnacle of state power.

The moral of this tale is that anyone can make it in life. But there is more. The DP has provoked a radical conversation about poverty.

The accepted wisdom is that people are poor because the national cake is not big enough to satisfy everyone. But the hustler narrative suggests that poverty is a result of elite accumulation and exclusion of the hoi polloi. So, you have hustlers who struggle to get by while the dynasties gorge themselves on the fat of the land courtesy of their privileged parentage.

He has in mind President Uhuru Kenyatta (son of first President Jomo), ODM leader Raila Odinga (son of the first Vice President), Ruto’s Rift Valley nemesis Baringo Senator Gideon Moi (son of second President Daniel arap Moi) and presidential aspirant Musalia Mudavadi (son of powerful Moi confidant and Western supremo Moses Mudavadi).

Ruto has created an ideological brand. The hustlers-dynasties dichotomy resonates with millions of people who live from hand to mouth. It is a potent political tool because Ruto has pointed out an enemy most people can see. His message is you are poor because you have been robbed.

To concretise the hustler narrative – move it from an abstract idea to something tangible – Ruto is using his money to support “fellow hustlers” start income-generating activities. In this way, he also hopes to quash questions about sources of his wealth.

In a country teeming with jobless millions whose dreams have gone up in smoke, where the rich get richer and the poor sink deeper into hopelessness, the hustler narrative has a redemptive quality to it.

Ruto is an evangelical Christian. Like a masterful preacher who enthrals his followers with promises of material success in Jesus’ name, Ruto has used the hustler tale to persuade many people to rethink their poverty and how they might conquer it. He presents himself as the prime example.