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WHAT IS IN A NAME?

'Hustler' – Title or name, it is working for DP Ruto

In Summary

• Dr William Samoei Ruto will not, or rather, does not call himself ‘Dr’.

• For him, “hustler” wins. He is Kenya’s known hustler. The title belongs to him. It is his.

Deputy President William Ruto (C) with other graduands during the ceremony at the University of Nairobi
Deputy President William Ruto (C) with other graduands during the ceremony at the University of Nairobi
Image: COURTESY

Attaining a PhD is no ordinary academic fete. With a vast investment in time, resources and intellectual input, a holder of what is the highest university degree would proudly assume the title ‘Doctor’. It is an honour to be referred to as such. Humans are in love with standing out, and the prefix ‘Dr’ would give meaning to a name.

Dr William Samoei Ruto will not, or rather, does not call himself ‘Dr’. For him, “hustler” wins. He is Kenya’s known hustler. The title belongs to him. It is his. It is him. We won’t question if he is a hustler or not, but Ruto is the hustler in this political hemisphere. We have to recognise that fact from the onset.

The public, particularly the youth, have their definition of the term hustler. That is why they won’t be like Cotu secretary general, Francis Atwoli to refer to the English dictionary. “Hustler” in the Kenyan context is a name from the streets, not from the English dictionary. It is a transliteration of “hasola”.

 

In the streets, a hasola is one who is working to the last drop of his sweat. One who will not take a specific route. His eyes are on the returns of the struggle, whether the means will be messy, risky, tough or easy. The task may be here or there, a hasola has to be present. He has to work anywhere and everywhere and for anyone. He or she is not chooser of tasks. In hustling, there is no space for academic titles. A hasola has to mingle. He has to accept all dirt thrown at him. Eyes of hasolas are forever fixed on the prize, what they undergo is just a journey.

The majority of Kenyans have no formal or permanent employment. They are the real hasolas. Ruto is managing to identify with them. They often refer to him as Hustler, even before he refers to himself as so. And he calls his supporter “fellow hustlers”, appearing to give them hope that they will make it in their hustles.

For these reasons, ODM leader Raila Odinga has found himself flatfooted. Unlike Ruto, Raila’s political name-tags have always placed him at a higher class. Tinga crawled into Agwambo, temporarily metamorphosed into Joshua and now he is Baba. All the political street titles elevated and delinked him from the ordinaries. The names and praises place him above the rest. The ordinary voters hate class and Ruto knows it. It has now downed on Raila that “hustler” is a name within and amongst hasolas. Tinga, Agwambo, Joshua, Baba all sound like the bully head boy. “Who are you” identifies you, “what are you” defines you.

Let us own up that the hasola is rising high and fast. Baba should be fatherly and heed to Chinua Achebe’s wisdom that “let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says to the other no, let his wings break.“

US-based writer