Events immediately succeeding the November 2017 swearing-in of Uhuru Kenyatta for the second and final term brought to fore significant political factors.
These factors have had far reaching ramifications for the country in general and Deputy President William Ruto in particular. The political landscape has been shaken and reorganised in shape and content in ways that have confounded observers.
The national leadership has greatly deviated from the political trajectory as at close of 2017 largely due to change in tune and direction by Uhuru and Raila Odinga.
As is expected, there has been resistance to the changes led by those who hoped to use the status quo to continue with political hegemony. However, the tide of popular demands and the determination of the two leaders helped build some unstoppable momentum. This explains why the antagonists took too long to adjust and fit into the new political dispensation.
Many are staring at early political oblivion. Many more have rejuvenated their political careers and are poised to play key roles in the unfolding political landscape. Determined to deliver and secure a lasting legacy to Kenyans, President Kenyatta is the main driver in the direction of the country’s political and economic development. Raila has moved in fast to fill the void left by erstwhile Uhuru allies, who are sour grapping. He has secured a place at the high table of government operations to the chagrin of the URP side of Jubilee. Ruto is the prime victim of all these events and the following examples serve to illustrate the journey to his current predicament.
At the swearing-in, the president unveiled the Big Four agenda as his development blueprint. It was not lost to keen observers that Jubilee had earlier launched a campaign manifesto, which was now being abrogated. Regime apologists explained the mismatch in terms of the President crystalising and sharpening the campaign agenda. However, it was clear the President was already crafting his own agenda for the government. This was his personal vision and starkly different from the party campaign manifesto. This later became concretised as the vision for his legacy. Then followed the reconstitution of the Cabinet shortly thereafter.
The fanfare and duopoly of joint government witnessed during the presentation of the first Jubilee Cabinet was glaringly missing. Uhuru was deliberately projecting himself as the single head and leader of the government. There was no immediate unanimity on the names proposed for Cabinet posts by the other side of the Jubilee party. This led to some delays in the filling up of some positions. In the crafting of the Big Four agenda, the President seemed to have fallen back to the Nusu Mkate government’s Vision 2030. He had played a key role in its crafting and initial implementation as Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Finance. Jubilee operatives were caught unawares and those who found themselves in the new Cabinet had to readjust their straps for takeoff to the new development frontiers. These were the initial and early signs that Ruto was being reminded that he was not an equal but Number Two in the government and national leadership pecking order.
In March 2018, Raila and Uhuru confounded both friend and foe by reaching out to each other and burying the hatchet.
The two erstwhile protagonists shook hands without reference to their respective political hardline advisers and henchmen. It did not go down well with the duo’s inner circle. However, Uhuru was once again demonstrating that he is boss and he alone was responsible for the government actions. It did not help matters that Ruto directly or through allies immediately went out to disparage the peace initiative. This led to his further self-alienation from the inner sanctum of government.
Uhuru also took up this opportunity to push to the corner those perceived to be selfish and sabotaging his agenda. In a bid to protect those whom he considered his allies from being reduced in influence and authority, Ruto found himself with them in a tight corner. Anew team had to be established to spearhead the implementation of the Big Four agenda within the framework of the Building Bridges Initiative. The initiative popularly referred to as the Handshake intended to bring on board communities and interests hitherto considered anti-Jubilee. Ruto’s game plan had envisioned consolidating the Kikuyu-Kalenjin alliance with a sprinkling of sections of Western, Northeastern and Coast communities to win the 2022 presidential election.
The new arrangement that brings into play Raila and Nasa strongholds threw his strategy into jeopardy. His overt and covert opposition to BBI only served to expose him as anti-unity and a pro-exclusion national leader. This provided the necessary fodder for those opposed to his candidacy in 2022.
The former Nasa supporters view him as continuing to entrench the governance of exclusion that has been the hallmark of Jubilee administration. On the other hand, the TNA-Jubilee supporters view him as curtailing the efforts of Uhuru to redeem his image as a sectionalist President and establish a united nation as his legacy. Fighting Corruption
After the handshake, President Kenyatta relaunched the fight against corruption with renewed vigour. The first casualties of the much-publicised high profile arrests were culprits perceived to be Ruto allies.
They were government officials holding high-ranking positions if not CEOs in what Kenyans consider to be lucrative parastatals. Immediately there followed hue and cry from political leaders of the Rift Valley associated with the Deputy President. They made loud protestations against what they considered to be targeted and selective fight against graft. On the other hand, Ruto’s opponents were goading him to declare his stand publicly on matters corruption. He admitted being associated with Weston Hotel at a time the establishment was reeling under negative publicity. The National Land Commission has had to investigate the controversial transfer of the land from Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to Ruto and associates.
By mid last week the Deputy President has had to reluctantly acknowledge that the transfer of the property was not above board. However, he still maintains his innocence over the sale and transfer, claiming that he must have been duped. His handlers have not managed the counter attack smartly either. They have engaged in whipping up ethnic passions to ward off efforts to investigate and arrest perpetrators of graft. This has put them on a collision path with the justice system which has been revamped and established as a multi-agency outfit. Opponents have taken advantage of these events to paint Ruto as ambivalent if not pro corruption. This further exposed a weak flank in Ruto’s arsenal.
The president has emboldened the graft war by reorganising the government and made Interior CS Fred Matiang'i the Cabinet supervisor. It was left to Ruto and allies to explain that his powers within Cabinet had not been reduced and influence eroded. By dint of these events and deliberate acts of his partner in the presidency, Ruto has been pushed to a tight corner. He is now isolated and easy target for political emasculation by his opponents. His enemies are lurking and circling in the air over his head like birds of prey. They have marked him and will take a shot at him any time he crosses the target line. However, as a political animal, survival instincts will bring out the fox in him. If executed prudently, then as sly as the fox he will outmanoeuvre his opponents and enemies.
Time is still on his side.