• Multiple interviews gleaned from MPs and analysts depict the DP as a man walking a thin line.
• While he has previously weathered a string of setbacks that have threatened to cut- short his prime political career.
Deputy President William Ruto is walking a political tightrope with limited options in what has complicated his 2022 game plan to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Seen as a ‘common enemy’ in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession battle, Ruto’s aggressive onslaught against the anti-graft fight and his perceived open rebellion against his boss could have ganged up to dwindle his State House hopes.
Political pundits and politicians opine that the two misjudgements aresuch grave political miscalculations that may blow up into smoke his long-held dream to be Kenya's Fifth President.
However, they concur that Ruto has only two options left — ship out of Jubilee or fight from within. Whether he opts for a walkout or a status quo, the DP is at a tipping point, with either decision posing far-reaching consequences, not only for himself but also for allies and his expansive Rift Valley bastion.
Multiple interviews gleaned from MPs and analysts depict the DP as a man walking a thin line that could crush his 2022 ambitions should he remain defiant to the President’s policies and decisions; and sustain his campaign against the war on corruption.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjri Wambugu, a critic of the DP, told the Star that Ruto's situation is of his own making by campaigning for the presidency at the wrong time.
“It is either the Deputy President doesn’t want to wait or doesn’t believe the President will support him in 2022,” the lawmaker who leads the Team‘Kieleweke’, a slang for Ruto’s Mt Kenya opponents, said.
Ngunjiri said the DP is getting it rough after publicly opposing and openly contradicting the President on major government policies.
The first-term MP said Ruto could burn his fingers if he doesn’t toe the President’s line.
“Unless he goes back to the President and finds a way of working with him, Ruto will walk on a thinner line and his chances will get harder,” Ngunjiri said.
The DP is said to have fallen in love with the glamour of State House in the 1990s when, as a choir leader at the University of Nairobi’s Christian Union, he was a frequent visitor at President Daniel Moi’s residence.
While he has previously weathered a string of setbacks that have threatened to cut- short his prime political career, the current political conundrum poses an ultimate test for the former Eldoret North MP.
Three decades on, the dream of a man who despite all odds managed to project a larger-than-life national image, appears to have run into roadblocks and massive headwinds.
Will Ruto manage to break the jinx and successfully succeed a sitting President?
He strikes a confident pose and puts on the face of a stoic who is confident of emerging unscathed from the battle in his grand march to State House well aware of the dangers he faces.
Apart from taking the fight to his rivals within Jubilee and building new alliances, analysts warn the DP against opening too many battlefronts that could weigh him down and make him more enemies.
A shrewd politician, Ruto has managed to navigate the country’s rough political terrain. When some leaders hammered the narrative that Mt Kenya did not owe him a debt, he replied that nobody owed him anything.
When they declared there would be no automatic Jubilee presidential candidate, Ruto replied that he was surprised that anyone would wait for endorsement.
Ngunjiri, who has accused Ruto of undermining the President’s development plan, says nothing will help the DP other than “absolute loyalty and submission to the President.”
“All over the world, anyone seeking to inherit a sitting President must submit with loyalty to the head of state. One cannot make it by going roughshod with the system,” the MP said.
Former powerful Cabinet minister Franklin Bett warns Ruto against undermining the President, saying he should “lie low” and carefully work out his succession plan without provoking anyone.
“He should consult widely before making any decision. I suggest he calls a meeting of leaders from the Rift Valley and take stock of the past two general elections before making any move," he said.
The former Buret MP served in both retired presidents Moi and Mwai Kibaki’s governments.
However, Nairobi University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora, while admitting the DP must be cautious, says the handshake hurricane complicated Ruto’s succession game plan.
“Before the handshake, his pass was through and he had no competition,” the political analyst said, adding that the DP is on the thorns of a dilemma.
“Ruto has two realistic options. He would trust his boss(Uhuru) that he will support him and wait until the end or follow his instincts and know that things are not working and fight from within like what he is doing,” Manyora said.
The don, however, warns that Ruto is unlikely to quit the ruling party and form his outfit ahead of the 2022 polls.
Ruto, who has managed to consolidate his national support with pointmen across the country, has accused Raila Odinga of wrecking Jubilee Party "from within" to scuttle his ambitions to succeed Uhuru.
But in a clear rebuke directed at Ruto, Uhuru on Wednesday said his relationship with the opposition leader is for the best interest of the country and not 2022.
"He has never told me he wants to be President in 2022; I have not told him I want to be President in 2022. We have just been talking about the issues that affect our people. When it comes to infrastructure, what do we need to do? We discuss and we support each other and agree," Uhuru said as he officially closed the inaugural AfroChampions Boma forum on African infrastructure financing and delivery.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said Ruto’s presidential ambitions hang by a thread, with his chances growing slim by day.
“Ruto is between a rock and a hard place with limited options,” he said. With three and a half years to the 2022 General Election, Kutuny said the DP has nowhere to go.
“If he walks away, that would be the last nail in his political coffin. He is forced to remain in Jubilee and fight from within,” he said.
The outspoken Ruto critic said the DP plunged himself into his political headwinds through his penchant for confrontational politics that appear to undermine the President.
“For Ruto to succeed, he must start being genuine to the President and avoid engaging in too many political wars that make him look like a dictator,” Kutuny said.
The politician observed that the situation could worsen if the DP doesn’t start propagating what the President stands for, stops wedging unnecessary confrontations and ceases from undermining other leaders.
ODM national Treasurer and former Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire said the DP’s option is to walk out of Jubilee and assemble his 2022 presidential machine.
“It looks like the DP is eager to be free and operate on his own. If be can't play ball, he can ship out and make his own makeshift,” he said.
Remaining in Jubilee, Bosire said, would be untenable for the DP who is already facing a lot of political heat from within the party.
“Even if he struck a conciliatory tone and decided to work with the President, I don’t see him winning back that trust and confidence,” he added.
Bosire said the DP’s greatest undoing is his vicious opposition to the President’s anti-graft war, despite being aware that that would set him against Uhuru.
“The President is focussed on his development agenda for the country but the DP is on his own path campaigning to succeed him (Uhuru). If the President consolidates his government, it will be rough for Ruto,” he added.
“There differences have nurtured acrimony. The DP is confronting his boss, something that is nontraditional. I see a difficult and challenging time for the DP and his relationship to deliver on his mandate,” the ex-MP said.
But Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, a key confidant of the DP, insists the anti-graft war is a narrative being created by Ruto’s detractors to sink his chances of succeeding the President.
“We will not relent until this narrative is done away with. We are aware that there are dirty tricks up the sleeves, targeted corruption investigations are part of them and we will not sit and watch as wrongs are done,” Murkomen said.