TIMES OF DESPAIR HAVE OPPORTUNITIES

Outside government, Ruto can play victim, underdog, and maybe win

While he now appears weak and lacking of trappings of state power, he has the opportunity to reach to voter as if ordinary.

In Summary

• Ruto has now found himself a stranger in his government after Uhuru enticed him to the corner by issuing instructions that were easy for him to ignore.

• But while he now appears weak and lacking of trappings of state power, he has the opportunity to reach to voters as if he's just an ordinary person, like them. 

Deputy President William Ruto addresses the press from his Karen office on April 9.
DP RUTO: Deputy President William Ruto addresses the press from his Karen office on April 9.
Image: DPPS

It is now a foregone conclusion that the separation between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, is complete.

President Kenyatta can take credit for initiating the falling out as he took advantage of his deputy’s missteps and political errors. What was perceived as a joint presidency was novel and unprecedented.

Pure presidential political systems have no room for power sharing through coalitions or alliances. The Constitution envisioned a presidential system modelled on the American structure.

The Constitution drafters ignored the realities of Kenya’s political environment and imposed an unworkable legal regime. 

So when UhuRuto came to power in 2013, their political reality was that of a shared presidency. In the second term, when Uhuru started easing himself apart from his deputy, many accused him of cutting off the branch on which he was seated.

It was widely believed that they were joined at the hip and any attempt to separate them would see them fall. However, the President has proved that he is adept at political hard tackling. He takes no prisoners and suffers no fools in pursuit of his personal political goals. The Jubilee coalition as was conceived is dead. The TNA as Jubilee Party reincarnate is alive and robust.

In such processes as reorganisation of strategy and alignment of vision, there are casualties. The process of reengineering Uhuru’s national leadership has claimed heads, politically speaking.

The process that was started with the handshake has silenced the voluble Ruto allies and scattered the Tangatanga ensemble. In its wake, the handshake  process annihilated the Ruto financial war chest mobilisers through the anti-corruption purge. These tactics were soon replaced with overt strategies in government restructuring.

Ruto has now found himself a stranger in his government after Uhuru enticed him to the corner by issuing instructions that were easy for him to ignore.

Instead of holding direct and brotherly consultations with his deputy as before, Uhuru has chosen to issue  thinly veiled threats to Ruto. The warnings were issued in fora that would easily pass as roadside political statements.

In the public court, Ruto has been accused and found guilty of insubordination. With the public sympathy and law on his side, Uhuru had no qualms about  shunting his deputy aside and running the show alone in government.

In his style and while on his way up, Ruto had been abrasive and cut links with his colleagues in the opposition. Thus, when his neck appeared headed for the political chopping board, the opposition leadership cheered his tormentors. 

Ruto’s allies started to falter and decamp. Some have, however, stood their ground with him, but generally the camp has suffered desertion. He has cut a figure of a man under siege. He is desolate and forlorn.

Times of despair are more often than not laden with opportunities. Uhuru may have succeeded in scuttling Ruto's efforts of being president from within government but in pushing him out of government, Uhuru handed him the possibility of succeeding his boss.

Ruto has the advantage of time on his side. He has been elbowed out a government he helped form two solid years to the next elections. It is said that a day in politics is a long time: Two years, therefore, are more than enough time to reorganise.

While he now appears weak and lacking the trappings of state power, he has the opportunity to reach out to voters as if he's ordinary, like them. The apparent underdog status may also spare him close state scrutiny and harassment.

The focus is now firmly on Uhuru, his brother Raila Odinga and friend Senator Gideon Moi. The two will share in the failures of Uhuru’s presidency while Ruto may escape the harsh verdict of the people.

He now has the best opportunity to bond with the electorate and connect with their concerns. Outside government, he will understand much better the suffering of the ordinary Kenyan and establish how they wish to be governed better.

The government has withdrawn a lot of state largesse from Ruto, the nominal Deputy President. His office is now listed within the presidency with no independent budget following the Executive Order 1 of 2020.

Ruto now most likely relies heavily on his personal resources to push his presidential agenda. These circumstances will compel him to reach out to potential financiers and lobbyists. He will have to convince the business community that he is pro-capital. This will help him move away from the image of the lord of corruption as his opponents have painted him.

Outside government, he is now accessible to a large pool of young talented, skilled but unemployed youth. This population has little to celebrate about the Uhuru government. Ruto has demonstrated empathy for them during this Covid-19 pandemic by distributing business equipment to select groups.

They relish an opportunity to showcase their expertise and teach the incumbents a lesson. These are the warriors who will design his messages that resonate with the youth. They will seek out and deliver the vote. In fact, they are capable of manufacturing the vote as well.

Ruto’s wealth has endeared him to women and the church. Women remain an unpredictable constituency in elections. Through civic education, they feel politically emancipated. However, the structural fabric of the society in terms of economic and leadership enterprise still marginalises them

This makes them rebellious at electoral moments. Through the Joyful Women Movement linked to his wife Rachel Ruto, he has lent a helping hand to many women's economic activities. He has thus developed a strong relationship with the womenfolk which can be easily enhanced while outside government.

Finally, Ruto now has the perfect chance to play the victim card. He should be able to demonstrate that he delivered  for Raila in 2007 but was not adequately rewarded. In 2013 and 2017, he delivered the presidency to Uhuru and got persecuted instead.

He should demonstrate that he has been sinned against and his trust betrayed by close allies. That his sincerity has been mistaken for naivety.

You never know.  Kenyans may just vote for him and he becomes the Fifth President.