ULTIMATE CLASH

Hustler and reform narrative: Ruto vs Raila 2022 duel

Ruto camp is shaping the narrative to be about changing the Constitution versus changing the conversation.

In Summary

• The 2022 race will be won or lost on ethnic and economic grievances, especially in a post-Covid-10 ravaged country

• Whoever of the two is able to capture the imaginations of the bottom of the pyramid - combined with taking care of the interests of the few rich elite who control the factors of production - will carry the day.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at DP's Karen home. Looking on is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at DP's Karen home. Looking on is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: FILE

The 2022 narrative is already being created by Raila Odinga and William Ruto since the political formations in the country revolve around the two leading candidates, who are very much alike.

Unlike their other competitors, they are aggressive and indefatigable in their quest to win the most-coveted seat of power in Kenya’s political landscape. Suffice is to say, even if either of them decides not to be on the ballot in 2022, the side they will support will carry lots of weight, other factors remaining constant. 

To begin with, Raila, whose stab at the presidency would be his fifth, has a strong-willed personality. He has been running on the fuel of reforms to address historical injustices for the poor and downtrodden.

He added grievances about electoral justice and as result, he has always been popular with the masses.

Ruto, on the other hand, is a product of former President Daniel Moi, now deceased, and by extension, Raila. He started out in the Y2K92 Kanu outfit that was used to get Moi re-elected in 1992, despite the opposition having gotten a combined 60 per cent of the vote.

He later joined Raila in ODM and together, they almost won the presidency and went into a negotiated government with President Mwai Kibaki. Ruto is on record as having said it was during this period that he got inspired to be pro-change.

The now famous handshake between Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta has led to the much-anticipated BBI draft bill to amend the Constitution as a ploy to help him capture the presidency.

Having ‘joined’ government, Raila has displaced Ruto within the inner circles of power to the extent that the Deputy President is seen as an outsider in a government he helped create. That insider image, thoug,h hurts Raila more than it builds him, since his currency has been pro-opposition and anti-establishment.

It’s now Ruto who is using personal influence and the outsider 'pro-poor' messaging to build a ‘hustler movement’, a coalition of struggling Kenyans across the ethnic divide.

is approach is not just airing their grievances, but combining this with generosity through donationof items such as wheelbarrows, push carts, water tanks and car-wash machines. In this way, he has perfected and fused the political art of Moi and Raila.

This is the ultimate clash, with the Ruto camp shaping the narrative to be about changing the Constitution versus changing the conversation. This is aimed at retaining a powerful presidency in a post-2022 government.

On the other hand, the Building Bridges Initiative, which is being pushed by Raila, is aimed at addressing ethnic exclusion from government by re-calibrating the state to accommodate more people at top. It's coupled with striking at the heart of the greatest stumbling block to his quest for leadership, the state machinery.

On the other hand, Ruto is also advancing a generational coup, having successfully uprooted the old guard in Rift valley politics in 2007 and more so during the 2013 General Election.

He is age 53, against Raila’s 75, a difference of 22 years. He has been accused of being a land grabber with dubious sources of income by the moneyed, and he has responded by labelling them dynasties whose stranglehold on economic power has shoved out newcomers to become economic oligarchs.

On the other hand, Raila has been projected as someone who is out to seek retributive  those who perpetrated atrocities against him and other Kenyans from the margins. However, many see him as seasoned, with the right anchorage on political ideology and institutional memory that is beneficial to the country’s progress.

Ruto’s renewed quest for power is predicated upon injustices being committed against him by the Jubilee Party, despite his having played a kingmaker role to the Uhuru presidency. The same can be said of Raila in the Kibaki 1 presidency, which led to the formation of the grand coalition government. Both have thus played kingmaker roles but will either of them succeed to be king?

This depends on the alliances that each one of them makes since it’s nearly impossible for a single voting (ethnic) bloc to win the presidency on its own.

Raila has been the master of political alliances since he has been in an alliance with almost, if not all, of the big guns in Kenya’s politics. Ruto has been keen to project new and upcoming wannabes. It thus remains to be seen who gets to cobble up a winning formula.

In summary, the 2022 race will be won or lost on ethnic and economic grievances, especially in a post-Covid-19 ravaged country, with huge unemployment and lack of access to basic social amenities.

Whichever of the two is able to capture the imaginations of the bottom of the pyramid - combined with taking care of the interests of few rich who control the factors of production - will carry the day. It’s both an economic and generational fight.