Is Uhuru repeating a mistake by imposing Raila candidature?

Considering the chaotic past whenever Raila has run, it would be better to build a sincere compromise and consider someone else this time.

In Summary

• No president in Kenya has ever endorsed his second in command to take office after him.

• It is no secret that Uhuru has been at loggerheads with his deputy William Ruto, since Jubilee’s second term commenced.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru, Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Murang'a on Tuesday.
PATNERSHIP: Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru, Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Murang'a on Tuesday.

 Historically, whenever a Kenyan president has preferred a given candidate, that project has come a cropper, and the resultant force has been very strong.

The story of Moi’s choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as his candidate in 2002 is well known. As president Mwai Kibaki approached the end of his second term, it emerged that his preferred candidate –or at least that of some of his cronies and highly ranked government officials- was Musalia Mudavadi. The latter’s chances of becoming the Jubilee flag bearer, which Uhuru and Ruto temporarily sanctioned, were quickly neutered by a venomous Uhuru shift.

Further, no president in Kenya has ever endorsed his second in command to take office after him. Kenyatta senior died in office. Daniel Moi, who inherited him, only survived a dogged onslaught to torpedo him led by a section of political class and power brokers like then attorney General Charles Njonjo. President Moi overtly ruled out supporting late George Saitoti saying that “their friendship had nothing to do with validating him for president”.

On May 9, 2012, Kibaki appeared to endorse Kalonzo Musyoka when, at a function in Machakos, he challenged people to stand by Kalonzo saying that Kalonzo “has ability not only seen by me but the whole of Africa knows it”. Musyoka had taken sides with the latter when it mattered most -amidst the chaotic aftermath of the 2007 elections- to the detriment of Raila who was pushing for Kibaki to get out of office and direly needed support.

It is no secret that Uhuru has been at loggerheads with his deputy William Ruto, since Jubilee’s second term commenced. This is said to have enraged Ruto who then started criss-crossing the country since late 2018 putting the country in premature campaign mode as he defiantly pursues Presidency in 2022. It would appear that Uhuru, who had claimed that he would support Ruto for President during the campaigns of 2013 and 2017, reneged on that word or it had been populist lip service.

Raila became a key ally of Uhuru after the “handshake” in 2018 and since then Ruto has been crying foul like an outsider in government though remaining in office. Latterly, Uhuru has dared Ruto to leave government rather than criticise it from within. The fall out around the president is getting even bigger as Uhuru is said to be rooting for a Raila presidency. Some political analysts have claimed that Raila is technically Uhuru’s deputy with Ruto practically side-lined from key decision-making as Uhuru asserts statecraft.

Kenya has two former second in commands and the current one with hats in the ring for 2022

Kalonzo Musyoka, joined government in 1986 as a member of parliament for Mwingi North and served as assistant minister for Public Works from 1986 to 1988. He went on to serve as Foreign Affairs Minister under Moi’s government, Deputy Speaker of National Assembly, and ruling party KANU’s organizing secretary from 1988 to 2002. Kalonzo Musyoka was considered one of potential compromise candidates for the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition which emerged as the Rainbow Movement crafted a pact with the opposition’s National Alliance of Kenya (NAK) towards elections 2002. Mudavadi and Ruto were not even in the minds of voters for running mate slots.

Two of former vice presidents in Kenya, and the current deputy are in the running for president in 2022. Musalia Mudavadi, leader of the ANC, became a minister when Moi appointed him following his father’s death in 1989 and served a short stint as vice president to Moi in 2002. He has held various ministerial dockets such Local Government and Finance. Raila joined parliament in 1992 when he became the Member of Parliament for Lang’ata. He went on to become Minister of Energy between 2001 and 2002 during the brief KANU-NDP union, and rose to Prime Minister during the grand coalition government that took office after 2002.

The “dynasty” and “hustler” narratives are one and same, and they draw emotional response from Kenyans

Clearly, the political landscape was shaken when Ruto and his foot soldiers concocted the term ‘dynasties’ to get an edge over Odinga, Kenyatta, Mudavadi and others -a tag that the targeted have vainly fought to exorcise.

While all Kenyans have a right to pursue any political office notwithstanding their background, the ‘dynasty’ label appears to evoke strong emotions among Kenyans against the people to whom Ruto is pointing his finger. Analysts have averred that this has given Ruto a head start, cemented his support base, and draws people to his rallies believing that “his cause is their own”. In fact, with many Kenyans being apathetic to elections after 2017, Ruto may have revived the interest of people to participate in elections once again.

History demonstrates that Kenyans respond to politics with emotion and that most of the time they do not put reason to it. The clamour for change in 1992 was highly emotional, so was 2002, and it boiled over in 2007 when deadly chaos followed the elections. All the way, people were meant to believe that certain people or tribes were the real problem Kenya faced. Ruto has finely mastered public political communication theories especially subliminal. His ‘hustler’ narrative carries the same message as the ‘dynasty’ one –turning the masses against the people to whom he is pointing his finger at as the “real problem that has perennially bedevilled Kenya”.

As people wonder why Ruto is getting some good response from masses who tend to be joining the hustler brigade, this is primarily because they subliminally hold that they have a chance to “get back” at those they have been made to believe are the source of their plight.

Essentially, Kenyans do not aspire to put a close to their challenges which their vote has the power to do. They react to what is catchy and what makes them feel part of a political juggernaut. When Ruto invokes the word ‘hustlers’, those who consider themselves strugglers –and many do have a victim mentality by default- latch onto the train. People who are involved in menial jobs like cart-pushers are unlikely to evaluate political developments deeper.

If we are to be thorough with the word, it may only be Kalonzo who will not be a “Dynasty”

Lately, Ruto and his brigade seem to deliberately avoid touching on corruption issues in their campaigns, an indication that even they consider it their weakest point. Indeed, when Kalonzo created his “Kazi bila Wizi” mantra a while after Ruto’s “Kazi ni Kazi”, Ruto hit back with a claim that Kalonzo had improperly obtained his land in Yatta.

Although Kalonzo’s late father was a peasant from Mwingi, and Kalonzo grew up in the periphery like Ruto, being successfully linked to corruption Ruto has been, would make him a “dynasty”. The tag has another connotation besides referring to the “highly privileged” whose parents were prominent politicians; it captures people who have looted public resources for many years.

The above may be the reason why Kalonzo has brutishly fought Ruto’s allegations even opening himself up to the scrutiny of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, and getting a clean bill of health on 25th August 2021. Kalonzo has dared Ruto to allow a lifestyle audit to prove that he is not a thief of public property, which he insists that Ruto is. The Yatta matter meant that related rumours which stood for years about the issue have been put to rest and that now Kalonzo’s detractors do not have a single scandal to leverage on.

The same may not be said of Ruto who has numerous corruption indignities like the 100-acre land which the courts determined he had illegally obtained from the late Eldoret farmer Muteshi, ordering him to give it back to the owner and pay a cost of 5 Million shillings. Another scandal, which Kalonzo cited as he laid his Yatta one to rest, is where a firm linked to Ruto acquired -in sinister ways- some land in Taita Taveta.

Should the tradition of crafting pacts to stop certain candidates, and that of ethnic support math, be allowed to continue in Kenya?

Besides the aim of ascending to power, Kenyan political unions appear to always be created with the intention and urgency of stopping those who are perceived to be “dangerous” to the interests of the majority in the elite political class or those seen to be favoured by the incumbency. Those forming these coalitions have appeared to not have been strategic but rather random, quick fix, and emotional in their efforts. Whenever the chicken came home to roost, they could not amicably stay together in government -NARC, PNU, and Jubilee are examples.

Unless Kenyans begin a true revolution, the right person will not ascend to office in 2022

Sadly, the crafting of coalitions has also had the intrinsic consideration of “what one brings to the table”. This implies the potential voter numbers based on the size of the ethnic community where one comes from because Kenyan communities in mainland mostly leave in given geographical zones. Candidates coming from bigger tribes especially the Kikuyu, Luo, and Kalenjin tend to bully others in negotiations. A typical example of this is when Uhuru and Ruto attempted to compel Kalonzo to support the both of them for president and deputy because “what he was bound to bring to the table was smaller”. This may have referred to not only the registered voter numbers in their ethnic zones, but also campaign funds. Either way, it was something Kalonzo viciously resisted. He supported Raila then, and repeated the same in 2017 albeit they did not get to power both times.

If the matter of tribal mathematics, and “what one brings to the table” continues to define the construction of political coalitions, then it will continue to be difficult for those who are not corrupt to become president. Let’s face it, corruption is the greatest problem Kenya has faced since independence- whether it is land grabbing, diverting of money or favouritism and nepotism in public appointments. Kenyans might need to put in motion the right emotions and critically consider what is best for them.

Constant strife whenever Raila has run should mean change in card

Considering the chaotic past whenever Raila has run, it would be better to build a sincere compromise and consider someone else this time. The most important thing is a Kenyan who inspires unity of purpose and is not corrupt to lead Kenya to prosperity. Kalonzo is more experienced than Mudavadi in public service, and has demonstrated that he does not have skeletons of corruption in his closet.

Mudavadi, Raila and others should face their critics and allow audits in scandals that touch them. Mudavadi was mentioned in before such as the Goldenberg, and Cemetery. So should Raila regarding the Kazi kwa Vijana funds lost when he was Prime Minister, among other shady dealings.