WOOING HEARTS AND SOULS

Raila, Ruto battle over 2022 campaign pledges

The duo are promising wide-ranging plans including establishing social programmes.

In Summary
  • Raila is promising to establish a massive social protection programme,  the 'largest in Africa.'
  • Ruto is insisting that the bottom up economic model is the panacea to Kenya's economic challenges.
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018
Image: FILE

The main opponents in the 2022 presidential battle — ODM leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto — are on a bitter collision over campaign pledges in their push to woo voters. 

The two, who are battling to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, are fiercely competing to win the hearts and souls of citizens with an array of campaign promises as next year’ general election draws nigh. 

While DP Ruto is projecting himself as the economic messiah for the hustlers, Raila is portraying himself as the anti-corruption saint ready to seal graft loopholes to support the economy.

The ODM boss, widely seen as President Uhuru’s preferred successor and backed by wealthy Mt Kenya region businessmen, has escalated his State House campaigns in the last one month. 

And even though he says he will declare his 2022 presidential candidature by mid-next month after concluding his countrywide Azimio la Umoja consultative forums, he is already saying what he will do if he forms government.

The former Prime Minister’s campaigns have triggered a wave of panic in Ruto’s camp, reigniting Raila's support bases.

Initially, Ruto was seen having the field day as the foremost contender in next year's polls as the ODM leader dithered on his 2022 move.

On Thursday, Kieni MP Kanini Kega, a key ally of Raila in the Mt Kenya region, said the ODM boss’ approach has psyched up the 2022 presidential campaigns. 

“The race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta is going to be won on the platform of economic liberation and fighting corruption,” Kega said. 

Kega, who has emerged as a key cog of Raila’s campaign team, said the hustler narrative that had been perceived as having gained currency before Raila hit the road has been neutralised. 

“The ground has shifted and with the ODM leader’s trips to Mt Kenya region, however, the people are realising who their real saviour is and that is Raila,” Kega said. 

Raila has put together a well-knit think tank that is driving his 2022 campaign pledges with latest statistics from government agencies to aid his messaging. 

Ruto is also backed by technocrats, including those who have previously worked for retired President Mwai Kibaki and Raila, in his efforts to bulldoze his way to the House on the Hill. 

The DP is anchouring his 2022 campaign pledges on massive promises to create jobs for the millions of unemployed youth and giving access to cheap credit to small and medium enterprises through his bottom-up economic model. 

However, Raila who had initially hinged his campaigns on political revolution has embraced social empowerment, setting the stage for a collision with Ruto whose model sought to uplift the poor. 

Raila appears to be turning the tables on Ruto’s hustler agenda through sustained and strategic communication of his vision and lifelong quest for power. 

The ex-PM had for decade been framed as the king of the "hustlers", fighting for social justice through regular street protests to push for accountability in government, even during the height of Nyayo era. 

There is a growing feeling among the political class that the ODM boss is gradually pushing to reclaim what is believed to have been his main agenda throughout his political life. 

Former Kitutu Masaba MP and multi-party democracy doyen Abuya Abuya told the Star that Raila is taking position on the path that he has walked for decades to fight against graft and economic liberation. 

“We are seeing the Raila of yester-days when he held authorities on check and fought for the political liberation of this country. He is now moving to the last phase of economic liberation,” said Abuya. 

For the first time, the country’s presidential battle is seen to be narrowing down into a duel over the future of the economy, with Raila and Ruto ratcheting up their campaigns, promising to fix the country’s fortunes. 

The DP is portraying himself as the disciple of former Kibaki and that he is well-versed with the problems bedeviling each region.

To popularise his bottom-up economic model, the DP has been holding economic forums to let ordinary Kenyans state their priorities that will inform the model.

The DP argues he is ready to identify economic demands for the regions that residents would  want him to accomplish if he succeeds President Uhuru.

Bearing in mind the huge number of youthful voters, he has rolled out a programme targeting the young entrepreneurs and given them donations to improve their lot and cushion them against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Today we are donating from our pockets but when we form government next we shall roll out public funds to held the hustlers," Ruto said last week in one of the engagements.

The DP's social engagements have not only been defined by donations to the youth but he has also embraced church, boda boda harambee among others which has so far been stopped by the pandemic.

Of great interest, analysts say, Raila has psyched up his 2022 campaigns with a massive promise to pump up to Sh100 billion more on the social protection aspect, seeking to net up to two million poor households. 

Raila is promising billions of shillings to the lowest strata of society as he seeks to turn the tables on Ruto who has for long projected himself as the saviour of the country’s poor-the hustlers. 

While Ruto has also promised to set aside Sh100 million to each of the 290 constituencies to support small and medium size business to spur growth and create jobs, Raila wants to give cash to vulnerable families. 

Raila has also promised the youth at least four cabinet slots as part of his 2022 pledges.

ODM leader says he will give Sh6,000 to poor households, if elected president next year, saying once he seals all the corruption loopholes that loot Sh2 billion daily, there would be enough resources to fund the programme. 

The former prime minister has also insisted that the much of the funds clogged at the national government yet their respective functions have been devolved would be pumped into the kitty. 

“We would add about Sh100 billion to this and expand it to include the poorest of the poor. And nobody should lie to Kenyans that taxes would have to rise for this to be realised, far from it,” Raila said 

Initially, Raila had challenged Ruto over his ambitious Sh29 billion kitty for the SMES, saying the DP did not provide a clear sustainability strategy saying the country would not afford the resources. 

However, with many families hard hit by the country’s struggling economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Kenya’s public debt repayment programme, the hustlers are proving to be a major focus for Raila and Ruto. 

According to statistics from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, at least 23 million Kenyans live below the poverty line, meaning they are struggling to put food on the table due to abject poverty. 

Last month, Raila released another treatise on how to tap into Kenya’s pool of talent in mechanics, tailors, carpenters, hairdressers, cooks and artists. 

 These are the core of the “hustler” philosopher that Ruto has been propagating through his bottom-up approach. 

Raila has said a system that mixes skills and knowledge was the path to industrialisation, jobs and the future.  

He insisted that the country was experiencing high graduate unemployment or underemployment, with many corporations adopting technology to do the work humans used to do. 

Former Raila aide Wafula Buke says the ODM boss is reclaiming what is rightfully his. 

“In history, whenever we push them to a corner, conservatives adopt our agenda and run us out of town so that they can create political monopoly. We have compromised too much in the process and this time round we are going for what is ours; change,” Buke said. 

Edwin Sifuna, the ODM secretary general has previously accused Ruto of plagiarising the Nasa manifesto on the bottom-up model. 

Sifuna went ahead to claim that the hustler nation did not have an idea of how the model works. 

“I am convinced Tangatanga have never even asked a Mama mboga what she actually needs. They just show up with aprons,” he said. 

“When we proposed increased revenue share to the counties, we knew mama mboga needs her governor to build proper markets where her business can thrive.”