Until March 9, 2018, Deputy President William Ruto was all set to ascend to the presidency. Then the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga happened. It scuttled all the plans. What occurred subsequently changed the game plan.
And now Dr Ruto has to fight not just to keep his presidential hopes alive but also to stay on as the DP. He has increasingly become belligerent and thrown caution to the wind. His statements and body language show a man with urgency. He brooks no nonsense and ready to payback in kind — brickbats and broadsides in equal measure.
Last weekend, he launched a blistering attack on top officials in government and what he called “the system”, accusing them of plotting to kill him to block his quest for the presidency. Over time, he has assembled and fashioned a team of loyalists with equally blithering tongues.
All indications are that things are not well for him. On Wednesday, a group of MPs from across the political divide tore into him at a press conference and categorically demanded his resignation for disobeying President Kenyatta.
Already plans are afoot to impeach him on the grounds that he has showed open rebellion to the President and therefore his loyalty is under question.
Impeaching him, however, is a tall order. Proponents of that vote will have to marshal two-thirds of the MPs in the National Assembly and an equal number in the Senate. Dr Ruto has a strong hold in Parliament.
Not only does he have a strong following among Jubilee MPs but he has also penetrated and raided other parties and took away a sizeable chunk of their MPs. This is demonstrated every other day when his supporters hold press conferences, where he mobilises tens of MPs across the political spectrum to demonstrate support for him.
Despite the obstacles and frustrations, Dr Ruto still has a wide chance to become the fifth President of Kenya. He has a clear head start and for good measure: he has built his support base through sheer hard work, shrewd maneuvering and brinkmanship.
To his credit, Dr Ruto is energetic, pragmatic, decisive and courageous. He fights his battles and ready to confront any challenger. He easily compares with former President Daniel arap Moi and Mr Odinga in terms of political scheming, courage of conviction and precision of execution of political designs.
In a relatively short period, he has amassed inexplicable wealth, which he has used lavishly to buy support across the breadth and length of the country. His fundraisers every other weekend, mostly in churches, cut out him as a generous leader, a trick he clearly adopted from former President Moi, who literally brought him up politically.
To be sure, Dr Ruto got into the political scene through the discredited Youth for Kanu, the bogie train formed in 1992 to fight the Opposition onslaught and through which the government splashed out money and made the officials overnight millionaires.
However, should Dr Ruto decide to run, he would go to the ballot box with a heavy baggage. Here is one politician whose name has featured in every corruption case or irregular deals. If it is not an accusation of hiving off a school land to expand his hotel along Nairobi’s Lang’ata Road, it is the court seizure of land he illegally took from a hapless farmer in his Eldoret neighbourhood.
Among the widely publicised indignities hanging over his head are the maize scandal in 2009 when he was the Agriculture minister; the "Hustler’s Jet" scandal of 2013; and the Kenya Pipeline land scam, which though resolved in court in 2011, is being investigated afresh by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. Many of his associates in high places have been seized and charged in court over corruption deals. Most of them have all the wrong tags.
Currently, he is fighting the debacle over the death of police officer Kipyegon Sinei, whose demise was linked to controversial and the illegal arms transaction deal that played out in his Harambee Annex office.
At the political level, Dr Ruto’s main undoing is impatience, negative aggression and sense of entitlement. Arguably, he helped President Kenyatta to win the seat and was duly promised a hand-over, but that is no reason to arrogate unto himself a deep sense of entitlement.
Dr Ruto has become a dominant feature in national politics and cannot be wished away easily.
His greatest threat is himself and his friends; his lethal tongue, belligerence and vengefulness. How he carries himself in the coming months, including the coalitions he assembles, would determine if he will clinch the ultimate prize.