Deputy President William Ruto, a man a heartbeat away from the top seat, yesterday fired salvos at opposition leaders he accused of undermining him as succession politics takes centre stage just a year after the General Election.
Mr Ruto, who has often restrained himself from directly attacking opposition chief Raila Odinga since the March 9 handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta, came out guns blazing on Saturday.
"I will run over whoever will stand on my way," Mr Ruto said in Tharaka Nithi.
He later added, “If you try to stop the government’s work, I will deal with you. Jubilee’s priority is construction of roads, ensuring electricity connection, among others. Other things will follow at the right time,” the politician said, clearly out to downplay the significance of the statement that also warned the opposition against attempts to divide the ruling party.
Mr Ruto also repeated a statement he made earlier in the week that he was the President’s only principal assistant— or mtu wa mkono — and others should not claim the role, a remark seemingly aimed at Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka who had declared himself Mr Kenyatta’s “errand boy”.
To keen observers. Mr Ruto fired a clear warning shot in the remarks at Kathaka in Kirinyaga County.
His frustrations are further compounded by incessant reports that taking over from President Kenyatta no longer had the previously assumed guarantee, hence the need to give a warning that he is no pushover.
Mr Ruto seemed to have had a change of heart after what some of his supporters think is the coming together of the country’s "dynasties" to frustrate his succession ambitions.
The Deputy President accused the opposition of stoking divisions in government, which could pass as a reference to the strengthening bond between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. Mr Ruto’s allies, such as majority leaders in parliament Aden Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen, have in the past accused Mr Odinga of driving a wedge between the Jubilee chiefs.
While he is on record as saying he supports the handshake, Mr Ruto’s handlers hold that he will not support any arrangement threatening the Jubilee succession plan.
In making the statements, the choice of Tharaka Nithi and Kirinyaga, in Mr Kenyatta’s backyard, could not have been better for a man who is keen not to directly antagonise his boss whose support base he hopes to inherit in 2022.
The handshake in March has since snowballed into what Mr Ruto’s camp views with suspicion as a huge movement, bringing together the Kenyattas, the Odingas, the Mois and Mr Musyoka.
But responding to Mr Ruto’s remarks, Mr Junet Mohamed, a close ally of Mr Odinga and Minority Whip in the National Assembly, accused him of shadow boxing.
“He is busy creating imaginary enemies before going ahead to fight them. His is a fight between Ruto the man and Ruto the shadow. We are not in government; do not plan to join it, but support a course we believe is for the good of the country,” the lawmaker from Suna East said.
Early in the week, Mr Ruto said he was the only one mandated by law to be "Mr Kenyatta’s errand boy.” He appeared to be reacting to Mr Musyoka’s remarks about being ready to work for the President.
“If anything goes wrong with the work of the President or the Jubilee Party, the first person that would be asked would be me, the one who took an oath to be Mr Kenyatta’s assistant. Did you see anyone else take oath at Kasarani to be Uhuru’s assistant?” the DP asked.
The DP has in the past one week been under fire from his bastion after MPs led by Joshua Kutuny accused him of having a hand in the woes of maize farmers in the Rift Valley.
Additional reporting by Grace Gitau and Alex Njeru