On Sunday morning, Deputy President William Ruto donated Sh8 million — in crisp currency notes in a green bag — for the construction of a children's centre at the 100-year-old All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi.
It is the kind of generosity that has come to be expected of the DP, who attributes his rise from a humble background to prominence — political and financial — to the grace of God.
During the evening prime time news, he was to sit down for an exclusive interview with NTV’s Mark Masai, where, with the public glare on corruption, high-profile arrests and prosecutions and proposed lifestyle audits of public servants, his source of wealth would certainly be broached.
“How is that important to you?” Mr Ruto asked, when Mr Masai asked the million-dollar question on the lips of Kenyans.
He said he was neither rich nor poor when gauged against the vast disparities in wealth among Kenyans. He was not as rich as people made him to be, or as rich as "the people we all know", he said, giving the impression that the question unfairly targeted him.
“Can you truthfully say that William Ruto is a rich man in this Kenya? Richer than the people we all know? I won’t say that I am a poor man, but I wouldn’t say that I would be in the class of people that Kenyans would be interested in what they own. There are people who own things in this country, and I am not in that class,” Mr Ruto said.
Among the things he is wrongly said to own, he listed his Sh450 million official residence in Karen, the 680 Hotel in the city centre, which he was said to have bought for Sh3 billion; the Hotel Boulevard, next to the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, and “I don’t know how many choppers and I don’t know how many planes.”
A self-proclaimed "hustler" who worked his way up the political ladder from a chicken seller in Uasin Gishu to Kenya’s second in command, Mr Ruto has been known do donate generously to church projects, a habit he defended at All Saints Cathedral on Sunday.
That Mr Ruto’s fortunes have risen since 2013, when he was elected deputy president, is not in doubt, and many people have questioned the rate at which he gives money at fundraisers, coupled with the tens of properties he is reported to have acquired during his short tenure as DP.
He has publicly admitted to owning the 100-bed Weston Hotel opposite Wilson Airport on Lang’ata Road in Nairobi, and is said to have interests in Amaco Insurance, neither of which he listed among the things he said he is said to have acquired. That is besides his home in Surgoi in Uasin Gishu county.
So open has the discussion about Mr Ruto's wealth been that Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa in May ridiculed opposition politicians Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula for not having Sh200 billion for a presidential campaign in 2022. Since Mr Echesa backs Mr Ruto’s 2022 quest, the implication was that the DP had such a war chest.
Before his salary was increased to Sh1.2 million a month last year, Mr Ruto was earning Sh1.4 million, which was increased annually by Sh87,656 from the Sh1.05 million per month he was earning in 2013.
NEVER BENEFITED FROM GRAFT
In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Ruto said he supports the lifestyle audit ordered by President Kenyatta, saying it would end the narrative about his wealth. He quoted nursing unionist Seth Panyako, to quell speculation on his source of wealth: “Someone said something profound, and he said it in Kiswahili: Mtoto wa maskini akipata, ameiba. Lakini mtoto wa tajiri akiiba, ni kwa sababu ni ya baba yake.” (When a poor man’s child creates wealth, he is accused of stealing, but when a rich man’s child steals, it is because it is his father’s.)
Mr Ruto summed up the defence of his wealth with a pledge never to engage in corruption, saying he had never been a beneficiary of graft since he entered politics as the Eldoret North MP wat the age of 30 in 1997.
He took a stiff, almost uneasy tone when was asked about his relationship with opposition leader Raila Odinga and Kanu Chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, two of his most vocal political opponents.
On Mr Odinga, Mr Ruto said he had backed, and was consulted, on the opposition leader’s historic handshake with President Kenyatta on March 9. On whether he would join the President on a visit to Mr Odinga’s Nyanza bastion, Mr Ruto said he would do what needed to be done for national unity and to realise Jubilee’s programmes.
It is on Senator Moi, who some claim is being propped up to take over from him as the Rift Valley political kingpin, that Mr Ruto took long to respond before describing their relationship as like that with “any other” senator.
The DP, who had earlier in the day stirred debate when he said that his support for President Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017 was not a political debt that should be repaid by the Central Kenya voting bloc, for the first time said he will participate in the party's nomination.
“I will be seeking the Jubilee ticket. If somebody else gets it, I will support whoever gets that ticket. I have heard people saying, oh, William Ruto is automatically the candidate. That is not correct. Jubilee, as a party, through its processes. will nominate a candidate in 2022,” Mr Ruto said.
Asked what he will do if he does not achieve his ambition of becoming president, he said: “I have come from very far. If I were to end my career today as the DP, I would go home a very happy Kenyan, that out of 45 million Kenyans who are as qualified as I am, I got to be the first deputy president in Kenya. I thank God.”
He disputed, despite numerous public pronouncements, including a statement from State House on June 30, 2016, that there was a deal between him and President Kenyatta to back him for the 2022 State House race as “repayment” for his support.
“The President has been categorical about the 2022 Jubilee ticket. He has made it very clear that the party will fully back Deputy President William Ruto,” State House Senior Director of Public Communications Munyori Buku said in a brief statement.
“The President has explained that 10 years of his own term are not long enough to implement the grand plan Jubilee has for Kenya. He has pointed out this super plan needs about 20 years to implement,” it added.
President Kenyatta had in March 16 the same year during a rally in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, rubbished those angling for attention in 2022 to “wait until 2032”, saying only then would “their time come.”
Mr Ruto asked Kenyans to focus on the 90 per cent the Jubilee government was doing “scandal-free” instead of focusing on the 10 per cent failures being addressed.
He defended Jubilee record on addressing graft, saying investigative and judicial agencies had the ultimate mandate to ensure convictions in corruption cases.