Deputy President William Ruto has spilled beans on some of the intricate behind-the-scenes happenings that preceded the March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
In a hard-hitting revelation on Tuesday evening, Dr Ruto exposed how Mr Odinga made several overtures to him, on phone and through emissaries, seeking an engagement but the DP said he declined because he did not believe his sincerity.
“Raila Odinga approached me four times to have a discussion but I declined,” Dr Ruto said in an interview with Citizen TV.
“I told him we have only one centre of command … I informed the president, whom I told I will not engage Raila.”
However, the ODM party swiftly denied his claims that Mr Odinga approached him.
"Mr DP on @RailaOdinga approaching you, you are lying. He has never had time for you. He will never have it either. Stop FAKE NEWS Sir," Philip Etale, ODM director of communications, tweeted during the interview.
"The truth of the matter is; it is the president who looked for @RailaOdinga for a meeting that culminated into the handshake. Raila never ever sought to meet Ruto. He has never planned to do that and he will never do."
The DP revealed that his scepticism in engaging the former premier stemmed from the fact that he did not believe Mr Odinga’s advances were in “good faith”.
He pointed out the aftermath of a merger between Kanu and Mr Odinga’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and the quick fallout between President Mwai Kibaki and the ODM leader in Narc government as some of the lessons that fuelled his scepticism.
“We spoke on phone and it was after the president had appointed the first six Cabinet secretaries. He (Mr Odinga) made suggestions of me being short-changed and so I did not engage him further," he said.
"I told him the president is the head of the party and we were not running a coalition."
Mr Ruto said his reservations have been vindicated, pointing out an instance where ODM deputy party leader Ali Hassan Joho, in a rally in Busia, said that they must fight the deputy president.
He also cited Siaya Senator James Orengo’s talk of a 2022 deal between Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta.
Dr Ruto added that Mr Orengo was being used by former Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe to sponsor a censure motion against him.
The former Eldoret North MP laughed off claims that he was kept in the dark about the ‘handshake’, saying it was not necessary for President Kenyatta to inform him about the discussion as he already knew of Mr Odinga’s plans.
“That is the reality of what happened. So when I see people standing on podiums saying things then I do not know how dishonest people can be,” he said.
Asked on why Mr Kenyatta went ahead to broker the deal with Mr Odinga despite his misgivings, Mr Ruto said he believes the president consulted widely before making the decision to work with his arch-rival in the 2013 and 2017 elections.
“We consult on a daily basis with the president but you we are all different and the president has more latitude, powers and I believe he consulted beyond me before the handshake,” he said.
The DP observed that he is in support of the handshake despite what is being peddled around that he is against it.
The handshake, he said, was meant to foster unity across the country and he believes has been achieved so far.
“Yes I can say that it is working to an extent. There are currently no demonstrations, no people quarrelling in the streets and businesses are running without problems,” he said.
On his differences with Mr Odinga, the former ODM Pentagon member said there are no irreconcilable differences and that they can work together.
However, he warned the ODM party leader that he will not hesitate to stop him “when he comes to a party which I am the deputy party leader”.
On chances of being declared ‘Ruto Tosha’ by Mr Kenyatta, the Jubilee Party presidential hopeful said the president will make his choice when the time comes.
The Jubilee Party constitution, he added, clearly states how a presidential candidate is chosen and there is nowhere they agreed with Mr Kenyatta that he will be the flagbearer.
He said President Kenyatta will not impose him on Jubilee members and will have to work hard to convince others to support his candidature.
“I will not in public want to tell my boss what to do. What I know is that the party headed by Kenyatta will have a presidential candidate in 2022 and that person is not necessarily me,” he said.
“I will present my papers same as others and will support whoever the party will have chosen.”
The DP stated that Jubilee is intact and scoffed at those behind the ‘Stop Ruto movement’, calling them former ODM original members, sympathisers and Jubilee party rejects.
“ODM has managed to persuade sympathisers but 95 percent of Jubilee is intact,” he said.
“These were people who wanted to rig elections but we believe in fairness and every member will be treated so."
He said Mr Murathe was nowhere during the formation of Jubilee Party and his departure was as a result of not being able to stomach what the DP said.
The former vice chairman “bit more than he could chew”, Dr Ruto said.
Concerning the recent humbling of ODM in both Embakasi South and Ugenya Constituency by-elections, the DP said he did not support any candidate but his tweet was a tribute to the winners.
“I did not support anybody because we did not have a candidate in the by-elections. I talked of ‘hustler nation’ because nobody believed in the candidates but they went on to win despite heavy artillery deployed against them. It is ODM which framed it as Ruto versus Raila and so I said let them just deal with it,” he said.