Ruto’s path to State House is rocky, but he has no choice but to tread on

Wednesday March 18 2020

Deputy President William Ruto addresses a fundraiser at Makutano centre in Laikipia County on November 23, 2019. In Parliament, Jubilee, ODM and Wiper Democratic Movement MPs stand ready to thwart him. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Will Deputy President William Ruto become president?

Three years ago, the likelihood was progressing to inevitability. But this has recently reversed. And now fall is on the horizon. Why?

First, there's the sustained war of attrition portraying Dr Ruto as incorrigibly corrupt and disloyal to President Uhuru Kenyatta and, therefore, unfit to lead.

It has eroded his stature and increasingly draws attention to his negatives.

Second, Dr Ruto has been the architect of his own predicament. Indeed, those who argue that he is a student of former President Daniel arap Moi are wrong.

His ill-advised, ill-timed and ill-executed succession drive could not have been learnt at Moi's feet.

Uncle Dan would never have shown his hand to his foes. Always keeping his cards close to his chest, he loved to confound all and sundry, stay a step ahead, and strike, devastatingly, at his convenience.


The reason some called his fledgling presidency in 1978 a passing cloud was because he sold the tip of the iceberg for 12 years.

His demeanour betrayed no ambition. He had it; it was deep seated, and he hid it well. Had Dr Ruto studied Mr Moi's 12-year tenure as VP and his relationship with President Jomo Kenyatta, he would have revisited 1976.

Then, as now, the change-the-constitution agenda dominated the arena.

Then, as now, schemers sought to stop Number Two from succeeding Number One. Mr Moi kept his counsel throughout as Njenga Karume, Paul Ngei, Kihika Kimani and Njoroge Mungai campaigned to block him from succeeding Old Jomo.

Once in power in 1978, it was payback time. He hit back swiftly from 1979 and served most of them electoral setbacks.

Enlightened, Dr Ruto would have reconfigured his political compass to comprise stealth, humility, loyalty and patience.


He may be no VP, but he is still a Number Two, not a co-president. A political Number Two is like the military general who serves his boss the field marshal to his utmost best without outshining him.

But Dr Ruto cocked a snook at the President when he began campaigning for 2022 in their first term.

So in 2016 I advised about having a plan B to the pact with President Kenyatta on succession. I also warned against planning the final before playing the semi-final.

Alas, in 2017, Dr Ruto was accused of rigging Jubilee Party nominations to ensure his favourites became MPs, governors and ward reps.

He could not wait to make enemies: he assembled his team at the expense of national and personal interests, among them the President's.

And his lieutenants took to attacking the President at will. That is not in Uncle Dan's book.


Next have been the churches which have enjoyed generous Harambee contributions.

And he sought to enlist the support of Mt Kenya, Coast, Northern Kenya, former Western Province and Rift Valley well ahead of 2022.

The result is that Dr Ruto exposed his strategy and assets and both have been destroyed. If President Kenyatta had been harbouring thoughts of betraying Dr Ruto, the DP gave him reason to act.

He cannot be sacked, but, as I say, the campaign against him is aimed at rendering him a shell, skunk and eunuch politically.

It is why the anti-graft war is ongoing and many powerful forces are ranged against the DP.

These include embittered President Kenyatta, presidential hopeful Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement and organised labour boss Francis Atwoli.

Then there are projects such as Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), change the constitution campaign, Embrace Handshake and Team Kieleweke.


Dr Ruto remains on post but his power in government has been undermined with the elevation of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to chairman of the Cabinet and enforcer of government business.

In Parliament, Jubilee, ODM and Wiper Democratic Movement MPs stand ready to thwart him.

So what does Dr Ruto do? Go back to the drawing board and, even as a dead cat strategy, but keeping Mr Moi in mind, consider: One, taking and championing a principled inclusivity-driven, fact-packed and fact-backed position on the published report of BBI.

Two, popularising President Kenyatta's Big Four Agenda even though its success is doubtful. Three, declaring his wealth and demanding other leaders do the same.

Last, differentiating President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, define the latter as driven by malice to stop him becoming president and always poisoning Kenya's politics. It will be a long slog back DP, but chickening out will not sell.

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