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The handshake and how Raila is reaping from Ruto’s misfortunes

Saturday July 27 2019

Raila and Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto (right) and ODM leader Raila Odinga during a past event in January 2019. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KWENDO OPANGA
By KWENDO OPANGA
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He is the unelected powerhouse; inspecting government projects and advising ministers. And he is consulted by politicos and technocrats from across the political aisle he has blurred.

As a friend and confidant of the President, their public camaraderie makes him the envy, and enemy, of many. In the pits in January last year, he has reinvented himself into a mover and shaker at the apex of Kenya's governance.

HEAVY TOLL

Radiant and self-assured, he is looking more digital for 2022 than he looked analogue for 2013. Welcome Mr Raila Amolo Odinga.

He used to high-five with the President. In TV interviews, he has been a picture of confidence, control and discipline. He has had info at his fingertips and, easily guessed where the question was headed before the reporter was done.

Here with just four signature phrases he has previously employed to preface his answers and smooth his way through interviews: Let me tell you, my friend; Let me put it this way; Look here, these are the facts and figures; and I know for a fact that...

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Not so last week. He was tense, unsure, even fearful, as he faced K24's Ann Kiguta in an anti-climactic one-on-one. Welcome Deputy President William Samoei Ruto.

As Mr Odinga's star has risen since the public shaking of hands over a deal on Kenya, with President Kenyatta on March 9, 2018, so has he relished personally dimming Dr Ruto's.

And the falling out with the President; unrelenting public vilification over graft; diminution of office; and a shrinking circle of allies, have taken a heavy toll on Dr Ruto as was evident in the Kiguta interview.

Next an ebullient Odinga corner, increasingly vocal about the plunder of public money earmarked for the construction of two dams in Elgeyo-Marakwet, and in tying the DP to the plunder, gleefully lapped up the tumultuous turn of events last week.

Dr Ruto's most strategically placed asset in the Executive, as overseer of Kenya's financial and economic system, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, turned himself in to the police.

HEAVY ARTILLERY

He was arrested and arraigned with respect to the phantom dams, then sacked from the Cabinet. While Mr Rotich's fate lies with the courts, the ammunition his debacle handed Mr Odinga & Co in their political war with Dr Ruto, amounts to heavy artillery.

Mr Odinga loves taking on political enemies, especially those whose defeat would clear his way to the top. He knows the DP is vulnerable because Mr Rotich's fall inflicted considerable reputational, psychological and political damage on him.

And with Mr Rotich in the dock, a major component of the DP's political machine has not only been decommissioned, but also created an opportunity for Mr Odinga & Co to clobber him on the hustings. The DP can guess what lies ahead.

Mr Odinga fought an ugly war with the late Michael Wamalwa for the helm of Ford Kenya between 1995 and 1996, before forming the National Development Party. This he dissolved in 2001 and merged with Kanu.

The DP and Mr Odinga fell out in 2010 and fought each other through 2011 and 2012 before he and Mr Kenyatta handed Mr Odinga defeat at the 2013 General Election.  They renewed hostilities during the 2017 General Election. Mr Odinga lost the initial presidential poll and then unwisely sat out the court-ordered re-run.

ZEALOUSLY SAVAGING

But he swiftly declared war on the new government, calling it illegitimate, malevolent and lacking a mandate. Then, just as quickly, he u-turned, betrayed his allies, blindsided the DP, and dived into the President's duvet.

Now enjoying presidential backing, Mr Odinga declared war on Dr Ruto. That means 2022's will be a do or die poll for 74-year-old Odinga, who has failed to win the presidency four times previously.

It is why he is zealously savaging Dr Ruto as fraudulent, partaking in graft and corrupting churches with mammon. More importantly, this campaign exposes Dr Ruto as being in office but not in power.

Ironically, Mr Odinga's power flows from his hunger for power, which dictates that he seizes deal-making chances that come his way or creates them.

He largely created the 2017 post-poll volatility that forced a legacy-seeking President into a detente. Will this war of attrition go on until it delivers an Odinga-led dispensation in 2022?

Only President Kenyatta can stop the onslaught, but there is no indication he is about to shift gears downwards, let alone reach for the handbrake. Suffice to say the DP is up against it.

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