OTANI: Why William Ruto is no pushover in Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession


OTANI: Why William Ruto is no pushover in Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession

Deputy President William Ruto has built a name for himself over the years in the political arena. Sometimes I believe that the former ‘chicken seller’ has surpassed his own expectations, yet he is still underrated by many.

I dare say that many Kenyans, including quite a number of his own supporters in his own Rift Valley base, don’t believe he has any chance of succeeding his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta after he is done with his believed automatic second term at the House on the Hill starting 2017.

Learning from the Professor of Politics

But look at it this query way; from which political bible has William Samoei arap Ruto been indoctrinated? Of course the former Member of Parliament for Eldoret North received his formative political tutelage under former President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, the self-proclaimed professor of politics, from when he was a political toddler.

But he gained his major political muscle under former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the Grand Coalition government, headed by then President Mwai Kibaki after the contested 2007 presidential poll.

Ruto was widely seen as the man who delivered the vote-wealthy Rift Valley support to ODM and Raila in the 2007 General Election delivering him the presidential win, at least according to Ruto and other ODM stalwarts then. The political standoff ensuing from the ‘stolen election’ ended up in the ugliest post election violence witnessed in the country, whose result was a coalition government of convenience.

Ruto’s underdog mien as Deputy Prime Minister and his playing victim as he received bashing from Odinga and MPs allied to the then PM in the ODM side of the coalition government endeared Ruto to many voters, especially in his Rift Valley backyard. Resultantly, this ‘ill-treatment’ attracted him a cult-like following, just like Raila has enjoyed in the Luo-Nyanza region.

Ruto’s major fallout with Raila, which resulted in Raila’s suspension of Ruto over his alleged involvement in the scandal involving the illegal sale of subsidized maize from the National Cereals and Produce Board, dealt the now opposition CORD leader the biggest blow of his political career as it cost him the Rift Valley backing.

Ruto then took advantage of his failing relationship with Raila at the time to marshal his loyal parliamentary troops from the Rift Valley to paint Raila as a traitor, a political turncoat and ungrateful to Rift Valley voters for voting for him as a man en masse.

This position made worse by the narrative that Raila backed the International Criminal Court and wanted Ruto jailed over the 2007 poll chaos.

Teaming up with the then Gatundu South MP Uhuru Kenyatta to lock Raila Odinga out of the 2013 General Election accorded Ruto an opportunity to perform an in-your-face dance on the former Langata MP, in essence showing that he had come of age and used lessons learnt from Raila to beat him.

The next conquest

Being the DP has put William Ruto on the best pedestal to scheme on how to replace his boss Uhuru, as he has a post without clear constitutional duties, meaning he has all the time in the world to campaign-24/7/365 if he wishes.

Anyone who is conversant with the local political scene will have noticed that Ruto is busy traversing the country campaigning, many would say for Jubilee and Uhuru’s re-election, but it is more or less about his presidential bid, with many forays made into Meru, Central Kenya, Western and Coast where he knows he can manage to pinch some votes into his basket when his time comes.

He has been doing this mainly through the now controversial harambees and especially the Western Kenya equally wealthy vote basket, targeting the Luhya Community backing.

Raila is uncomfortable with the fundraisers, hence why he is scandalising them. The former PM, who is a seasoned politician in his own right, knows this might see him watch his Western votes slide gradually into Ruto’s presidential basket post-2017.

10-year campaign period

If the Deputy President sticks to his widely sold strategy of backing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term bid in 2017 and take a stab at the presidency in 2022, with the supposed backing of Kenyatta’s Central Kenya and his own Rift Valley, he is poised to become Kenyatta’s successor.

So how will he achieve this? Well, Ruto will have a total of 10 years of campaign and a decade of amassing financial and political wealth and creating links in the main voting blocs; namely the larger Central region (including Meru and Embu), Western Kenya, Rift Valley, Nairobi and Coast.

Ruto also has the advantage of being in the limelight and in the media on a daily basis, something Raila doesn’t enjoy currently, and this on the strength of Ruto’s office. The self-proclaimed hustler also knows how to play the loyal servant to Kenyatta like he did with Raila during his tenure as the Premier.

Many will tell you that the DP is not guaranteed of the Uhuru backyard vote post-2017, given the widely believed story that Kikuyus only for a Kikuyu for president. I am sure that Ruto has entertained this notion, fuelled by some of his URP party and CORD MPs, therefore he must be making contingency plans and has 10 years to do so.

The case facing him at the ICC is also widely perceived to be headed the same direction the one against President Kenyatta went: down south. If the case against him at The Hague flops, Ruto will become even more formidable politically and nearly unstoppable.

That Ruto is wealthy and will be even wealthier by miles come 2022 is not lost to many Kenyans. This will provide him with the financial war-chest he needs to clinch the presidency, given the crucial spot wealth plays in Kenyan politics.

If Raila goes for the presidency under CORD in 2017 and loses, he will become almost a non-factor in the 2022 polls, leaving Ruto as the man to beat after Kenyatta Presidency terminates.

William Samoei arap Ruto feeds off being perceived as an underdog in the local political scene and always applies the element of surprise from back in the days when he sold chicken in his rural home; underrate him at your own peril!

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Story By Mac Otani
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