Halfway through his second term as Deputy President, William Ruto continues to assemble an army of politicians and strategists for what he believes will be a politically bruising stab at the presidency, disregarding his boss’ instructions to keep off politics.
For some, his all-out assault at the top job is an act of recklessness. Others though believe his recent maneuvering may propel him to the biggest political challenge of his life.
Nothing epitomises his ambition more than the forays he has made into Central Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard, marshaling his troops and making sure they are all lined up, ready for the march to the presidency.
And he has not been shy about it.
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On the afternoon of July 9, Ruto told supporters in Eldama Ravine that he had everything planned for victory.
“But you have faith that we are going to heaven though none of us know the date of going? So is there a problem when we plan for 2022 which we know the date, the week and the month?” he told worshipers during a fundraiser for 35 churches.
On Thursday, he ignited a heated exchange on Twitter with his hard response to Kirinyaga Governor Anne Mumbi’s comment that Kenya was ready for a President from outside the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities.
His statement clearly signaled his intentions. His ally and Nandi Governor Stephen said they will not back down until they get the prize. “We know what we want and we are going for it,” Sang said.
Sang also said Ruto has the best laid out plan.
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Which, insiders say, began as a series of government-backed project launch events before changing into campaigning platforms for his 2022 ambition.
With average tours of 10 counties per month, the DP seems determined to leave nothing to chance. However, there are a series of political tests ahead that could jolt the man who has invested his mind, soul, and resources into winning the presidency.
In two weeks time, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force will release its report that will likely open a window for a referendum that could alter the form of the executive.
“If BBI recommends a referendum, this could recast the trend of politics in Kenya, Ruto’s efforts will be tested there,” said political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi.
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In what could be high octane politics, Ruto is expected to open another battlefront with Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga after he registered his opposition to change the constitution calls.
Uhuru and Raila have indicated that the expansion push that seeks to open the executive positions as a means to treat the winner-takes-it-all malady.
For Ngunyi, it is the political sympathy that Ruto seems to be attracting that should worry those opposed to him.
“If he opposes calls for a referendum, and defeats it at the vote, then his political currency would greatly appreciate in value,” he said.
Others though dismiss the DP’s moves, arguing that there will be better candidates for the job Ruto has been auditioning for since 2013 when the Uhuruto ticket floored the hastily assembled Raila-led coalition that also included Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula.
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“He is supposed to be helping his boss but instead he is distracting him,” Nominated MP Maina Kamanda has said time and again.
But the DP’s allies insist their man’s countrywide tours are meant to ensure development projects are delivered. Foes call his countrywide tours an ‘obsession’.
According to former Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe, Ruto started campaigning a bit too early. “We are three years away, what is his obsession with 2022? What is this that he wants to do than that he cannot do now when he is within the presidency?” asked Murathe.
But the DP’s position within the presidency seems to be hanging by the thread.
The cozy relationship he enjoyed with President Kenyatta is no more. In fact, more often than not, relations between the two are described by friends as ‘frosty’ at best, and they might worsen as we approach 2022.
By actively looking for collaborators to his cause within the president’s backyard in legislators such as Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Kimani Inchung’wa (Kikuyu), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), there remains the feeling that the DP is biting the very hand that fed him. Early in the week, 50 Jubilee MPs said they would not be silenced in their support for Ruto and claimed the Interior ministry was using the functions of the Inspector General of Police and was deploying officers to intimidate and silence Ruto allies.
Led by Ichung’wa, they said they will not be cowed or renege on their support for Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.
Their meeting followed the arrest of Nyoro in Murang’a after he allegedly caused a disturbance in a church in his constituency. According to Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri, Ruto is trying to wrestle the Mt Kenya vote bloc away from Uhuru before 2022, to curb the region’s bargaining power in the run-up to the election.
“What we should ask is what these leaders fighting for him have received from him now that they have shown us they are willing to fight Uhuru for Ruto,” said Ngunjiri.
Sang attests that their intention is not to sabotage Uhuru but build a formidable party that will withstand test of time.
“We want to solidify support to ensure Jubilee and its 2022 candidate retains power and continues with the Uhuru legacy,” says the governor.
But Ruto’s forays have not been limited to Central Kenya. Ruto’s countrywide journeying has given him the opportunity to cultivate allies and loyalty in regions that were once perceived as being hostile to him.
Western Kenya, the Coastal region, Kisii and North Eastern remain firmly in his sights, causing jitters among regional kingpins such as Mombasa’s Hassan Joho and Western’s Musalia Mudavadi, both of whom are on record as wanting to do nothing with Ruto’s ambitions.
For as many as there are those who oppose him, there is an equal number who seem determined to fight for him, a polarising characteristic that has stuck to the former Kanu, ODM, URP and now Jubilee man. “Kenyans know well that Ruto remains the most likely to succeed Uhuru,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, a key Ruto ally in Western Kenya.
The next half of Ruto’s deputy presidency might determine his political future. Is he ready to sustain a two-year fight or will he run out of steam?
Only time will tell whether his current moves are an indication of a recklessness politician or a pointer to a man driven by raw ambition.
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William RutoPresident Uhuru KenyattaBBIMutahi Ngunyi
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