There is no absolute enmity in politics except permanent interests based on individual ambitions. This is the reason why many political leaders could loathe each but are still able to mend fences to safeguard self-interests or the collective good.
Despite the turbulence Deputy President William Samoei Ruto is going through in the Jubilee government, there is still room for him to navigate new frontiers to remain relevant in Kenya’s political landscape.
The DP should not waste time agonizing about the imbroglio in the Jubilee government. He should instead start courting new and old political partners given the unpredictable nature in the country’s political terrain.
The undemocratic notion that a Presidential election in Kenya can only be determined by cartels is archaic and should be ignored. Whilst the notion has benefitted some leaders to rise to the top, events leading to the Kibaki presidency in 2002 speak the opposite.
The unprecedented move by opposition leaders to defeat the current President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was being backed by the late President Daniel Moi under KANU in 2002 is something Ruto should pursue. This will neutralize the humiliation he is going through in a government he serves as second in command.
Desperate times often require radical moves. For DP Ruto to resuscitate his dwindling political fortunes, he must make a strong and calculated move that will surprise both friend and foe. Ruto, must try and whitewash (dismantle) the political covenant between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, since it’s perceived to be the genesis of his political misfortunes in the Jubilee government.
Ruto should be more forgiving to political detractors like Odinga. Many of Mr. Odinga’s supporters at home and abroad contend with the fact that, the ODM leader is extremely forgiving. Irrespective of the gravity of differences, he is always ready to build bridges with his political enemies. Nothing deterred Odinga from working with retired President Mwai Kibaki despite going through a tumultuous political experience before and after the 2007 Presidential election.
What Ruto is going through in Jubilee isn’t different from what Odinga has been through in his political journey. Despite not sharing similar political ideologies, Ruto and Odinga, can boast sharing similar political experiences that can be harnessed for their political good. The two leaders are tenacious and highly ambitious. They also share a huge following throughout the country.
If Odinga forgave the late President Daniel Moi, who detained him without trial for almost a decade, no major difference could prevent him from working with Ruto! The ODM leader did a handshake with his former political nemesis - President Kenyatta, despite fighting it out in two elections which Mr. Kenyatta controversially won. The Handshake birthed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which is alleged to be the genesis of Ruto’s current political predicaments. As the adage goes, adversity loves company. Nothing will deter Ruto from working with his former ally-ODM leader. Both are victims of political betrayal emanating from the leaders they once trusted.
The politically betrayed should rebuild a new Pentagon
Dusting off and reconstituting another Pentagon similar to that of 2007 will be more viable for Ruto and Raila than trying to gain politically from Kenyatta’s succession maneuvers. Encouragingly, all former Pentagon members except Najib Balala who is a Cabinet Secretary are in active politics.
Having Odinga, as a presidential candidate and Ruto as a running mate will be a real deal. It’s what they call in Swahili “moto wa Kuotea mbali” (the fire that will keep you in a distance). The only move Odinga will have to make is to stay lukewarm on the Handshake (BBI). This will ensure that they go to the ballot in 2022 under the current constitution.
However, if Ruto decides to support a referendum through the BBI which proposes an expanded Executive just like Odinga, it will be a good opportunity to bring onboard the 2007 Pentagon members -Joe Nyagah, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Najib Balala for purposes of diversity and political accommodation.
Political betrayal in whichever form should serve as a strengthener to the betrayed. Many leaders in Kenya have gone through some form of betrayal. In fact, the majority of Odinga’s 2007 Pentagon team except for Najib Balala and Joe Nyagah have been betrayed. Kenyans can recall that Mudavadi was referred to as a demon while Kalonzo, was side-stepped in the Kibaki succession plans in 2013 which favoured President Kenyatta.
Odinga and Ruto Presidential ticket will be a sure win
If Odinga picks Ruto as running mate in 2022, it will be a killer blow that will vanquish any presidential candidate under a coalition President Kenyatta will cobble in his succession plans. This is perhaps the reason why some power barons like David Murathe, who thrive on fraudulent Presidential elections, are working tooth and nail to ensure that the DP and ODM leader are at loggerheads in perpetuity.
Political feuds in the Jubilee government may look tragic to Ruto’s political destiny but if he swallows his pride and reconciles with Odinga, it will completely rollback Kenyatta’s succession plans. It’s a no-brainer that a Raila-Ruto political marriage will be lethal.
It must be remembered that Ruto is not a pushover. His tenacity to defend Odinga’s stolen victory in 2007 is the surest indication that he has what it takes to protect a Presidential victory. After all, the two controversial victories of President Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017 are courtesy of Mr. Ruto’s political acumen.
In Swahili, they say, “Dawa ya moto ni moto,” meaning you fight fire with fire. Ruto needs to court Mr. Odinga to build an alliance before 2022 in order to survive the current Jubilee imbroglio and stay afloat politically. Otherwise, power brokers in the Uhuru succession will send him to the political dustbin.
Uncertainty about Kenyatta’s support for Odinga in 2022
In the current post-handshake period, a section of Odinga’s adherents have a soft spot on President Kenyatta. They tend to associate Ruto with most of the corrupt practices which have derailed Kenya’s economic growth. What these adherents fail to understand is that, most political leaders in Kenya carry a lot of political baggage including the current President.
Those who are ambivalent about Kenyatta’s seriousness in supporting Odinga in 2022 do empathize with Ruto over the humiliation he is going through in a government helped to bring to power. They remember the betrayals and humiliations that the ODM leader has endured for many years in Kenya’s political spectrum.
If William Ruto and Raila Odinga broker a political deal in readiness for 2022, it will be one of the biggest political shifts in Kenya’s political history.
As the country grapples under the Covid-19 pandemic, time will tell how the current deputy President will play his cards as he aims at the ultimate prize in 2022.
By Joseph Lister Nyaringo
Nyaringo is the President of Kenya Patriotic Movement, a diaspora lobby group based in the US.