Whew! Kenya finally got its fifth President in the form of William Samoei Ruto, after the highly anxious and uncertain interlude which followed the 9th of August voting.
I sincerely congratulate Dr Ruto alongside his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, as they assume the reins of MV Kenya now that the Supreme Court has concluded all the post-election litigation. In a number of ways, this election was pleasantly refreshing.
Firstly, it succeeded in unshackling voters from the quintessential tribal voting blocs which have always defined Kenya’s political contests, and which constituted a serious Achilles heel to the country’s nascent democracy.
This time round, families – let alone communities- were literally bifurcated over the presidential choice. This amazing and novel trend attracted most attention in Central Kenya because of the fact that the residents, for the first time ever, were choosing from a pool which constituted no serious local contender.
And truly, the Mount Kenya region surprised all pundits by boldly defying the incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta, himself a Kikuyu, and proceeding to shower his avowed opponent, Dr Ruto with profuse votes.
A family reunion I attended in the Kikuyu heartlands earlier in the year was quite telling: it soon degenerated into fairly serious bickering between pro-Raila and pro-Ruto siblings, wives and husbands, something completely inconceivable just a few years ago.
The children, probably for the same reason they love bunnies, promised their ‘votes’ to George Wajackoyah. Could this new liberal mindset among Kenyans be sustained, and allowed to grow to be the first concrete step towards a detribalised society that has eluded us all these years?
Secondly, as Dr Ruto himself affirmed during his magnanimous acceptance speech at Bomas, “the people of Kenya have raised the bar on us who are seeking leadership in our country … to sell our programmes, manifestos, our agenda and our plan.”
Indeed, we were arguably served with more detailed developmental plans from the contenders than during previous electioneering periods.
As it were, even Wajackoyah’s outlier concept of greening our countryside with cannabis sativa was nonetheless anchored in his peculiar vision of paying off the country’s burgeoning public debt. He was to me the only candidate who conjured a realistic alternative source of capitation outside the clichéd raising of taxes, improving horticultural output by acquiring cheap fertilizer and stifling graft!
Third and most remarkably, this election has thrown Kenyans into a completely unfamiliar territory of being governed by two rank outsiders, a president and his deputy hewn from rural climes, far removed from the royal ‘dynastic’ confines - to use Ruto’s own patois. This is a guild he sought to overthrow from the very beginning.
Ruto will no doubt go on record as the rare African aspirant who stood against State machinery, an incumbent’s resolute barricades and a former premier to clinch the presidency . Because of this, his rule is likely to be stringently studied, compared and scrutinised by historians and political science academics.
In my opinion, Ruto takes over amidst great goodwill in the form of the current triumphant mood in most of the country. Therefore, by riding that momentum deftly, he has a perfect chance of giving Kenya the messianic visionary it has always craved, the one to lead it to the elusive and transcendental ‘Canaan’ land conceived by Raila Amolo Odinga.
Yet- and God forbid- he could also recycle Kenya back to a familiar depressing route, the ‘slough of despond’ where tyranny, nepotism, graft and tribalism reign supreme. I trust that he will choose the former.
Loads of expectations
As soon as the ecstatic jubilation settles in the far-flung areas which voted him, Dr Ruto will have to come to terms with the reality of citizens with elephantine expectations, whipped up to a crescendo by his UDA’s tantalising pre-election promises. Remember the jobs for the youth, and fuel price adjustments, ad infinitum?
On the wings, the ‘hustlers’, a section of society aptly defined by one news outlet as the ‘youthful strivers who find themselves underemployed or unemployed and are itching to better themselves’ are positioning themselves to reap instant benefits from the presidency of a kindred spirit.
“He sold chicken and lived like us,” one of Ruto’s childhood friends and classmate, Clement Kipkoech Kosgei was quoted by the New York Times as saying. “Maybe he will bring change now.”
The more discerning sections of the society will also look up to Ruto to solve the country’s more substantive concerns. Big elephants in the room almost certainly include the unprecedent 8.5 trillion shillings public debt, the shrinking economy, the run-away corruption, the touchy Competency Based Curriculum issue and the cripplingly high cost of farm inputs.
Citizens will also expect the allegations of ‘State-capture’ by previous regimes, which Deputy Gachagua so passionately alluded to during the televised debate, to be investigated and nipped in the bud before it completely disenfranchises the common mwananchi.
Finally, university professors, completely disillusioned by being long relegated to below the lowest political cadres (MCAs) in terms of remuneration, will be keenly waiting to see what type of surprises Dr Ruto, a fresh PhD -thanks to their training- has for them.