In October 1976, when it became evident that President Kenyatta’s succession was a matter of extreme urgency, the Gema group led by the late Kihika Kimani, commenced the “Change the Constitution” movement. The intent of the proposed changes was to deny then Vice President Daniel arap Moi the automatic accession to the Presidency upon Kenyatta’s death. The move eventually collapsed when then Attorney General Njonjo issued the infamous warning that imagining and compassing the death of the President were treasonable acts. President Kenyatta soon thereafter dissociated himself from the campaign, eventually ensuring Moi a seamless takeover of the Presidency two years later when Kenyatta died.
Amazingly, 40 years later, the “No debt to Ruto Movement” led primarily by my energetic good friend Hon Ngunjiri Wambugu, eerily seeks to stop Deputy President William Ruto from automatically acceding to the Jubilee candidacy after Uhuru Kenyatta’s term comes to an end in 2022! The more things change, the more they remain the same.
For the record, and for personal reasons, I was never an instinctive supporter of the Deputy President. But I have always acknowledged an admiration for the man’s grit and energy. No other person has come from political and economic rags to accede to the highest echelons of leadership the way Ruto has. Jomo Kenyatta was a natural beneficiary of independence politics. Moi was groomed by the Kenyatta clique. Mwai Kibaki was groomed by the system from his twenties. President Uhuru Kenyatta, I need not say anything.
From his days as a “roadside retailer,” Ruto has fought every step of the way to get where he is. In 2007, he made an important political calculation by joining ODM, a strategy that eventually saw him dislodge the Moi family from the helm of the Kalenjin Nation. His opposition to the 2010 Constitution gave him an opportunity to lead a movement that took him to every corner of Kenya. His 2012 deal with Uhuru quietened the age-old Kalenjin Kikuyu rivalry and led the Jubilee duo to a definitive win in the 2013 elections. While Jubilee-URP government was in all respects a coalition, the DP exhibited political maturity in accepting his place as Junior Partner with grace, thus enabling Jubilee to govern with little overt conflict. It is in watching him over these many years that I have come to the inescapable conclusion that, ceteris paribus, William Ruto will be the Jubilee candidate for the 2022 elections. He will thereby have the best chance of being Kenya’s 5th President. The earlier my fellow central Kenyans come to this conclusion and work towards making it a reality the better.
Is there a debt owed to Ruto that requires central Kenya to support him in 2022? Absolutely Yes. When Jubilee and URP announced their joint ticket in 2012, candidates Uhuru and Ruto made it very clear, unequivocally, that theirs was a 20-year agreement. Ruto would take over from Uhuru. The President’s backyard should have recorded their concerns at that time. Instead, they happily harvested the dividends that this promise brought. This message was restated several times prior to the 2017 elections. None of the “No Debt owed to Ruto” coalition opposed this arrangement before the elections.
It is the height of dishonesty to now raise this as an issue for renegotiation after the DP has marshalled his troops to support the Jubilee juggernaut in the elections and worked quite hard to extend Jubilee’s political boundaries. It has been argued that by serving as DP and being offered a generous share of government, DP’s debt has been paid. That is utter nonsense. The dream of every politician is to be Number 1. DP did not enter into the Jubilee train to end as Number 2. The only conversation that central Kenya should be having with the DP is what their stake in a Ruto government will be. That the House of Mumbi will support Ruto in 2022 should not be up for negotiation. It would confirm to many what they believe about the Kikuyu Nation; that they cannot hold their end of a bargain. No one needs that brand.
- The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya