President Uhuru Kenyatta is struggling to deal with the thorn in his flesh that is preventing him from making strides towards securing his legacy.
Ever since he was reelected in August 2017, his ambitious deputy William Samoei Ruto has been lurking in the shadows, planning and plotting his march to occupy State House in 2022.
The president is walking a tight rope in trying to appease his deputy, man who almost single handedly delivered the presidency but has now gone all out to campaign for the position he helped win.
If he pushes too hard, the fragile bonds that hold the two together might snap. But if his nudge is too gentle, then he risks being sucked into the murky world of succession politics, effectively derailing him from his legacy term.
Having brought political stability through his handshake with the Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Uhuru finds himself between a rock and a hard place in trying to see his Big Four Agenda dream come true in an environment polarised by succession politics.
Ruto’s quest for the top seat is unquestionable and there is heightened activity in his camp. During the month of June, Ruto visited 18 counties and went to Kiambu and Kwale three times.
From Meru on June 1 to Marsabit last Friday, the Deputy President held a series of meetings in Rumuruti, Nyahururu town in Laikipia county on June 9, before having more meetings over 600 kilometres away Malindi town in Kilifi County.
Among the counties he has covered this month include Kisii, Nyamira, Isiolo, Wajir, Narok, Kajiado, Baringo, Samburu and Turkana.
Ruto is not only making friends and enemies in equal measure but has put President Kenyatta in a political dilemma as he seeks to implement election pledges in his final term.
Whereas he seems to be making a breakthrough in Opposition strongholds, the Mount Kenya political base is grumbling. “With people already campaigning for 2022, when will the president ever deliver his promises,” Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu asked.
Though Wambugu does not speak for the presidency, his statement could perhaps capture the frustrations over Ruto’s indefatigable zeal in Uhuru’s political base. Curiously, all onslaughts on the DP from Mt Kenya are met with an unpredictable charm offensive.
Two weeks ago, while addressing a gathering at Miritini in Mombasa County during the commissioning of the Dongo Kundu bypass, Uhuru called for a lifestyle audit as part of investigations into misuse of public resources.
The president said the audit, set to begin next month, would begin with him and his deputy, then cascade to the Cabinet and other Government officers officials and their family members.
Days after the statement, a group of MPs from Rift Valley led by Senate Minority leader and Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said that the lifestyle audit was targeting Ruto.
Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi said that if the audit was to have credibility, then it should start from the time Kenya got independence in 1963.
Notably, Uhuru has on three occasions publicly said that time for politicking is over and the leaders should channel their energies toward serving Kenyans and leave politics for 2022.
Strives to deliver
On those occasions, the statements seemed to have been trained on his deputy, usually sitting next to him during the public rallies and meetings.
Political analyst Dismas Mokua said that Ruto cleverly used the president’s words to build the Ruto Brand by using the very statements aimed at him to wiggle out of tight spots.
“Ruto has a gift of gab and has used the president’s words in some occasions to enrich himself politically,” Mokua said, alluding to the statement Uhuru made shortly after issuing 50,000 title deeds to landowners at Jacaranda Grounds in Nairobi’s Embakasi East.
“This young man called Ruto anatanga tanga (loitering) around the entire country every weekend. He will be passing by here so if you see something amiss let him know so that we ensure citizens are served,” Uhuru said.
Many believed that Ruto would be offended by this statement. But while speaking at the burial of Virginia Ciarùnji Njoka, the mother to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi in Embu, Ruto caused laughter when he cleverly thanked President Kenyatta for allowing him to tangatanga and inspect development projects as the Government strives to deliver on its development agenda.
Yesterday, Baringo MP William Cheptumo said that President Kenyatta and Ruto were working seamlessly and their relationship is that of respect. He explained that Ruto’s visits to different parts of the country was to push for development projects which would lead to Uhuru securing his legacy.
Cheptumo was among the Rift Valley MPs who on Wednesday night, perhaps after realising that Ruto’s visits to different counties could be causing a strain in the relationship between the president and the deputy, resolved to suspend any talks about 2022.
“We resolved that what we need now is to support President Kenyatta to deliver on his Big Four agenda and secure his legacy,” Murkomen said.
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