You cannot stop an idea whose time has come, Dr Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto's opposition to the proposed referendum is more about phobia than principle. He is looking at the presidency, so tantalizingly within reach, yet the ascendancy blocks on which he is standing risk being toppled.

His utterances point to his aversion to the creation of the post of Prime Minister, but more importantly, anything that might give his nemesis, Raila Odinga, a chance to become president. It raises his hackles, and those of his lieutenants, that Raila could be in the equation in 2022 after perfunctory attempts at capping the age of a presidential candidate flopped.

Yet, even with statistical evidence that at least 6 million Kenyans voted for Odinga in 2017 and could go where he leads them, Ruto believes he is speaking for all Kenyans. That is unfortunate if only because his deportment has not been that of building bridges and reaching out to all. Rather, his propensity to ridicule has succeeded in erecting walls. As a result, there are Kenyans who don't give him a chance at the presidency, and if the invective directed at him on social media is a pointer, such people are legion.

A dampener seems to have been placed on erstwhile vocal supporters within Jubilee. Instances in which some MPs from Central Kenya vigorously propped his presidency bid have fizzled out. Most have changed tune or discreetly withdrew. The one or two who are still vocal are greenhorns without pecuniary muscle or national appeal.

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Signals panic

If the company one keeps is an accurate yardstick for gauging future political chances, then Ruto's chances are in serious jeopardy. Leaders from Western Kenya who have taken the ‘Ruto for 2022’ refrain from where their colleagues from Central Kenya dropped it present the picture of misfortune. Some were roundly rejected by their own people. Jubilee salvaged a few, hoping it could get sympathy in the region.

The strategy does not seem to be working. The number of times that the deputy president has visited Bungoma this year, ostensibly to initiate development projects, signals panic and desperation. A section of a community Ruto once insulted by calling lazy for doing nothing except indulge in bullfighting suddenly became attractive. And the bullfighter-in-chief is leading Ruto’s campaign.

Despite the vastness of Western, why does Ruto limit his visits to Bungoma? Don’t the other areas require development too?  What evidence is there of the developments projects Ruto purports to have initiated in Western?  From where I sit, these projects are largely utopian, and to reiterate Ruto's own coinage; ‘there is a shortage of fools in Kenya’.

Bravo Western Kenya leaders who recently called Ruto’s visits to Bungoma what they truly are; bad, divisive politics that seek to inflame a whole community against an individual. Luhyas should not agree to become anybody's stepping stone to a pedestal from where such individuals can ride roughshod over poor, suffering Kenyans.

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Somehow failed

No matter how subtly it is presented, the DPs obsession with Raila is obvious and counterproductive. When it is not betraying the insecurity that assails him in his quest for the presidency, it alienates some who would otherwise have given him their support. Poignantly, this could also portray him as a vindictive leader; one who brooks no challenge and is despotically predisposed.

Under such circumstances, that sally about ‘clearing’ everybody who stands in his way to Statehouse was injudicious. It evokes memories of things that occurred in the past and which the International Criminal Court (ICC) tried to pin on him, but somehow failed. ICC’s inability to convict him notwithstanding, such statements risk reinforcing belief in some of the impressions, whether real or false, that existed at the time.

Overt disdain and a condescending nature are bad and dangerous traits in those who aspire to occupy the highest public office in the country. If  Ruto paused just long enough to appreciate the forces gathering against him, which could have remained inactive a little longer if he had been circumspect; and that, to his advantage, he would change tack. Unfortunately, he does not seem open to counsel.

Urged on by political minnows whose combined political weight I place under the `light featherweight’ category, Ruto cannot stand in the way of a referendum, which most Kenyans seem amenable to. It should interest him that the bad policies that Jubilee propagated prior to the March handshake took this country to the brink of a rebellion.

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Most of those policies and everything that is wrong with Jubilee has been blamed on Ruto, partly because his boss left him to do all the talking. Our individual perception of him notwithstanding, Raila has a way of influencing our body politic and there is nothing Ruto can do about it except sulk and try to incite the public against him.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

DP William Ruto2022 politics