Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1997–2005) in his memoir Tony Blair: A Journey, observed; “the first rule in politics is that there are no rules, at least not in the sense of inevitable defeats or inevitable victories.
If you have the right policy and the right strategy, you always have a chance of winning. Without them, you can lose no matter how certain the victory seems”.
The strategic horizons for Deputy President William Ruto are shrinking and they are ever getting smaller. But he still has the will and this is all that matters now. He has isolated himself from some of his peers and regional kingpins who are instrumental in his election bid and created his own archers.
He needs to count his friends perhaps more intently than ever before. He is the prisoner of events rather than the master of the party and the Government he serves seems to be at cross purposes with him.
The hostile party apparatus, limited operational space in government and a crumbling political base are events powerful enough to invite the Deputy President to resign from government, be impeached by Parliament or to fight for survival.
Each of these options has its costs. Resignation is a cowardly act and Dr Ruto is not a coward. Impeachment by Parliament will forever damage his public standing and the Deputy President cannot stand character assassination. The most compelling option is to fight on land, air, and water for political survival.
Fighting is what Ruto’s DNA is wired for. The choice of this option implies employing the wisdom of Imi Lichtenfeld–one of the founders of the state of Israel and the teacher of Krav Maga–the official hand–to–hand combat art of the Israel Defence Forces. According to Lichtenfeld, in fighting, you have to “move quickly from defence to attack by becoming the aggressor as fast as possible”.
Why wait for the President to call a parliamentary group meeting? Ruto could summon one and brainstorm the issues affecting the party if any. He could also prevail upon the provincial administration to ensure they do not miss your functions. Count on and cajole the security system for them to do his bidding. Be the champion of devolution to win the support of the Council of Governors and the members of county assemblies. He could also assure the rich and powerful that they are safe and their wealth secure.
He can empower the hustlers with capital and start-ups. Court the women by championing affirmative action. Disarm his adversaries and critics with handshakes and reconciliations. Denounce corruption and the corrupt. Help aggrieved maize farmers. Repudiate the hustler tag, and so on.
Ruto’s greatest enemy is not Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga or Gideon Moi. It is Ruto himself. He approaches every issue with a macho-make belief; a personal will and bravado that is destructive, alien and antagonistic to Kenya’s political psyche.
The wisdom of Lao–Tzu, the Father of Daoism is applicable, “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom, mastering others is a strength, mastering yourself is true power”. Remember too the Chinese Proverb, “He who overcomes others is strong, he who overcomes himself is mighty”.
Your ability to think, to argue, to explain, to draft, to quell and to excoriate, are needed by the Government, the party and the people whereas this is the very reason why you are not ‘needed’.
The real problem in the country today is a ‘reality’ problem, not one resolvable merely by negotiation. President Kenyatta’s reality is legacy, the Deputy President’s reality is succession. They are linked but paradoxical.
Only when and if the President is sure that Ruto’s Presidency will enhance and secure his legacy, and vice versa, will the question of the day be resolved. The choice to fight for survival is outlined by Robin Cross in Fallen Eagle: The Last Days of the Third Reich. In December 1944 Adolf Hitler was constantly comparing himself to Fredrick the Great.
He explained to General Thomale the chief-of-staff of the inspectorate of Panzer Troops: “There is no foreseeable end to re-organisation. Everything is in a process of flux – our national production, the state of training, the competence of commanders. But this is nothing new in history.
“Only just now I was reading through a volume of letters of Fredrick the Great. This is what he writes in one of them, in the fifth year of the seven years’ war: ‘There was a time when I went on campaign with the most magnificent army in Europe.
Now I have a heap of rubbish – I possess no more commanders, my generals are incapable, my officers are no longer proper leaders and my troops are of appalling quality’. You can’t imagine a more alarming indictment, and yet this man stuck it out through the war”. This is the determination and the will that guarantees victory.
However, choices have consequences. On December 28, 1944, in his snow-bound headquarters near Bad Nauheim, Hitler while addressing Commanding Generals of the Division preparing to launch the abortive trust in Northern Alsace, Operation Nord wind, admitted that the Ardennes offensive had broken down and Germany was now fighting for survival.
But he boasted: “Never in my life have I accepted the idea of surrender, and I am one of those men who have worked their way up from nothing. Our present situation, therefore, is nothing new to me. Once upon a time, my situation was entirely different and far worse.
I say this only so that you can grasp why I pursue my goal with such fanaticism and why nothing can wear me down. No matter how much I might be tormented by worries, even if my health were shaken by them–that would still have not the slightest effect on my decision to fight on”.
This sounds like vintage Ruto in his determination to be the President of Kenya.
Mr Chesang is a historian
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