How Ruto is reliving Uhuru's pain

President William Ruto (right) and his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta. [File, Standard]

President William Ruto is reliving his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta's pain.

At the height of the 2022 General Election campaigns, a frustrated Uhuru publicly complained how his deputy Ruto was forever campaigning, and even dared him to resign, declaring he was no longer discharging his roles.

During this year's Labour Day, President Ruto took a swipe at some unnamed leaders who he accused of looking for popularity instead of serving the people.

"And we must be brutally honest with one another, there is no need to lie to each other. There is no need to look for popularity because those of us who were elected as leaders were not elected to be popular but to serve and transform our country and to work for those who elected us. 

"I find a lot of leaders spending so much time trying to be popular. When will you have time to work for the people who elected you if all the time your focus attention and energy is on how to continue being popular? Leadership and the transformation of the country is not going to happen if we don't focus on why we were elected."

Ironically, it was during the same celebrations in 2022 when Uhuru made similar remarks at the Nyayo National Stadium, accusing Ruto of seeking popularity by blaming his own administration for the country's problems. The President lamented that his deputy ought to be assisting him to solve the problems afflicting the people instead of blaming the government over the high cost of living, among other issues.

Absentee deputy

He also accused Ruto of absconding his duty and asked him to resign if he was dissatisfied with the government.

"Instead of helping me address the situation you are all over in the marketplaces inciting people against me and then you call yourself a big leader," said Uhuru. 

Earlier on  February 26,  while speaking during the Jubilee Party National Delegates Convention, Uhuru accused Ruto of abdicating his duties to satisfy personal interests. 

"You must have ambition. But ambition must be controlled. It cannot be unbridled; it cannot be uncontrollable. Uncontrolled ambition is like having an unguided missile that can land and cause destruction," said Uhuru. 

Fast forward to 2024. Ruto first alluded to the issue on April 17 during the launch of the National Road Safety Action Plan, where he challenged leaders to make the right decisions even if they prove to be unpopular.

"We are not elected to be popular. If you want to continuously be popular don't be a leader, be something else," he said.

"There is an opportunity to be popular all the time, for people to clap for you all the time; be a comedian. That way you don't have to struggle, people will clap and laugh at what you are saying and you will continue to be popular."

The President had also to respond his deputy Rigathi Gachagua's often repeated remarks that Kenya Kwanza had its shareholders whose needs must be met first before those who did not vote for Ruto could hope to benefit.

Ruto dismissed such talk as primitive and backward, arguing that Kenya belonged to all and the government had a duty to serve all.

Before Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, was roped in by President Ruto and supported to go for the chairmanship of Africa Union Commission, Gachagua had warned of unspecified consequences should there be a handshake.

The DP had expressed fears that if Raila was invited into Kenya Kwanza's administration, he would wreck it just as he did to the Jubilee administration after his handshake with Uhuru in 2018.

Gachagua too has been uncomfortable with the place of Prime Cabinet Secretary, Musalia Mudavadi, whose role mirror the tasks given to former interior CS Fred Matiang'i who was the coordinator of his colleagues.

Charles Njoroge, a political analyst, says the President himself rode to power due to his populist ideas and he could be fearing that such a line if used by his deputy could throw him off balance. 

"Political popularity is as a result of populist idealism and this is what Ruto perfected to ascend to the presidency. The reason Uhuru was against the idea is because you will be seen to support your people against government policies for you to be popular, and by doing that you will be inciting the electorate against the President and that is where Ruto is currently. 

"Any move by Gachagua to show solidarity with his people may be interpreted as a popularity move and what this means is that the people might view Ruto, the policy implementer of the government, as their enemy," argues Njoroge. 

The Deputy President has stoked fresh controversy by his public support on the one-man-one-shilling call popularised by Uhuru and entrenched in the Building Bridges Initiative Bill, which was overturned by the Supreme Court.

The call has been adopted by opposition leaders Martha Karua and Jeremiah Kioni who have organised a convention in Limuru on Friday, which they say is meant to chart the destiny of Mt Kenya, whose people they claim are being overtaxed without corresponding representation.

Kioni claimed that the President was not honest on his popularity remarks as he was a product of the same.

"Ruto and popularity are Siamese twins. He has never done anything in this country without looking for popularity. He has actually become worse than a populist because everything he is touching has had problems. Look at the NHIF, the taxes among other things," said Kioni.

Pointing fingers

Some of Ruto's strongest defenders, legislators Kimani Ichung'wa (Kikuyu) and Mwangi Kiunjuri (Laikipia East) have accused senior government leaders of betraying the President by pretending to work with him while supporting the proponents of Limuru III.

Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has bluntly told Gachagua off with his hard hitting posts on X.

"This is why I will not lie to the people of Mt Kenya region about one man one vote one shilling. Our region had produced the sitting Deputy President, 9 cabinet embers (including the attorney general, National Treasury  and secretary to the cabinet, majority leader, chair budget and finance in the national assembly and deputy majority leader in the senate. What other powers would we be looking for."

"We are the government and we can implement one man one vote one shilling by Friday if we we are serious. Let us be honest with our people."