State House media interview did Ruto more harm than good

President William Ruto during the second interview with the media at State House. [PCS]

This week, President William Ruto held a second interview with the media at State House. He had his first ever such interview in early January 2023.

However, considering the current state of affairs in the country, it was clear the president needed to perform better to convince the country that things were okay. He flopped!

Since he is not expected to perform well in the subsequent interviews, he should attempt another such interview at his peril. But, on the other hand, if his handlers smoothened his back by telling him that he performed well, he should listen to Political Chessboard because it is not a respecter of persons.

There is no need to over-illuminate the interview flops because even his close allies know that the interview did more damage to the president's image and his government's reputation than good.

We all know that President Ruto is wont to explaining himself, and in most cases, his chances of winning in debates are high. In 21st-century politics, PR is crucial but methinks the president is overrating himself when explaining matters administration.  

Why do I say so? Daring the media to pose free-style and open-ended questions regarding his administration was an uphill task. However, the press is a sexy idol in the order of the biblical Delilah, and the reasons behind this line of thinking are better explained here.

First, the media have been normatively ordained as the critics of ruling regimes since Adam. Murk-racking being in their DNA, they try to get a story from their sources. The journalists who come to State House are hunting for news stories—not honest communication.

So, as the State House awaits the press with tales of how dogs have gnawed men, the media will dig until a man chews a dog in the conversation, even if it is in the examples. Remember, the Kenyan media and the government are renowned former friends. Thus, the country treats with suspicion an instance of the two walking together on the lawns of the State House.

Second, the State House should not dare the media to challenge the president—he will give up the ghost, which will be messy. The scribes will put the president to task; he will be furious and view them as enemies. If the media chooses to handle the president with kid gloves, the president will be accused of sleeping with the media and curtailing the freedom of the press.

Third, society will reward and praise journalists who come to State House, drink tea, eat food, pin the president down, and expose soft political underbellies. I need not belabour this point but think more than twice if you want to do political PR with the Fourth Estate.

Fourth, Ruto is the nation's father; therefore, Kenya is like his household. In the family, a microcosm of a country, we try to avoid promising children what we cannot deliver. On the contrary, we like surprises because they are much more appreciated than fulfilled promises.

Methinks, sometimes, the president should normalise surprising us with good news, just like he has surprised us with increased fuel prices.

Moreover, broken promises devastate character and trust—no leader can stand when strewn of the two virtues. But, unfortunately, that's the disappointment we were treated to, especially when the president was forced to explain why the price of gas won’t drop as he confidently promised a few months ago.

There was nothing to belabour—the president made an empty promise. To many people, he lied. The president should not hurry to make pledges that he cannot keep. He is president and should not lower the reputation of the presidency because of hurried commitments.

Otherwise, whenever the State House calls the scribes for a similar interview, the news will be sweeter if they have the president confused, emotional and out of his mind. Since work speaks louder than words, let the results of this government talk, if any!

-Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, School of Music and Media at Kabarak University