The love-hate relationship between ODM leader and President William Ruto has entered a new phase, despite their differences over the 2022 presidential polls.
Raila summoned MPs from his party for a meeting in Nairobi this week and ordered them to attend all functions the President will convene in his Nyanza backyard this week. The two political big wigs are no strangers to each other having worked together when they formed the ODM in 2007, the party on which Raila lost to president Mwai Kibaki in controversial circumstances.
Pundits say Raila’s latest move of summoning MPs, is political, because he does not want to give Ruto a free wheel to gain political mileage. He wants to show that he is in control of local politics and secondly that he is in full support of any agenda that supports the people of that region. Area MPs had no choice but to be with the president in their constituencies with the electorate and so Raila had no option but to be part of the agenda.
“He knew they will go there so he wants to show he is in control. Raila is a seasoned politician who understands when to be confrontational,” says Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University.
The message is also targeted to his fanatical support base in Nyanza, because of the belief that he has instructed the MPs to cooperate with the president. When the ODM leader teamed up with Ruto in 2007 to form the ODM Pentagon team with Musalia Mudavadi, Najib Balala and Joe Nyagah, it was agreed that Raila would be president, Mudavadi was to be Vice President and a position of Prime Minister was to be created for Ruto.
Ruto sacrificed a lot of his time and resources to campaign for Raila across Rift Valley and other parts of the country, appearing at almost every rally with the ODM leader as they traversed the country.
- Orengo's daughter Lavender ties the knot in lavish wedding
- Battle for EALA: What you should know about Kennedy Kalonzo and Winnie Odinga
- Emmanuel Jambo: Top photographer who has worked with Uhuru, Ruto, Raila, Karua
“He not only mobilised votes but also marshalled the resources that backed Raila’s campaign through fund raising and donations from friends in Rift Valley,” says Prof Amukoa Anangwe.
When Raila appeared to sideline Ruto in the Government of national unity that was created after the disputed elections, Ruto reminded the ODM leader that he was taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of his support for him. Ruto appeared to have wanted more than the Ministry for Agriculture which Raila gave him in the Grand Coalition government but nonetheless he took it up without a fuss.
But he later became increasingly belligerent in ODM and demanded for the position of deputy party leader, forcing Raila to yield to his ultimatums. Raila had to reluctantly create two positions of deputy party leader to accommodate Ruto and Mudavadi after the minister demanded the position, although the PM had openly shown his preference for the latter.
The two have been at loggerheads again after Raila claimed he was robbed of his victory in the last election which he narrowly lost to Ruto and has repeated the message several times to his supporters. Last year political scientist Prof Amukoa Anangwe described Raila as a schemer who uses every opportunity to his advantage by reading political situations.
Kenyans will, therefore, be watching if Ruto’s visit will open the window for the two leaders to reach out to each other and calm the political temperatures in the country. Last month, Raila defended Azimio la Umoja One Kenya governors who have cooperated with the Kenya Kwanza administration, among them are Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir.
“Governors must work with the Government as enshrined in the Constitution but they should be turned into beggars because the national government must disburse funds to the counties,” said Raila.
President Ruto’s agenda is to take development to all parts of the country, including areas that didn’t vote for him like Luo Nyanza. That is exactly why Raila will also want to be seen to be participating with the people and not to be at war with the president all the time as an aggrieved competitor.
“Raila is an old hand who understands that loyalty to the country comes first for the sake of development, even though it should be free for all with no strings attached,” says Naituli.
President Ruto and Raila have had a love hate relationship for about two decades now, having first played a prominent role in the Moi succession politics. The climax of their relationship was when they served together in the grand coalition government after 2007, when Raila appointed Ruto as the Minister of Agriculture, before they fell out.
Prof Anangwe, who worked with them as Cabinet minister before the 2002 elections, recounts the role Ruto played in edging out powerful Kanu players like Prof George Saitoti and Nicholas Biwott to create room for Raila and other new faces in Kanu.
“He was the Director of Elections and was therefore responsible for crafting the lineup that created the Kanu-National Development Party (NDP) merger which clipped the wings of the likes of Saitoti and Biwott in Kanu,” says Anangwe.
The merger between Kanu and NDP happened on March 18, 2002, the year when Moi retired and fronted Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor. At the time, Ruto and some Rift Valley Kanu leaders, became very close to the President and in the process managed to ebb the old guard out of the way.
Together with others like Mark Too aka Bwana Dawa, they brought Raila into government and he was appointed Minister for Energy although Ruto also had his own political interests and ambitions.
“There was a lot of resistance within Kanu by some powerful people like Saitoti and Biwott, who thought that Raila’s coming would spoil their game plan but they were outwitted by the new forces,” says Prof Amukoa Anangwe.
While Raila served in the Cabinet, Ruto bid his time as an Assistant Minister in the Office of the President although Kanu insiders at the time said he had direct access to State House. But when Raila led a rebellion later in 2002 and teamed up with the likes of Saitoti who was fired as Vice President in August that year his relationship with Ruto came to an abrupt halt.
Raila then launched a campaign that swept Kanu out of power after his famous 'Kibaki tosha' declaration that saw the Narc government’s so called Rainbow Coalition winning the presidential elections. But as fate would have it, Raila and fellow Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) allies differed with Kibaki and found themselves again working with the Opposition.
Uhuru who was the Leader of the Opposition and his lieutenants among them Ruto welcomed them and in the process Raila literally became leader of the opposition. Political analyst Prof Macharia Munene says Uhuru was happy to cede that position to Raila, because literally became the voice of the opposition in parliament and across the country.
The Kanu-LDP group led by Raila then joined forces to reject the watered down Bomas draft Constitution that was also known as the Wako draft in the 2005 referendum. Shortly after the electoral commission declared victory for the ‘No” side in 2005, Ruto was hosted by Kalenjin elders and crowned an elder with thousands of supporters in attendance.
Another political analyst Martin Andati last year recounted how Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi attended the highly publicized function at Eldoret Sports Club grounds where Ruto was adorned Sambut to make him an elder,”
The relationship between Raila and Ruto then blossomed as the latter marshalled the Kalenjin community almost to the last man to vote for Raila in the controversial 2007 elections.