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William Ruto's Cabinet: My bet is on who'll tell the king he is naked

Andrew Kipkemboi
 Politicians who have been vetted for various cabinet slots. [Standard]

Like most Kenyans, I watched the vetting of Cabinet Secretary nominees with great interest. We couldn’t avoid the sessions, could we? The president runs the country through the Cabinet. And so we were watching the drivers and implementers of policy, specifically the Hustler Nation Policy. Those men and women will by and large determine whether President William Ruto will be a one-term president or not. Those who held their breath expecting fireworks, not an exercise that entrenches patronage, will be excused for feeling disappointed.

The MPs, for all I care, lack the expertise to test whether the nominees possess the skills that fit the roles they were nominated to. And you could tell that from their run-of-the-mill questions. Mainstream media gleefully went for the sensational - their net worth and the (proven or unproven) past sins of the nominees. Nothing revelatory from the underworld.

I chose to look out for the man or woman who would be bold enough to tell the king when he is naked.

When the history of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration is written; how the country was exposed by ghastly policy blunders (the huge unsustainable debt, Huduma Namba, NMS, the rollout of the CBC, an expensive and unhelpful Nairobi Expressway; of what use is it if it doesn’t help you to access or exit the CBD?), the economic ruin visited on the country and the widespread lack of a sense of accomplishment, everything will boil down to his choice of Cabinet.

Belated revelations from close confidants, paint a picture of chaos; of banging of tables (and heads) in high level meetings; of ultimatums and instructions issued left and right and centre. Most of the officials actually dreaded that long phone call that hang up midway. Worst of all, there seemed to be no clear command.

Conflicting instructions (from all entities) were issued and one could only take the last one which most of the time was not a very well considered view of the situation on the ground. Without a clear direction on policy and strategy, things were bound to get heady. 

The BBI suffered such a fate. The intended strategy was good - it sought to cure the politics of exclusion and remedy the notion that in an electoral contest, to the winner everything and to the loser, nothing. And much. It got hijacked and became unjustifiably expensive and emotionally draining. Kenyans wearied of it.

From the day it took over office in 2013, it always seemed as though Jubilee was reeling from one crisis to another never really doing enough of the job it was elected to do in the first place.

Perhaps because of the inbuilt structures, the private sector can withstand a megalomaniac hothead in the C-suit. Modern-day corporate titans like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk the Koch Brothers (Charles and David), Jack Welch unswerving self-belief often shade into authoritarianism. At least they took personal responsibility when things went South. There are few such local ones though.

Nature abhors a vacuum. With no one willing to tell the truth to power, it would seem that President Kenyatta was left at the mercy of the so-called Deep State.

Many took President Kenyatta’s apparent detachment from the reality facing many Kenyans as an aberration - the son of a former president, he probably couldn’t understand the pain of being laid off work, going to bed hungry, being chased from school for lack of school fees or selling the only cow to pay for a kin’s medical fees.

But it could be that the “Deep State” was creating and feeding the president a false reality perhaps aware that he couldn’t be told when things were not going right.

Generally, because the “Deep State” doesn’t work for the people, they are prone to make false deductions and draw naive conclusions (to massage the ego of the boss) and consequently misrepresent reality.

This could also explain why some of Uhuru’s senior officers and advisors became easily irritable and intolerant of unfavourable media and divergent opinion. Senior officials constantly harangued media managers - with threats to withdraw advertising - for “bad” coverage. Never mind that media covers and hardly do we make up the bad news.

And so back to President Ruto. Among the 24 men and women who stand to be appointed to his Cabinet, I see a few who could stand up to him and tell him he is wrong. If nothing else, those ones owe it to the country to nudge the president back to his senses should power get the better of him.

Mr Kipkemboi is the Partnerships and Special Projects Editor, at Standard Group

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