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Ruto might borrow a leaf from Uhuru and work with Raila

Michael Ndonye
 President William Ruto (right) and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua during the launch of the Nairobi Securities Exchange Market Place in October 2022. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

President William Ruto's reception in Nyanza, Raila Odinga's response, and the indirect contradiction regarding his deputy’s narrative of Kenya as a shareholding entity should trouble Rigathi Gachagua to politically self-censor.

It should dawn on DP Gachagua that support from Luo Nyanza is always sweeter to Kenya’s presidents than from ‘friendly’ regions. That is why whenever President Ruto contradicts Gachagua's political stand, a quick apology by the DP can help extend his political life expectancy.

President Ruto used Gachagua's long-standing narrative that Kenya is a corporate entity where some Kenyans have more political shares than others to endear the lakeside residents. To survive politically, the DP must apologise to his boss.

Even if he and the president had quipped about it in their closed-door meetings, he should find a way of coming out of it. Saying that he has no apologies comes to the public as hitting back at his boss and it’s a poisonous arrow.

Can President Ruto betray one who stood with him during his campaigns? A clichéd explanation as to why most of Kenya’s presidents always find Nyanza region’s support sweeter is probably from the second of Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power. The book says that one should not put too much trust in friends and that learning to use enemies has more benefits. This has been the nature of politics since the time of Adam.

Therefore, in politics, it is definite that while friends are potential rivals and betrayers, enemies are likely loyalists with no unrealistic expectations and demands. That is why President Uhuru Kenyatta found it easier to work with Raila than his long-time loyalist Ruto during his final term.

Resultantly, in his second term, Uhuru was evidently at peace and healthier in body, soul and political spirit. No president has ever had peace of mind when Nyanza is not accommodated - from Jomo Kenyatta to Uhuru. Ruto is not likely to be an exception, and Gachagua cannot defy this law.

Support from a rival region gives a sense of fulfilment, acceptability and political accommodation. To the external observers, it creates a perception that a leader can bridge gaps and unite a country for a common goal.

This way, capturing the enemy benevolently makes it easier to govern and execute their mandate - good or evil. As the president strives to achieve this self-actualisation, a few loyalists might demand his explanation - which he owes no one. 

Moreover, it is scientifically proven that loyalty from Raila’s followers is unmatched; they can defend you to death if they are on your side. That is why President Ruto is likely to lean more on the support of his erstwhile enemies from the Opposition than from his DP - it is easier to find another Central kingpin than another opposition that can be converted to loyalists.

How do they do that? The Opposition, though perceived as feeble, is highly tactical. They know how to isolate the president. They did so during Uhuru’s regime by capitalising on any implied difference or contradiction between the president and his deputy - it worked!

Now that Ruto is the president, their target will be his deputy - which is working. They might convince President Ruto of their support if he disassociates himself from Gachagua.

Politically speaking, any wise president would take the risk. Gachagua is less influential and vital than Ruto was during the former government. Uhuru knew Ruto was not easily dispensable in his first term - he could not win the 2017 elections without him. Gachagua has no such capital.

Ruto can easily replace him with another person from Central Kenya and still win the 2027 elections. That is why Gachagua should be careful and follow his boss from a calm distance while avoiding situations where he can be in conflict with his boss.

-Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Kabarak University

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