Since coining the phrase ‘hustlers versus dynasties’ to fire up his 2022 presidential ambition, Deputy President William Ruto has received an avarice of criticism from fellow competitors and other Kenyans.
The critics interpret the narrative as an attempt by the DP to mobilise and organise his political base to cause a class war – pitting the majority poor against the rich minority.
This, they argue, is meant to replace the dominant ethnic-regional conundrum that for decades politicians have capitalised on to win or rig elections.
Ruto’s critics include President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has dismissed the narrative as a threat to security.
The head of state has even warned that if unchecked, the debate could degenerate into class warfare. ODM leader Raila Odinga, who many perceive as Ruto’s main rival in the 2022 presidential race, has also tore at the narrative.
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Raila, while dismissing the hustlers’ narrative as ill-conceived, has maintained that the country’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and first vice-president, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, were hustlers before they assumed leadership positions.
The ODM leader has said Mzee Kenyatta was a water meter reader who was thrown into prison for seven years before leading the country to freedom and independence. He has said Kenya’s second President, Daniel arap Moi came from poverty in Sacho before he was taken up by missionaries. Also on the ODM leader’s list of hustlers is Kenya’s third president, Mwai Kibaki, who served as a bus conductor in his youth.
In advancing the hustlers’ narrative, Ruto has been emphatic that it is time the poor aspired for higher seats, arguing a child of a boda boda rider, kiosk operator or cart pusher needs the space to compete for presidency with others interested in the seat.
The DP has appealed to youthful voters, who will comprise the majority of first-time voters in 2022, by donating wheelbarrows for them to use to uplift their economic status.
As Farmers Party, we submit that Ruto’s hustlers versus dynasties narrative is not a rallying call for the poor to take up arms against the rich but rather an attempt to reawaken them that their destiny lay in their hands.
The DP is doing what founding father Jomo Kenyatta did to win over the masses, though in a different way. On assuming presidency, Mzee Kenyatta embraced the Harambee movement (a type of self-help event) as a tool to channel resources to the disadvantaged.
In his reign, harambee (which means all pull together) became deeply ingrained in the moral compass of the country and even appeared on the coat of arms.
Mzee in his tours across the country ensured the concept of placing the group before the individual was cemented in the citizenry hearts regardless of class, ethnic group, gender or religious background.
Exit Mzee Kenyatta and enter Moi who coined the phrase Nyayo philosophy of love, peace and unity as the rallying call for uniting the country. Moi topped up the call with packets of milk distributed to public schools to encourage pupils to stay in, resulting in high enrollment. Mzee Moi further cemented the harambee spirit by raising funds for local development, initiatives which stoked nationalist pride among the citizens.
Therefore, Ruto is not the first politician to coin a phrase to guide his presidential ambition. In his hustlers’ narrative, the DP is not calling for a class war but rather reawakening the poor that they have potential to improve their lives. By engaging boda-boda operators, hairdressers, cart pushers and touts, among others, the DP is interested in uplifting their businesses.
-The writer is the Farmers Party leader.