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William Ruto brings humour back to power politics

POLITICS
By BY STEVE MKAWALE | July 1st 2013

BY STEVE MKAWALE

Deputy President William Ruto took the country down memory lane last week when he left a national prayer meeting in stitches with a rare sense of humour.

His rib-tickling account of some of his funniest moments with President Uhuru Kenyatta brought out fond memories of the former President Daniel arap Moi’s era when he and some of his allies often kept the country reeling in laughter.

Beneath the facade of a harsh exterior and a no-nonsense approach to issues, Moi who served as the second president of the republic of Kenya for 24 years, had a soft spot for rib-tickling humour and often handsomely rewarded those who kept him laughing at public functions.

Some of his closest allies were revered humourists and were often given time to speak during public functions even when they had not been slotted in the programmes.

Even the immediate former President, Mwai Kibaki has also left a legacy of humour. He will be remembered for his surprise off-the-cuff humorous speeches that attracted more attention than even his official speeches.

Commentator

While Ruto shared the jokes with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Moi surrounded himself with individuals who not only excited him beyond description but also made light of some of the extremely weighty issues the then president had to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

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Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also plays in the league of political  comedians.  He is known for his rib-tickling  proverbs and as a football match commentator (Raila na Mpira series)  during campaign rallies.

Some of them catapulted themselves onto the national arena and became household names, instantly resonating well with the prevailing national psyche.

Last week, Ruto left guests in stitches when he recounted their first day at State House, in an office where he said they used to meet the former president during the Nyayo era, and President Uhuru, perhaps in a moment of disbelief, asked Ruto to pray first.

Ruto also tickled the audience when he told of   their biggest dilemma during their swearing-in ceremony at the Moi Sports Complex, Kasarani.

Address his needs

“The Pastor asked us to kneel down for prayers. The Chief of the Defense Forces (Gen Karangi) was very uncomfortable with this because how can a Commander in Chief (The president) kneel down before his soldiers…?” Ruto narrated.

During the Moi era, humour was serious business and those who excelled on this reaped handsomely from the Head of State.

A story is told of how a prominent politician from South Nyanza, Elisha Aketch Chieng’, won Moi’s heart and was handsomely rewarded when he conducted a humour-laden welcoming session for Moi during a Kanu delegates meeting in Nairobi.

Mr Chieng’ was listed in the programme by the then powerful Permanent Secretary Hezekiah Oyugi “Kukaribisha mtukufu Rais”.

A hefty, towering man with a booming voice, Mr Chieng’ stole the show with chants of Karibu mzee, Nyayo! Nyayo! as the entire stadium followed in unison.

After this, Moi summoned Chieng to the podium and gave him a handshake before asking Oyugi and State House staff to address his needs. That was Mr Chieng’s journey to fame.

And Moi, too, had his own version of witticism, which he used to the maximum in handling rising tension and create humour to his audience whenever the mood was not right or in his favour.

At one time during a graduation ceremony at a public university, Moi once told the girls to beware the machinations of the boys, who may use flattering language that could be seen through if one was thinking.

“These young men will tell you ‘I love you so much that I can swim across the ocean just for you and then when you are leaving they say they will see you tomorrow if it does not rain!’” Such anecdotes brought the house down.

You cannot die

On one occasion while attacking the opposition at a rally, Moi swung around in a dramatic fashion before quipping: “Hawa wanafikiri wanaweza zungusha Moi kama marinda? (Do they think they can twist me, Moi, around like a woman’s skirt?)”

Kenyans still recall one occasion during a HIV/Aids awareness event when the former president added a rider that even if one stayed for long without engaging in the heterosexual behaviour, which was responsible for most transmissions, one would still be okay. “Hata ukikaa bila hiyo, huwezi kufa!” (You cannot die from abstaining!) he said.

Of course, there was the line that became something of a household name, in which he would enumerate things his Government was doing or would do and add: “na hiyo yote ni maendeleo!” (And all this is development). The phrase became a hit and is still being used today.

One man who excited the former president and the crowd was the late Mulu Mutisia. The undisputed King of Ukambani politics until his death.

Other political comedians include the late Kihika Kimani and the late Sherrif Nassir.

Kanu bigwigs Wilson Leitich and Ezekiel Barng’etuny, were also always with Moi because of their loyalty and sense of humour.

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