Deputy President William Ruto has in recent days come under heavy fire from top politicians in what is perceived to be a co-ordinated attempt to tame his ‘hustler nation’ narrative.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and the National Super Alliance (NASA) brigade, led by ODM leader Raila Odinga, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, have alternated in days of an onslaught against Ruto, who is angling to succeed his boss in 2022.
The vigour of the political attacks and the intensity of the bombardment has turned into a duel characteristed by threats and name-calling.
Ruto’s campaign for the presidency is tagged around the ‘hustler nation’, a campaign slogan he claims is meant to uplift the lives of the common person.
While Raila is yet to openly state if he is in the race to succeed President Kenyatta, Mudavadi and Kalonzo have declared their interest in the top seat and view Ruto as a threat to their ambitions.
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Meanwhile, within Kenyatta’s inner circle, Ruto’s heightened political activity is seen as robbing the head of State of the quiet that should mark the months towards the end of his term; a time when he should be concentrating on cementing his legacy.
However, 19 months to the end of his presidency, Kenyatta on Monday hit at his deputy, accusing him of using cheap politics by pushing a class war that could incite people to violence.
“You cannot fight poverty by encouraging people to fight. We should protect those who have resources, even as we try to uplift the impoverished. This is what will eradicate poverty, not blaming this or that person,” said the president during an interview that aired on vernacular radio stations.
Keen to avoid spending his last months in office responding to Ruto’s politicking, the president warned he would deal with anyone who attempts to derail his development agenda.
Yesterday, Ayub Savula, the Lugari MP who is also ANC’s deputy party leader, told The Standard that the political affront was planned and will be sustained.
“You cannot abuse the president in your rallies and expect to get away with it. You are going to see the assault from all parties. We have warned him several times to respect Uhuru but he does not heed,” he said.
Savula kicked up a storm last week when he called for Ruto’s resignation, saying if he did not leave office, the DP would face an impeachment motion in the National Assembly.
Sources told The Standard that the impeachment threat was the result of a strategy meeting that was held in Kisumu town last week by a group of leaders who support the president and Mudavadi.
The venue of the meeting was determined by the fact that the leaders would the following day attend the funeral of Mudavadi’s mother, Hannah.
In the meeting, sources said it was agreed that the political attacks on Ruto would be sustained, and ANC MPs were asked to kickstart the process by calling for Ruto’s impeachment.
Initially, a majority of ANC MPs were expected to attend the press conference Savula called and jointly read the statement, but only the Lugari MP and Vihiga Woman Rep Beatrice Adagala showed up, accompanied by some ward representatives, the sources said.
After ANC’s statement, Wiper leader Kalonzo soon accused the DP of tribalism by appointing people from only one community to fill the Cabinet slots he had been awarded.
The Kalonzo and Ruto political duel has snowballed into a nasty exchange that has seen each side engage in name-calling and denigration of character.
While addressing residents in Bomet County last Friday, the DP accused Kalonzo of grabbing land, but then yesterday, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu waded into the matter.
“Kalonzo acquired the Yatta land legally. I was Minister of Lands, I checked the papers. The attack on Kalonzo was ill-conceived,” she said.
On the eve of Kenyatta’s interview with four Kikuyu vernacular stations, Raila accused Ruto of undermining the president by running an opposition wing within the government.
The ODM leader said he had warned Kenyans of the lies and propaganda in reference to the DP’s promises during campaigns for re-election in 2017.
“They promised many things, saying in six months we shall give laptops, in six months we shall give a million youths jobs, in six months we shall build 47 modern stadia,” Raila said at Soweto Catholic Church.
The DP has maintained that the Jubilee development agenda was derailed by the March 9, 2018 Handshake between the president and the ODM leader that birthed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
But Raila defended himself, saying Ruto should not hoodwink the public with promises of supporting ‘mwananchi’ when Jubilee pledges ahead of the 2013 and 2017 elections remained unfulfilled.
On the day Kenyatta was on radio, Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Wetang’ula took on the DP in Matungu, calling him an unwanted guest in the Western Kenya region. The constituency is headed for a by-election on March 4.
Kenyatta’s Jubilee party, Mudavadi, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula are supporting each other in the by-election, as well as in the Machakos senatorial race, where the parties are coalescing around the Wiper cand idate.
Mudavadi said Ruto should stop portraying himself as a nationalist by selling the hustler and wheelbarrow narrative, and instead be content with his current position in government.
“We are tired of being lectured and being ridiculed by Ruto, his allies and leaders from other political parties about how cowardly we are. Starting today, anyone looking for our support must come through us. Wetang’ula and I will give political direction on the presidency in 2022,” Mudavadi said.
In December last year, Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula met in Athi River, Machakos County, in what signaled an initiative to form an alliance ahead of the 2022 elections. It was the second meeting the three NASA leaders were holding in as many weeks.
Ruto, through the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), is fronting Evans Kakai and Alex Lanya for the Kabuchai and Matungu mini-polls. The seats fell vacant following the deaths of MPs James Lusweti (Kabuchai) and Justus Murunga.
Opiyo Wandayi, Ugunja MP and also ODM’s secretary for political affairs, said Ruto’s continued stay in government as deputy president is no longer tenable. “It was an abrogation of the Constitution that he swore to defend. He should honourably quit government and concentrate on his 2022 bid,” he said.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany, while calling for campaigns devoid of tribalism, said the pushback from the ‘top boys’ was because they were scared Ruto’s message was resonating with the people.
“Why would you have the entire brigade targeting only one person? It is because they are scared and panicking. We are telling them to relax; Kenya belongs to us all and Ruto’s presidency should not scare them,” he said.