Political master tacticians, grassroots mobilisers and hitherto political bedfellows turned bitter rivals, Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga are preparing for a titanic battle in next year's General Election, with increased forays across key battlegrounds.
Since the 1990s, Ruto and Raila have played in alternate political teams save for an interlude between 2005 and 2009 before a fall-out separated the two larger-than-life politicians.
Now, in a historic election next year, the two are locking horns in a contest each cannot afford to lose. Ruto, having served as deputy president under President Uhuru Kenyatta, constitutionally cannot serve in a similar position again, with the only option being to go for the presidency.
For Raila, who will be 77 next year, the 2022 presidential race will be the most significant to him politically.
There goes the circumstances making the two politicians go flat out in a contest likely to be punctuated by political fireworks.
The deputy president and ODM leader, both students of Mzee Daniel arap Moi, are quintessential politicians, energetic in their approach, daring and engaging.
Political pundits have argued that so monumental is the contest that one can only compare it with the Spartan war, especially because they know each well and have fought on the same side.
"The two politicians share so much resemblance and character. Both are fierce, populist, shrewd, properly networked politically and both easily stir up emotions of their supporters. Ruto has been Raila's lieutenant and they know each other well," said political analyst Javas Bigambo.
"Both are also serious crowd pullers," he added.
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Another analyst, Dismas Mokua, said the two politicians run on a populist philosophy, implying that they create a problem and purport to offer a solution.
"They are insiders but purport to be outsides and they do not take liability for Kenya's social economic misfortunes. The architecture of their campaign thrive on alternative facts, lies and deceit," said Mokua.
For instance, Ruto has been part and parcel of Jubilee for 10 years, but only associates with Jubilee successes and runs away from the ruling party's failures, rebranding himself as Kenya's economic saviour while in fact he is the architect of that failed Jubilee economic policy.
Mokua said Raila has introduced mistrust in deal making and has participated in more than five handshakes, with partners accusing him of trust deficit. The two politicians are also colourful in their dressing and render powerful speeches.
He said Raila and Ruto are a mirror image reflection; when Raila looks at the political mirror he sees Ruto, and vice versa. Raila can predict what Ruto is going to do and the opposite may also be true.
"The two politicians have a strong national brand and their names have top awareness and it is not unusual to have those names crop up in dinner table conversations across the country. Their supporters are emotionally and irrationally attached to them so that they evoke a feeling of pleasure," said Mokua.
Last week, the duo camped at the Coast and threw jabs at each other's policy proposals in the race for State House.
Whereas for both politicians Rift Valley and Nyanza are their bedrocks, the battlegrounds for them are now in Mt Kenya, Western and Coast regions.
With a year to the election, the two politicians alongside Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi have intensified their forays across the country, as they put their best foot forward ahead of official campaign period in April next year.
In the last two weeks, the three have been criss-crossing the country wooing the electorates and have covered 20 counties politically.
They are leaving nothing to chance as they move to build networks and are holding town hall meetings, attending church services and political rallies.
After flying back from a three-day tour of Uganda on July 8, Ruto has in 14 days been to eight counties in a series of activities seen as an all out effort to endear himself to voters. Raila has covered five counties while Mudavadi has covered four in the same period.
The forays by the top politicians is an effort to win support. Within the same period, Ruto has been to Kiambu, Narok, Murang'a, Kilifi, Kwale, Mombasa, Machakos and a series of events in Nairobi.
Raila flew from a tour of United Arabs Emirates (UAE) to a tour of Tana River, Kilifi and Mombasa. He was in Narok before his trip to Dubai. Mudavadi pitched camp in Nakuru, Nyandarua, Nyeri and Kirinyaga in the same period.
In the Coast, Ruto was accompanied by 30 MPs including 14 from Mt Kenya and Raila yesterday shared on Twitter his breakfast meeting with a group of six MP from Uhuru's political backyard, including National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya, Maoka Maore (Igembe North), Peter Mwathi (Limuru), Kanini Kega (Kieni), Kiambu's Jude Njomo and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda.
While Raila kept his busy in the Coast where he enjoyed Idd Mubarak in Mvita, Mombasa, hosted by area MP Abdulswamad Nassir, Ruto was in Machakos town where he met business people.
Ruto accused Raila of derailing the Jubilee government agenda through the push for constitutional reforms through the Building Bridges Initiative, thus killing the Big Four agenda.
"After derailing the agenda of the government, we are now asking them to ask for forgiveness; they need to apologise to Kenyans for messing up," Ruto said.
He said the hustler narrative was not a threat to anybody, but a tool of empowering the poor and those interested in the presidency should unite and face him.
He said if elected, he will allocate money to the lower cadre of people in the village so that business people and farmers can have money in their pockets.
"Apart from the Constituency Development Fund's Sh100 million, we will have another similar amount for business people and farmers to empower the populace," said Ruto.
At the Coast, Raila said he would lift the Covid-19 restrictions and introduce a stimulus package to revive the ailing economy. He also promised to fight corruption in government and ensure accountability at all levels.
What experts say
THE TWO ARE SERIOUS CROWD PULLERS
"They have a strong national brand and their names have top awareness and it is not unusual to have those names crop up in dinner table conversations across the country.
"The two politicians share so much resemblance and character. Both are fierce, populist, shrewd, properly networked politically and both easily stir up emotions of their supporters."
Javas Bigambo, political analyst
"They are insiders but purport to be outsides and they do not take liability for Kenya's social economic misfortunes. The architecture of their campaign thrive on alternative facts, lies and deceit."
Dismas Mokua, political analyst
Quote: The two politicians run on a populist philosophy, implying that they create a problem and purport to offer a solution."