The long-awaited Jubilee Party National Delegates Conference (NDC) yesterday finally replaced Deputy President William Ruto as the deputy party leader.
Although the move was long overdue, it was nonetheless a significant move because of the ongoing political realignments ahead of the August 2022 presidential poll.
His post was split into four, and spread across the length and breadth of the country: Jimmy Angwenyi, Kinoti Gatobu, Naomi Shaaban and Peter Mositet.
The timing of the NDC was also crucial because it will culminate into the much-awaited Jubilee-ODM pact that will be the main cog in the Azimio la Umoja Movement coalition.
That means any remaining Ruto hangovers in Jubilee will be cleared as the party’s political base is handed over to Azimio la Umoja Movement under ODM leader Raila Odinga’s leadership.
But why did Ruto stay put in the Jubilee, bullishly ignoring sustained pressure by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who at one time dared him to resign?
Political analyst Martin Andati argues that it is because he is enjoying State largesse, which includes the current residence where he holds political meetings, government vehicles, security and allowances.
“By virtue of him being the Deputy Party leader, he became the Deputy President and that is why he stuck in just to protect his position in government,” says Anadati.
He further argues that the Deep State does not want to push him out now, because he will play victim and so they will wait for him to serve his entire term as they manage him politically.
The other challenge also is because the office he occupies is protected by the Constitution and he cannot therefore be fired.
Yesterday’s NDC will still go down as a key development in the country’s politics because it is when the final rites of the divorce process between the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto marriage that began in 2012, happened.
The party was expected to create four positions of deputy party leader whose occupants were to be drawn from four different regions in the country.
That is another key issue because the person the president and his party endorsed from the Mt Kenya region could be Raila Odinga’s running mate on the Azimio la Umoja ticket.
That means he or she will be taking over from Ruto and his Karen residence should Raila defeat the DP in the presidential race.
“The party was expected to replace top officials who have let the party down and also those who left the party for Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance,” said a vocal MP from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya backyard.
The party was also expected to officially ratify the working coalition with ODM in the Raila Odinga led Azimio la Umoja Movement and the presidential candidature of the ODM leader.
Ruto fought hard to take control of the party before throwing in the towel in 2020 after officials allied to him among them Soy MP Caleb Kositany who was the deputy secretary general, were kicked out.
Before that, a nasty fight for the control of the party emerged between Ruto and top officials at the party secretariat after the DP attempted to take over the party headquarters in Pangani, Nairobi. The Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju engaged Ruto in dirty exchanges, telling him he was persona non-grata at the party offices.
Meanwhile, Ruto who had fallen out with the president and was in control of a large faction of Jubilee MPs, continued with his defiance against the party.
His supporters threatened to storm and take over the Jubilee party headquarters before the DP convened a meeting at his Karen home and decided to chart his own political course.
Over 100 MPs allied to him, also threatened to write to the Clerk of the National Assembly to stop their monthly remittances to the Jubilee party.
Although Ruto has moved on and is now comfortably running his presidential campaign on UDA party, he together with about 140 MPs were still technically in Jubilee.
Ruto’s challenges in Jubilee can also be linked to vice chair David Murathe who in 2019 told him that he was not qualified to lead Kenya and should, in fact, retire with the president in 2022.
The likes of Murathe kept telling the DP that he should look for his own votes and should not expect any favours or endorsement for a 10-year term from the President Kenyatta and voters in the Mt Kenya region.
That together with another earlier jibe from former Kiambu governor William Kabogo appeared to have given Ruto the drive to prove to the president and his Mt Kenya clique that he was his own man.
“The attack from Kabogo must have set off an alarm bells for Ruto and that is why he has never looked back since that time,” says USIU don Prof Munene Macharia.
Kabogo, who is the chair of Kenya Alliance of Independent Candidates (KAIC) in 2016 blamed Ruto for his political woes and the mess witnessed during the Jubilee party nominations.
He claimed that Ruto, who had taken control of the nomination exercise after chaos erupted at the party headquarters, had messed up the exercise and refused to listen to his complaints, leading to his defeat.
Kabogo also claimed that the outcome of the Jubilee nomination exercise had already been predetermined and attacked Ruto, cautioning him that it was not automatic that he would get Mt Kenya votes in 2022.
“I met him and told him I have been in this office (Jubilee headquarters) for three days during which some people allied to one side were doing funny things. I told him to remove them but he did not,” said Kabogo.
Ruto managed to bring order to the messy party nominations but in the process also made many enemies, especially those who did not get the party ticket in the Mt Kenya region.
But having bagged 173 MPs elected in 2017 and having been promised support by President Kenyatta, Ruto expected to use the party and its numbers to easily win the 2022 presidential election. That was not to be, because President Kenyatta also had his own ideas and in March 2018, shocked the country when he embraced ODM leader Raila Odinga and later ramped up support for him.
That was a slap in the face that Ruto has never taken lightly, repeatedly claiming that the handshake should be blamed for the fall-out between him and the president, who has on many occasion angrily admonished him for beginning to engage in succession politics and campaigning since 2017.