BY DENNIS TIROP
Of all the players in Kenya’s current political landscape, few if any, are more adept at reading the prevailing political mood and reacting to it than Deputy President William Samoei Ruto. Therefore, it came as little surprise when his chief lieutenant and Senate Majority Leader Hon. Kipchumba Murkomen announced, at a press conference held at Serena Hotel Nairobi, that leaders from both houses of parliament allied to the DP, colloquially referred to as Tanga Tanga, would be joining the hitherto heavily criticized national BBI consultation fora.
Ever since the 9th March,2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, the DP has been disconcerted with Raila’s presence unbalancing a relationship that had since then been very smooth and cordial. He has spent lots of time and effort trying to dislodge the former Prime Minister with little success. On the other hand, Raila and Uhuru loyalists have been in overdrive mode running a smear campaign and almost succeeded in painting Ruto as a bitter jilted lover, hell bent on undoing the good peace building work that the two former competitors were doing. The launch of the draft BBI document, which the DP seemed unconformable with, added further fuel to the fire and restocked Ruto’s opponent’s arsenal by way of giving them a new dimension of attack.
Ruto’s recent pivot to fully support BBI is a direct response, and a timely one too, to this agenda. In one swift move he rids his opponents of an easy target and reaffirms his commitment and support to the president. That aside, it also gives him smooth access to hitherto impregnable bastions of his archenemy Raila Odinga while helping him shield his territory.
Going by the discussions during the Kisii, Bukhungu and Mama Ngina rallies, two things seem inevitable: A referendum happening before 2022 and the expansion of the country’s executive to include an executive premier with two assistants. Herein lies the motivations for the Dp’s sudden change of heart, one would assume. By being onside, he’s sidestepped the obvious trap set for him to be the face of the NO vote should a referendum end up happening. His opponents will now have to decide whether or not a referendum, without any opposition, is worthwhile.
Should one happen he will campaign for it. Against whom is entirely someone else’s headache, for which he will not bother to swallow a painkiller. After changes are made to the constitution, then it will give him more wriggle room for the 2022 elections. Whereas the current constitution favors him in the sense that President Uhuru Kenyatta isn’t going to be in the 2022 picture in any way, shape and form; it poses an incurable headache trying to build a serious nationwide alliance.
Unlike President Uhuru, he’s not guaranteed 100% of the Kikuyu vote as evidenced by the bitter Kieleweke – TangaTanga feud, and for the first time in a long while, the Central Kenya vote seems to be up for grabs. Western Kenya has never voted as a block. Eastern Kenya appears more fractured than ever before with Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu forming a triumvirate of power centers. Simply put, the entire Country is up for grabs. Cue a delicate balancing act.
From which region would he pick his running mate? Central Kenya? What carrot then would he dangle for his Western Kenya allies? What of North Eastern? An expanded executive readily provides a one-treat-all cure for these ailments. He will have many a position to dangle around in exchange for loyalty and support. Coupled with his deep pockets and campaigning prowess – tried and tested in 2007,2013 and 2017- he should have an easy time attracting support as a bulb does moths.
The Deputy President should grab this BBI process by the scruff of the neck and run with it. His obvious alienation from the very power he worked so hard to acquire in 2013 and retain in 2017 would cease having any basis and would inadvertently be paused if not entirely stopped thereby affording him much needed breathing space. More crucially however, it presents the easiest and least treacherous route to his 2022 inauguration.
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