What you need to know:
- Even if the UDA candidate had lost in the narrow margin that Jubilee Party did, it would still have been victory for Ruto.
- Yet this is by no means an indication that the DP has a clear road ahead to State House. It is not a done and dusted affair yet.
The recent by-elections for MP and MCA in Kiambaa and Muguga, respectively, in Kiambu County were groundbreaking in many ways. Obviously, it was a major gain for Deputy President William Ruto’s new political vehicle, United Democratic Alliance (UDA). But even more notable is that the polls were a massive blow to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s quest to craft an alliance that would put him in the driving seat in the 2022 succession plan.
Pundits were unanimous in their thinking that Kiambaa was meant to be a test of sorts on whether the President was still the Mount Kenya kingpin or DP’s “Hustler Movement” politics had found an audience in the region. And what was the answer? Dr Ruto walked away with the bragging rights, given that he prevailed against massive political forces and the state machinery deployed against him.
The improbable victory has handed the DP a much-needed shot in the arm in his quest to occupy State House come 2022 for, then, his candidature will no longer be taken for granted by his adversaries. It is also significant as it points to a seismic shift from the perception that, in a race that pits their own against an ‘outsider’, Mt Kenya region would always back the former. Cast as a duel between President Kenyatta and his deputy, the UDA candidate’s victory demolished that myth.
The DP and his foot soldiers can also aver, and plausibly so, that his hustler narrative is gaining traction despite proclamations to the contrary from his political opponents. His rivals have vigorously and relentlessly poked holes in this campaign strategy, claiming that playing such a brand of politics would drive a wedge between Kenyans, creating animosity between the “dynasties” and “hustlers”, ultimately undermining peaceful coexistence among communities.
If Kiambaa is then a barometer to gauge who the people have listened to more keenly in this debate, then the hustler narrative has won hands-down, notwithstanding the fact that the contest was as tight as it can get. Even if the UDA candidate had lost in the narrow margin that Jubilee Party did, it would still have been victory for Ruto — if for no other reason, then for the strides he has made in making bold forays into his boss’s turf.
With the Kiambaa trophy in the bag, the UDA brigade will, certainly, be re-energised, walking with a spring in their step and hyping their political weight, convinced that their message and that of their presidential candidate is increasingly resonating with the electorate. And, indeed, given the strings of wins they have bagged in such a short time after it launched into the mainstream politics, UDA is entitled to milk this triumph for all it is worth.
Not done and dusted yet
Before claiming the biggest of the political scalps in the name of Jubilee and, by extension, the President Kenyatta-allied ‘Kieleweke’ Jubilee faction, UDA had already loudly announced its arrival on the big stage last December. Then, an independent candidate, Feisal Bader, who had the DP’s blessing, beat ODM’s rival Omar Boga to clinch the Msambweni parliamentary seat. UDA then proceeded to spring surprises on the older parties, winning ward seats here and there, gradually underlining its serious intention to be a major player in the 2022 successions politics.
Yet this is by no means an indication that the DP has a clear road ahead to State House. It is not a done and dusted affair yet. Far from it! It will take much more than winning two parliamentary seats and a couple of ward positions to win the presidency. Work has only just begun and there are plenty of political equations and permutations that will severely test his political mettle and wisdom going forward.
How, for instance, he picks his running will will determine, to a large extent, the way his race to the presidency will unfold. And reaching a decision on whom to pick for the Number Two slot, it still won’t be a walk in the park, given the diverse interests that need to be accommodated in forging a winning alliance that can capture the ultimate prize. It would take just one wrong step for the bubble to burst.
This is not to say fashioning such a team is beyond being achievable for Ruto; it is doable, especially given that his rivals are yet to craft a feasible strategy to counter the momentum of his fast-growing outfit.
Another downside for Ruto in his Kiambaa win is that his adversaries now know how formidable a force he is. They can no longer afford to understate his political game plan. This is, certainly, a plus for Ruto as it will win him more admirers and followers, who are the lifeline of any political ambition.
But the DP is now out in the open, exposed to his political rivals, who are bound to multiply given the high stakes involved. They now also have a clearer understanding of his capabilities. That means they will go back to the drawing board to craft a better strategy on how to clip his wings.
Mr Adankhalif, a disaster and risk management consultant, is an aspirant for Mandera South parliamentary seat in the 2022 General Election. email@example.com