My brothers and sisters, good morning in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
When Deputy President William Ruto confessed that he had been prayed into victory, it put me in a religious frame of mind. I reckon that he will need an even bigger mountain of prayer to get through the immediate and distant futures.
Now, to start with, I understand the impatience of Mr Ruto’s supporters and their desire to have him in office ASAP. Were roles reversed, I’d be surprised if Azimio supporters didn’t feel exactly the same way. Conversely, I don’t think that Azimio leader Raila Odinga is a sour loser or perennial cry-baby. He’s merely exercising his right to follow the entire election process.
There is more to it than voting, counting, tallying and an announcement by Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Asking Mr Odinga to truncate the electoral process is like telling a man who has found a bride, wooed her with great difficulty, convinced her parents and paid dowry, thus: “We are very happy. We have eaten together, we have drunk together, we have got to know each other, you may leave now.” Without what he came for? How? The man is likely to be left wondering why he’s not being allowed to complete the journey and claim his wife.
A petition is constitutionally a part of our electoral process. If we no longer want it, we can always change the law. It will take a boatload of prayer for Mr Ruto to cross the crocodile-infested river that is our jurisprudence on presidential elections. And with Mr Chebukati as the captain, it will be an eventful voyage, indeed.
The second prayer item is what I would like to think of as the diamond test. What is at the heart of Mr Ruto’s character? When you sail through the jovian atmosphere of behaviour and you get to the core of his being, what will you find? Is it the diamond of patriotism, empathy and humanism? Does he cry because of his own pain or the pain of others? The Kenyan presidency is one of the most powerful offices on earth. Once installed in office, the greatest motivator and modifier of behaviour is the content of the occupant’s character and little else.
The third, in his quest for office, Mr Ruto has unleashed a tidal wave of expectation through a mix of grudge politics and populist, ‘hustler’ economics. The hustler is fired up with the hope of good times and largesse. I see him lying in his modest dwelling in Mukurwe-ini, his satisfied stomach full of chibuku, expecting his hero, Mr Ruto, to call out and deliver his dreams one of these days: “Ngari yaku i haha Muchemi!” (Muchemi, your Hummer is out here). The skill—and prayer—is in letting Mr Muchemi down gently, letting him know that if he wants a Hummer, his hustle may count, but he will still have to work for it. And do it without setting off a revolution of rising frustration and a counter tidal wave.
The economy, well, she is in the dog house. Ukraine, Covid, debt and a spot or two of the good old corruption has left it on a cliff edge. Given the extreme hunger of incoming regimes, here it is mainly a matter of fasting and speaking in tongues.
Fourth, if confirmed in office, Mr Ruto will have the kind of mandate which, if it were a lady of marriageable age, would have its dowry paid in sick goats: Rather thin in a world where gluteal rotundity is much desired. Of course, a mandate can be earned by a leader, not a politician, who reaches out to those who oppose him and coaxes their acceptance. It requires almost impossible magnanimity to serve those who rejected you and embrace those who hated and hurt you. Such is the burden of leadership. Half the country is seething in anger, believing, as Kenyans always do, that they didn’t lose, their victory was stolen.
Fifth, throwing lit matches into that powder keg is the army of ecstatic Ruto aides and allies, who, in their exuberant celebrations, are sticking their tongues out to the sullen mob. For us in the media, a senior aide has already announced our wholesale sacking in a matter of days and replacement with “professionals”; an economy Svengali has revealed our commercial destruction through diversion of advertising, never mind that we, too, pay taxes.
It’s not so much a matter of showing the doomed he-goat the rope; it’s rubbing his goatee with it and hanging him a couple of times experimentally—to test the stoutness of the branch.
The last prayer item is Parliament and the uncertain majorities therein. A band of MPs who owe loyalty to nobody or to small briefcase parties will be playing the role of Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virgina: Extremely powerful and able to kill confirmations and important legislation at will. A band of ruthless brinkmen who hold out and don’t sell themselves too early to the highest bidder could be the most influential group in the House.
But all this is premature. There is still that swift, crocodile-packed, swollen, Mara River to cross in the next three weeks. For the hapless targets, well, we say: Show yourself strong, mighty Lord....