Nanok: This is why I ditched Raila for Ruto

Josphat Nanok

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, who is the director-general of Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential campaign, during an interview at his office in Lodwar town, Turkana County, on March 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Turkana Governor says the Raila Odinga of the past is not the same leader we are seeing today.
  • Governor Nanok says President Kenyatta was at fault for denying his deputy certain responsibilities.

Isolated in government and staring at what would be an anti-establishment stab at the presidency in the August 9 polls, Deputy President William Ruto is leaving nothing to chance.

The director-general of his presidential campaign, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, speaks to ONYANGO K’ONYANGO on their path to victory, why Ruto fell out with his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta, and why the county chief ditched Raila Odinga for Ruto.

You have been a Raila diehard since 2007, what made you part ways with him?

This is a marginalised area and we thought that [Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila [Odinga] would be the saviour. We refused to [obey] calls for an economic boycott by Nasa [National Super Alliance]. We assessed it with people here and realised that if we boycotted products here, people who would suffer are locals.

The “Handshake” [pact between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga] came but what I have seen is that other Nasa partners did not benefit. Only certain ODM strongholds benefited. The [benefits] went to Nyanza. People here have been asking me what happened.

Nanok: This is why I ditched Raila for Ruto

We also had a seat for nominated MCA for the minority and I negotiated with them but the party, through the influence of certain people who had a bigger voice, brought someone from outside Turkana County who has never represented a minority here.

I raised those things genuinely in the office and through the phone until I went to the public and spoke about it in front of [Mr Odinga] himself. We have moved on to a party where we are respected because politics is about interests. You go where your interests are going to be taken care of. Politics is not friendship or a love affair.

Ahead of 2022 polls, it increasingly seems that Ruto is becoming the Raila of 2017, complaining of rigging and angry with the government. Why?

I think William Ruto has lived with William Ruto. A hard-working gentleman. He speaks the truth and shows fidelity to the Constitution.

What you should be asking me, what happened to Raila? The Raila we used to know is not the Raila we are seeing now. What happened to him? It is not about what happened to William Ruto because he is the one now protecting the Constitution.

Why wouldn’t Ruto just resign if the relationship between him and his boss is irretrievably broken?

It is in the public domain that they are disagreeing now and they were elected as a package because the DP is the principal assistant to the President and he only does delegated duty because that is what the law says. He had a choice to leave or not but the forces wanted him to leave quickly and I am glad he has not left because... right now we would be talking about completely a different Kenya.

We would have backtracked from the 2010 Constitution, which is the most progressive, with a Bill of Rights and independent institutions that provide checks and balances to the executive.

Equally, those in the opposition have also been mixing sides. So, there was no reason for him to leave and those who thought he was going to resign because of the pressure they were putting on him [were proven wrong].

On UhuRuto divorce, what could have been the cause?

This is politics and it is about interests because it is not a love affair. If the President changed interests immediately after the 2017 elections and embarked on a new path and decided [to deny his] deputy certain responsibilities and assign them to a cabinet secretary then you are bound to have differences because it means you are not needed at that particular time.

The President appointed Dr Fred Matiang’i chairperson of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee through Executive Order Number 1 of 2019 .

Second is the handshake, which looked genuine at first, turned out to be something else. It was about BBI [Building Bridges Initiative].

When you want a change of 72 Articles, which is like half of the Constitution. You want to fundamentally amend a Constitution that you have implemented for nine years. While BBI was touted to be about the country’s unity, it was instead burning bridges.

The opposition is dead and the President has endorsed the opposition’s candidate. The DP is here, a candidate fighting the very President he has supported much of his life. The scenario we have is similar to Botswana’s.

Jubilee wants MPs who joined United Democratic Alliance (UDA) to lose their seats. What do you say?

They also defected to ODM. They have ODM people who moved in and also people who moved across. There are ODM members, including myself, who moved to UDA.

The field is so mixed-up. Three days ago, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi alluded to a ruling of the High Court that said that you cannot lose your seat in the year of election.

For governors and deputy Presidents, it does not apply because is a procedure in the law for removing them. There is an impeachment procedure and nothing in the law talks about being impeached because of abandoning a political party.

Recently you disclosed that a charter on a bottom-up economic model would be signed between UDA, Ruto and aspirants. When will it happen and why?

We are almost concluding the county deliberations. That process has to be concluded by around April 20. Sometime in early May, the UDA presidential manifesto is going to be launched along with charters.

UDA wants a binding agreement with the people through a charter that is going to commit all leaders who will be elected through UDA to implement them. This will be done both at the national level and in the counties.

Once the charter is done, we will have a national conversation focusing on certain critical sectors — education, health, energy among others.

What will the charter capture?

It will capture the priorities of different counties and involve people in all economic sectors — markets, saccos, traders, cooperatives, producers whether of livestock, coffee or tea.

Bring all farmers together to discuss what their priorities are. What do they think the government can invest in?

Ruto has been DP for nine years. What will he change that he could not as DP?

When you are a deputy President, you are a principal assistant. You [do not have the final say]. There is always one Head of State who has the ultimate authority.

The DP has seen the good and bad of this government and he has talked about it proudly. He has articulated areas where has been assigned and how those areas have performed and he is ready to be accountable for it.

He worked briefly with the late President Daniel arap Moi, Narc government, grand coalition and now with Jubilee. He has learnt important lessons on governance, which is why he thinks that the country has achieved political liberation unlike the people who wanted to take us back through BBI.

Describe the bottom-up approach.

The bottom-up approach will revolutionise the economic system which is now state-captured. 

It is also to decriminalise the economy for instance the hawkers. Why would hawkers not get property rights? Why would they be running when they see county law enforcers?

A good example is the Sh186 million I was giving to over 3,000 traders across Turkana County yesterday.

Josphat Nanok

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, who is the director-general of Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential campaign, during an interview at his office in Lodwar town, Turkana County, on March 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What gives you confidence that Ruto will form the next government?

The man is articulate. He has a lot of energy, he knows what he wants and he has a plan. The man is organised and hard-working. His plan resonates well with the people.

He is talking about empowering families and businesses and putting money into people’s pockets. What is better?

I have had engagements here with the people and you tell them that we have done a very beautiful highway and then the local people tell you that it is your vehicles that will use it. We cannot eat that road.

If they had a choice, they would not be a priority to them. We are looking at the bigger picture but [our competitors] have their own priorities.

That is Ruto’s path to the presidency. There is no leader now who is so close to other leaders and respects them more than Ruto and that is why he has a big following of MPs. They feel respected and valued.

Why do you feel that elections might be rigged?

The state is interfering. The President has taken sides. The civil servants have taken sides and the biggest worry is the senior civil servants in this country.

Cabinet secretaries are actively involved in politics. They have even formed parties. The National Treasury CS is the party leader of Upya yet he is the one to finance Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and other organs that will ensure free and fair elections.

The CS Agriculture is the leader of Party of National Unity (PNU) yet he is supposed to be neutral. CS Defence is the de-facto leader of Democratic Alliance Party of Kenya (DAP-K) and he is supposed to offer impartial advice when it comes to the security of this country.

The Interior CS and his principal secretary have been opening canvassing votes for the Azimio La Umoja candidate but, at the same time, say that they will support IEBC to have free and fair elections. Those are two contradictory positions because which one do you trust?

They are changing the rules of the game at the eleventh hour. The 2007 election was contested because of changing rules at the last minute. Some of the issues in Kriegler’s report was that the rules should not be changed a year to the elections, which is basically happening. They have changed the Political Parties Act to introduce corporate political parties where individual membership isn’t allowed. It is an unconstitutional move.

If you have the register of political parties being controlled by the office of Registrar of Political Parties which is an arm of government, what does that tell you?

You are Ruto’s director-general of his presidential campaigns, describe the role the team plays and the people you are working with.

The people behind the DP are hustlers. We have a very big team. The team is helping him win this election.

We are various formations and they will keep changing. I head the council and I work with Ababu Namwamba who is in charge of Foreign Affairs. Prof David Ndii who is the head of policy and programmes, including the bottom-up approach. I also work with all the four senior UDA officials — Johnson Muthama [chairman], Veronica Maina [secretary-general], Odanga Pessa [executive director] and Eliud Owalo [deputy secretary-general strategies].

What strategies are you putting in place to guarantee victory for DP Ruto?

We are campaigning and pushing our bottom-up approach. We are having conversations with the counties and are planning a national conversation where charters will be signed.

Bottom-up is the key pillar of our campaigns. It is the selling point. We have to fix the economy now. We must sort out the agricultural value chain.

We must implement the Constitution to the letter. We must empower independent institutions to deliver to their mandates. We need to increase funding for the judiciary so that they can employ more officers to dispense justice in the shortest time possible. We must operationalise the Judiciary Fund, it is there in the law.

We must support the Inspector General of Police. We must support the Ethics and Ant-Corruption Commission, give them independent accounting officers so that they are not politically controlled by the executive.

Which formula are you applying to ensure that Ruto gets a suitable running mate in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance?

Those decisions will be taken at the right time. Most critical is someone who believes in the vision of UDA.

If I was given the chance [to choose the running mate], I would want someone who can work closely with the DP and help him implement his manifesto. Of course, there could be other considerations to look at but he still has sufficient time to choose someone whom he thinks is able to gel with him and ensure the dream is implemented.

In your own personal opinion, who among Mudavadi, Rigathi, Waiguru, Nyoro, Alice Wahome and Moses Kuria is suitable to deputise Ruto?

All those leaders, including myself, are suitable to deputise Ruto. All those leaders have potential but we leave it to him to make that choice.

Let him choose at the right time.

President Kenyatta has come out to endorse Raila Odinga, how do you view this?

It is his Constitutional right to choose. Secondly, we think Raila is his project because of the way he has aligned the whole public service. 

They are not hiding it. The county commissioners, PSs, CSs and security agencies are not hiding it.

He has decided to support another candidate but what has happened with his traditional strongholds? They have moved to William Ruto. He is on a personal mission.

What unique campaign plans are you deploying for the different regions?

Our campaign is going to be led by hustlers for the hustler. We have already deployed but we will intensify those campaigns.

An election is a total war. A war you have to win in two days or lose with limited preparations.

We will use all legal means and all strategies within what is required in law will be applied including mobilising people to vote and protecting the votes.

Mount Kenya has become a battle ground, what are your plans for the region?

The economy is critical to residents. So the bottom-up approach is what people in Mt Kenya believe will help millions [get out of poverty] and they trust William Ruto [to deliver].

Many Jubilee projects in Mt Kenya were driven by William Ruto, so they have personal touch with him. He knows every village. Can Raila do that? He is very forgetful and some people ho love him whether he is good or bad but William Ruto cannot be loved like that but because of leadership.

They keep saying [Mt Kenya] region will turn against Ruto but it won’t happen. It is going nowhere, in fact, it is consolidating around UDA. It might take Raila six years to invest and move village to village.

Who do you trust when you go to an election? I don’t believe you can drive economic growth when you have been the leader of an economic boycott.

Josphat Nanok

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, who is the director-general of Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential campaign, during an interview at his office in Lodwar town, Turkana County, on March 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What made DP change his mind on forming a coalition with small parties?

The biggest coalition we have is with the hustlers and that is why we are people-led. We are collecting their views, signing charters which will form William Ruto’s manifesto, which means government plans will be made by the people.

But again, moving into the elections, you have to win and the National Delegates Conference and the party’s constitution gave us the mandate to bring on board any other political groupings that believe in the bottom-up approach.

How do you plan to cure sibling rivalries in Kenya Kwanza Alliance?

There are certain things in politics you cannot do away with. This is what the two political groupings are going to witness. Even Azimio has that crisis. This is bound to happen. It may not happen everywhere.

However, the law allows political parties and the UDA constitution to negotiate consensus. For the case of Kakamega, consensus was reached and the decision accepted by political players.

In areas where we think that friendly political parties have equal strength in certain positions and they fail to agree then we will conduct elections. If this is not done, we could end up losing votes to the opponent.

What is the strategy to net majority and have control of the three houses; Senate, National Assembly and county assemblies?

Fielding strong candidates, mobilising votes and convincing the people that our candidates are the right people to drive that process.

Martha Karua joining Azimio, what is your take?

I think it is her choice. She has the right to be where she wants to be.

There is going to be a major crisis in Azimio because it has only two principals — Uhuru and Raila. All the tiny parties have signed an agreement with Jubilee and given Jubilee the mandate to negotiate for them in Azimio. All other parties have signed an agreement with ODM and negotiate on their behalf. Azimio has two corporate owners — ODM and Jubilee.

You know very well that in the last election [Ms Karua] had 45,000 votes. She has always been focused on Kirinyaga. Where did you hear Martha except in Kirinyaga politics?

What did you achieve with your US-UK trip?

We achieved a lot. William Ruto is now someone the world understands and knows and he is not what they had been told he is.

He is a man who has a clear vision of this country. He is articulate and positions Kenya where it is supposed to be.

He reassured the international community that he is here to work with them as friends of Kenya and that they should support a Kenya that is stable because we are a beacon in this region.

How safe is Uhuru in the hands of Ruto’s government?

Very safe. Someone whom you supported when the whole country was going the other direction in 2002, someone whom you supported in three elections in 2013 and twice in 2017 — why would he not be safe with you?

That assurance DP has been giving Uhuru is that nothing bad will happen to him should Ruto become President.

Turkana is in a region which witnesses conflict now and then, what could be the solution to this menace?

To me, bottom-up is the solution to the perennial conflict between Turkana, Pokot, Tugen, Marakwet, Samburu and Kikuyu in Laikipia.

What is the problem of that conflict apart from the guns? What is the actual problem? It is an economic problem. If the region is economically productive, people will not have a reason to fight. They are fighting over pasture and water. 

Can we focus on resolving these things? If we resolve them deliberately, I am telling you the conflict will go down by probably 70 percent. If there is a problem [of land invasion] in Laikipia, the government sends security officers to evict [illegal herders] but we must look at what is causing pastoralists to move there.

By December, DP Ruto had bagged almost all elected leaders in Turkana but now, the majority have ditched the camp. What is your take on the defections?

Some are moving because of incentives being offered where they are going to. Others are moving because of fear of nominations. The ones in Turkana who have left UDA, did so because of nomination jitters.

But equally, all those who have left us were from other political parties. Lokiru Ali (Turkana East) was from ODM then came to UDA for some time then moved to Upya and is now in Jubilee. It is all about fear of nominations. The same case applies to James Lomenen (Turkana South).

We had four strong governor candidates in UDA but it took a while negotiating and consensus was reached on how to move forward. For Lomenen, he had to leave for where there was space for him.

They are now stuck where they joined. They have been negotiating in State House. Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and the county commissioner of Turkana are trying to negotiate.

What is your parting shot?

I would like to ask the media and political players, we have one country and over 45 million people and many of us do not know any other home. 

Let us watch what we say, what we write and tell people.

There are so many red flags out there for trouble, things are not going in the right direction. 

Let us not take this country into the violence or a bad election.

Let IEBC be supported to deliver free, fair and credible elections. Let those in the security sector do their job and, for those who have decided to engage in politics, we challenge the President to sack them. 

Let the best team win.

I am voting for William Ruto and I believe he should become the fifth President of this country so that we realise the economic revolution that this country needs.