What you need to know:
- The utter shock exhibited by politicians allied to the DP partly stems from the fact that they had underestimated the political astuteness of the president.
- Alive to the pressure piling on the president, Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe says they started plotting to arrest the situation.
“Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak,” is a governance principle extolled by Sun Tzu, the famed Chinese war strategist, which best captures Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s cleverly camouflaged demeanour over the past seven years as the Head of State.
Indeed, this is a philosophy the leader of the ruling Jubilee Party seems to have embraced over the time; one that seriously wrong-footed his political lieutenants, including Deputy President William Ruto.
And judging from the way political events are fast unfolding, they may well have played into President Kenyatta’s net.
In the words of Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who was on Tuesday kicked out of the plum position of majority leader, if anyone would have suggested to members of Jubilee Party that the president and his deputy would part ways or that some among them would be relieved of parliamentary responsibilities, “I would have denied, denied and denied. But the reality is already out there in the public (domain), and we have to accept and adapt accordingly”.
The utter shock exhibited by politicians allied to the DP partly stems from the fact that they had underestimated the political astuteness of the president and his ability to exact revenge, as well as the notion that he was a laid-back leader engrossed more in the good things of life than rolling up his sleeves to fight back and play dirty.
“My friend, we lost this thing out of our sheer arrogance and underestimation of Uhuru’s political capacity,” a Rift Valley politician allied to the DP, who pleaded for anonymity for fear of political reprisals, observed.
“With parliamentary numbers on our side as well as most party officials, we were confident that our man was in charge of the situation. We were also persuaded that Uhuru was easy to manipulate because he was weak, indifferent and loved his occasional drink,” the politician confided in this writer.
Last year, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, a fiery critic of the president, challenged him to dare the DP at the poll if he thought he was popular.
“If President Uhuru Kenyatta is tired of leading this country, he should immediately call for fresh elections so that we can end this political rumour-mongering,” he said.
This, according to our source, is the kind of thinking among the DP’s backers, who have all along regarded the president as a mere beneficiary of Ruto’s political agility and steadfastness.
In fact, the Jubilee senators who on Monday snubbed the party’s parliamentary meeting called by Mr Kenyatta may have felt secure in the belief that the president was helpless. At least five nominated senators have now been served with expulsion notices.
Coupled with previous instances where the president allegedly demonstrated an uncaring attitude by entrusting junior officers with weighty and sensitive national duties, “including drawing up lists for national commendations where we ended up awarding a githeri-eating voter with a coveted Head of State Commendation”, Team Ruto was indeed convinced Mr Kenyatta was an easy impediment to deal with.
Judging the president’s character based on idiosyncratic variables, which portray him as a cunningly weak leader, a conflict resolution and peace-building expert observes that Mr Kenyatta pretends to be weak and plays along when his deputy seemingly outsmarts him on a public podium.
“He appears withdrawn from the so-called system, which he actually controls and even allows his principal assistant to act as president and sit on his chair in his official office. This can surely be disarming and confusing to many,” reacts Dr George Katete.
Describing Ruto as a “strong character” and Kenyatta as “cunningly weak”, Dr Katete, who teaches at the University of Nairobi, explains that the Kenyatta-Ruto political partnership enjoyed chemistry because of their differences in character – “meaning both were dependent on each other, with the president seeking to use Ruto’s strong character to deal with a stubborn opposition and the DP hoping to capitalise on Kenyatta’s apparent weak character to secure his own political future”.
According to Dr Katete, Ruto is a political student of ODM leader Raila Odinga, with regard to the “tough and never-say-die” character.
Dr Ruto, he opines, has over the years been learning from the former prime minister and is fully aware of the pitfalls of a strong character.
“However, he thought he was going to do better than Raila, convinced that he had captured the instruments of political and economic power, courtesy of his position as DP,” observes the political scientist.
Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri attributes the cracks within Jubilee to the belief among the DP’s supporters that the president lacked the political capacity to counter the onslaught against him.
In fact, according to Mr Wambugu, the president was initially committed to working with his deputy but changed after the DP refused to stop premature presidential campaigns.
Alive to the pressure piling on the president, Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe says they started plotting to arrest the situation.
However the president’s handlers had to move with speed, “following complaints that we were delaying in acting”.
Team Ruto may have been hit by the surprise factor, but as Mr Murkomen says, they are not yet caged.
The journey ahead remains slippery and depending on how the president handles the cobbling of what Murathe calls “an even bigger new house”, the DP remains strategically placed to reap from the spoils.