After a series of defeats in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in county assemblies as well as both Houses of Parliament, Deputy President William Ruto is now savouring a moment after last week’s historic ruling.
Analysts, however, say Dr Ruto, who celebrated the ruling that declared the BBI process illegal “as proof of the existence of God who loves Kenya”, would have reaped a lot more from the judgment and the current BBI crisis had he led an outright No campaign.
Having taken a lukewarm stance on the bill, refusing to tell his supporters to out-rightly reject it even as he questioned whether it was a priority, the DP has been thrown into a celebratory mood.
“Our democracy is anchored on the rule of law, constitutionalism, separation of power and respect for independent institutions,” the DP said on Friday, repeating his oft-quoted stand that the BBI was not a priority. “All patriotic citizens must defend these tenets just like the Judiciary did. Now let's focus on Covid vaccination, economic recovery, the Big Four and stay united.”
Excited by the ruling, DP Ruto allies now want the entire BBI process shelved, saying the High Court ruling declaring the process “illegal, null and void” had given the promoters a chance to let go of a process they say was divisive from the word go. Soy MP Caleb Kositany, the de-facto spokesman of the Ruto camp, says the money that had been earmarked for BBI should now be channelled to buy more vaccines.
“Unless they have another hidden agenda with the BBI, it is not a priority. There is no need to start the process afresh; leave it to Wanjiku. Let the people feel where the shoe is pinching them, and I do not think a change of the Constitution is one of them,” Mr Kositany said.
Dr Ruto was in the No camp in the 2005 referendum—which catapulted Raila Odinga to his closest shot yet at the presidency, landing a prime minister post after a disputed 2007 poll—and in 2010, he joined the church to oppose the current supreme law.
The 2010 referendum push in addition to his 2007 role in Mr Odinga’s presidential bid in Rift Valley, placed Dr Ruto on the national stage, putting him on the path that led him to a coalition with Uhuru Kenyatta, which went on to win the 2013 and 2017 presidential polls.
But for BBI, the DP, now isolated in his own government, has chosen not to take an outright No or Yes stand, leaving his supporters confused, and his opponents calling him an indecisive watermelon of a politician.
For some time in the process, the DP even entertained the thought that he could stay away from the process as he was okay with it, whichever way it went.
“Let this BBI issue not worry you. If it passes, it is okay. If it fails, it is fine. So, really, do not worry about it that much. I planned myself quite early for any eventuality,” Dr Ruto said in a January clip, and which would go round on social media each time the question of his stand on BBI arose...”
Fearing that leading the No camp in the proposed 2021 referendum might be more injurious than beneficial to his 2022 State House bid, the Ruto-led Tangatanga camp played it ‘safe’, refusing to lead the No camp, but also not joining the Yes team.
With little to no hope of turning the tables in county assemblies or in Parliament—what with staunch DP allies voting Yes to the Bill in the House—Dr Ruto became lukewarm — convinced that BBI was a waste of taxpayers’ money on something that was not a priority, but not strong enough to take an ultimate No stand on it. “If it were that Ruto had taken a firm stand against the BBI process, the possibility is that he would have lost in the county assemblies and Parliament, but would have had the last laugh once the High Court rendered its verdict. It would have been seen that Parliament and the people, through the Judiciary, had varying voices, interests and concerns,” said political commentator and governance expert Javas Bigambo.
Had he built that momentum early, Mr Bigmabo argued, Dr Ruto would be reaping the benefits of a No BBI campaign now.
“In fact, from this moment on, he would have mounted a whirlwind kind of campaign properly against the BBI and that would have even given him stronger impetus cruise towards next year’s election.”