Ruto and Raila

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) and Deputy President William Ruto.

| File | Nation Media Group

DP Ruto and Raila now square it out to win hearts and votes of ‘hustlers’

ODM leader Raila Odinga has outlined a raft of pro-poor policies, escalating the tussle for a huge vote constituency that Deputy President William Ruto has targeted with his hustler campaign.

Yesterday, allies of the DP said Mr Odinga’s recent sentiments show he has bought into the ‘Hustler Nation’s’ bottom-up economic model, but the ODM leader’s camp countered their team isn’t interested in sloganeering without tangible policies.

This came after Mr Odinga gave a sneak preview of his manifesto yesterday that proposes bolstering rural economies and supporting small-scale businesses to build on President Kenyatta’s urban regeneration strategy.

The DP wants the government to set aside Sh30 billion annually to help small and medium-sized enterprises. He says this is the surest way to spur growth as opposed to the top-down model, which, he says, seeks to invest money at the top in the hope that it will eventually trickle down to the bottom of the economic pyramid.

But citing the the programme to upgrade informal settlements, which he spearheaded as Prime Minister, Mr Odinga yesterday said Kenya needs to invest in development planning with regard to rural areas.

The ODM leader also stressed the need to boost rural infrastructure, lower the cost of electricity, provide clean water, good public schools, quality healthcare as well as supporting food production.

“The end result of this deliberate policy of rural transformation that makes rural life more livable and migration to cities unnecessary . . . will be the creation of functional and rich villages where people have money in their pockets and lead dignified and decent rural life in Kenya. It has been done in other countries. I believe it can be done in Kenya,” Mr Odinga said in a two-page document posted on his social media pages yesterday.

He cited examples of Rodi Kopany competing with Homa Bay, Awendo in Migori, Kisii in southern Nyanza; Saba Saba, Maragua, Mbombo and Makuyu in Murang’a; Kathwana and Chogoria in Tharaka Nithi; Bumala and Matayos in Busia; Khayega and Malava in Kakamega; and Mbale in Vihiga, as rural towns that once competed favourably with established towns in their respective regions.

For this to work, Mr Odinga offered, the government needs to make it unnecessary for people to move out of their rural homes — by ensuring planned and coordinated growth, providing farmers with high-yield seeds, reclaiming land and deploying modern farming practices, providing proper storage facilities as well as helping with transportation of surplus produce.

Dr Ruto sees Mr Odinga’s proposals as a confirmation that the former Prime Minister has noted the citizens’ buy-in of the ‘Hustler Nation’s’ bottom-up economic model.

“The conversation has changed. Gentlemen, welcome to the hustler nation-led economy conversation that's people-centred, jobs/enterprise/hustle focused empowerment. Leave the leaders-centered Constitution change to create positions, share power/meagre resources among elite,” Dr Ruto tweeted on July 8, embedding a video clip showing Mr Odinga and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi speaking about the economy and the place of small and medium-size enterprises.

The DP insists his ‘Hustler Nation’ mantra is changing the country’s politics.

“We believe the economy is the problem. And we have said we have the bottom-up economic approach. Once citizens have money in their pockets, we shall sort out the issues in Kenya, fund our development, pay our debts and Kenya will move forward. Give us the alternative programme you have so that we can compete. Do not sell us ethnic alliances, or blackmail or fear. Kenyans know what is best for them, and they will choose from good ideas, better ideas, and from better ideas the best ideas. Come up with a policy. The people will decide,” Dr Ruto said on Sunday.

Yesterday, Dr Ruto’s allies, Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata and Belgut MP Nelson Koech, said Mr Odinga’s rural economy approach was an attempt to copy the DP’s ‘Hustler Nation’ economic ideology.

“Ruto’s messaging is resonating with the common man and setting the agenda for other politicians. This is a good trajectory as it is making politics to veer towards issues, as opposed to politics of identity and ethnicity. Identity politics is toxic and often causes harm. Issue-based politics is developmental and an illustration of a maturing democracy. It is good Ruto is at the forefront of this pivot,” Mr Kang’ata said yesterday.

Welcome to join in

Mr Koech said the DP had succeeded in changing the political conversation and Mr Odinga was welcome to join in.

“We can only hope they are genuine and it is not just another deception, like BBI. But when all is said and done, only bottom-up economics has the potential to transform Kenyans’ lives. The rest are just ‘versions’ of trickle-down economics.

“For example, how is Raila's ‘improvement of rural economy’ different from District Development Focus of the Moi era? Still, it is a good thing our politics is shifting from demagoguery to ideology, thanks to the push and drive of the Hustler Nation. It can only be for a better Kenya!” Mr Koech said.

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna countered that the DP had been caught flat-footed by what he said were granulated, specific ways of actualising Mr Odinga’s vision, as opposed to what he termed the DP’s generalised, non-specific vision.

 “We understand why people would get uncomfortable with policy specifics. They are used to empty sloganeering that dissipates at the slightest interrogation of the how. It is time for people to stop parroting abstract proposals and get down to the specifics of the how we get the economy back on its feet and put money in people's pockets. Let Kenyans interrogate deeply all the proposals on the table,” Mr Sifuna told the Nation yesterday.

Mr Sifuna revealed that transformation of the rural economy and the place of SMEs in the economy will be ODM’s 2022 campaign focus.

The ODM official, however, refused to disclose whether this confirms Mr Odinga will run in 2022, after gunning for the top seat in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017.

“The party leader is our vision carrier. The party’s vision is to establish a prosperous, industrialised and modern nation in which all citizens enjoy social, economic and democratic rights, and live in dignity. It is his role to articulate this vision and provide specifics of how we intend to achieve it,” Mr Sifuna said.

ODM director of political affairs Opiyo Wandayi said Mr Odinga was not articulating anything markedly different from the party’s social democracy and pro-people ideals.

Last week, Mr Odinga presented another 15-point vision board, focusing on zero tolerance on corruption, investment in the country’s social stability, cohesion, assurance that people will be rewarded based on merit, an independent judiciary as well as universal access to healthcare and education.

“The end result of all these is to make Kenya Africa’s leading financial centre; a logistics, shipping and aviation hub; Africa’s headquarters for global business, manufacturing and diplomacy. Upward social mobility comes for all. I believe it is possible,” Mr Odinga said last week.

Already, key allies of President Kenyatta back Mr Odinga for the top seat in 2022, with vocal Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe equating an Odinga 2022 presidential run with that of South African independence icon Nelson Mandela.

“We shall have a Mandela moment; I think it is time Kenyans rewarded the long years of struggle by Odinga. They owe it to him,” Mr Murathe added.


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