Ruto’s big gamble on BBI, mini-poll

Deputy President William Ruto speaks to journalists at Jubilee Party headquarters in Pangani, Nairobi on September 23, 2020.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • For his ‘open defiance’, the party vice-chairman David Murathe, a close ally of the President, vows to ensure the DP does not come anywhere close to controlling the affairs of the party.
  • Dr Ruto is demanding party elections that he says are long overdue even as the other side points that he should not be very confident about the demand. 

If there is one thing opponents and allies of Deputy President William Ruto agree on, it is his daredevil approach to national politics.

Today, rallying his supporters under ‘hustler nation’ mantra, and by choosing to take on the ‘dynasties’ which by extension include his own boss President Uhuru Kenyatta, the second in command has demonstrated temerity to take political risks that could make or break him.

 It could boomerang on him and in similar vein endear him more to his supporters and new ones. The clarion call has since attracted the attention of the President and the ODM leader Raila Odinga, who have castigated him saying the branding is meant to incite Kenyans against certain families. Even yesterday, the DP tweeted:

“Power is about you the lords, some leaders and the few. Empowerment is about the people, the hustlers. Before we discuss about power and the sharing amongst you few, let us agree on empowerment of the micro-small-medium entrepreneurs and business people so as to pull real people out of poverty. Wacheni madharau (stop the contempt) and insults,” the DP fired last evening. And now, Ruto is taking one major gamble; Jubilee elections and staking his political stake in the upcoming by-elections.

The Sunday Nation has established that he has decided to make one last ditch to have a firm grip of the ruling party by fighting from within and if not possible, bolting out.

Mere bystander

And last Wednesday, a determined Ruto visited the party’s headquarters after a long time where he met secretary-general Raphael Tuju. He would later announce that he had embarked on revitalising the party and called for elections in Jubilee.

This was just hours after he lost a chance to field a candidate in the Msambweni parliamentary by-election slated for December. The party decided not to front a candidate, relegating him to a mere bystander.

For his ‘open defiance’, the party vice-chairman David Murathe, a close ally of the President, vows to ensure the DP does not come anywhere close to controlling the affairs of the party.

“The DP had been positioning his people strategically. They were going to organise some sham grassroots election the way they rigged the party nomination, install their own people all the way from constituency to county levels so that once national party organs are convened, they endorse him as the candidate. We had to rescue the party from such machination,” Mr Murathe said.

Dr Ruto is demanding party elections that he says are long overdue even as the other side points that he should not be very confident about the demand. Mr Murathe warns that he may end up drowning in the very polls he is clamouring for.

But some in DP’s fold are advising caution, they hold that harbouring hopes of wresting control of the party in elections could only eat into precious time of building their own vehicle now since all pointers are that their boss has fallen out of favour with President Kenyatta almost to a point of no return.

The push to seize control of the Jubilee is also backed up by a fall-back plan, just in case the ‘owners’ refuse to let go of it.

“One more thing, be assured, if all options to save Jubilee fail, we are 100 per cent ready with the options as presented by law,” Mr Denis Itumbi, a former communications director at the State House, but now supporting the DP says.

Mr Tuju, however, in a sign of digging in, sounded an alarm to aspirants for the party positions that integrity “will be key as per the President’s position on anti-graft war and in fulfilment of chapter six of the constitution”.

“If somebody has been charged in court and is fighting a corruption case in court that he has stolen money, we cannot allow that kind of money to be used to win seats in the party,” Mr Tuju said.

A number of DP’s allies with cases accuse government of using the courts to intimidate them into reconsidering their support for the second in command.

For having been sidelined in the making of key decisions, Dr Ruto is hitting back. He has made it clear that he will not only be supporting an independent candidate in the Msambweni mini-poll but also sponsor other aspirants in the ward elections planned for the same day to give those who would have wanted to elect a Jubilee candidate an opportunity to exercise their democratic right of choice.

A win for his candidates would boost his standing and morale in his support base ahead of the 2022 polls. A loss would do the exact opposite.

Equally, in supporting Mr Feisal Abdala Bader in Msambweni, he will be seeking to test his mettle by going head-to-head with Mr Odinga, a likely opponent in the 2022 polls. By choosing to go against the grain, the DP has somewhat become an opposition within the ruling party with the wing allied to Mr Kenyatta counter-scheming on how to lock him out completely.

The initial Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report recommended the expansion of the Executive to have a Prime Minister and two deputies.

Were he to oppose Mr Kenyatta in the event of a referendum like he has already indicated, he may be forced to resign from the government or the ‘Yes’ side may root for his impeachment, an unprecedented move that if it succeeds would deny him the advantage of the incumbency ahead of the next polls.

DP’s advisors like Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen hold the view that by coming out to own the ‘NO’ side, he will get the much-needed momentum on which he can ride on ahead of the next General Election.

Jubilee deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany, a DP man, said amending the constitution is not a priority for Kenyans at the moment.

Government project

“I don’t think amending the constitution now is towards the right direction,” said Mr Kositany.

Political analyst Herman Manyora argues that the referendum will come as a government project thus will not be a walk in the park for the deputy president to oppose it directly and remains in office.

“Navigating around that will not be easy for him. It will be very impossible to oppose the initiative and still continue serving as the deputy president.”

“But should he choose to resign as a result of the referendum, then there are also issues since reorganising himself after resigning will consume a lot of his time and prevent him from putting up a tough fight in 2022,” Mr Manyora adds.

But the DP, according to some of his close allies, is determined to use the referendum to test waters “in areas like Mount Kenya where his assurance of votes remains shaky over Uhuru stance against him”.

Mr Manyora, however, states that: “The moment he (Ruto) opposes the referendum, it leaves no doubt that he is opposing Uhuru and his government and, therefore, in Mount Kenya where some people still think Uhuru and Ruto are in good terms, they will now feel offended when they realise the deputy president is against the wishes of their son.”

Mr Javas Bigambo, a political analyst, says that as the DP submits to the routine of criticising the government to which he belongs, he is pushing his luck to the limits and testing the temperament and patience of his boss, the President.

jwanga@ke.nationmedia.com and jjochieng@ke.nationmedia.com