Hustlers turn to hecklers as rowdy supporters boo leaders
The mantra has been the Hustler Nation, the tag associated with Deputy President William Ruto’s political quest to raise the society’s down-trodden if elected to the highest office next year.
Last week, however, the Hustler Nation became the heckling nation as the supporters of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party heckled, jeered and booed one leader after another accompanying the DP as he went across the country on his meet-the-people tours that have been turned into campaign rallies.
A number of ardent Ruto allies were at the end of some embarrassing receptions in their home turfs, exposing the soft underbellies of some of those who had fronted a tight support base before the DP’s visit.
It began in Nandi county last Wednesday when a huge crowd in Kapsabet town heckled area Governor Stephen Sang continuously as he was invited to speak by the DP, most of those in attendance expressing displeasure with the county boss. A similar fate befell Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter.
The following day, it was Kesses MP Swarup Mishra’s turn to feel the heat when he hosted the DP for a fund raiser at Chebolol in his constituency in aid of 36 churches. Soon after, Kuresoi North MP Moses Cheboi found himself in a more difficult situation in his turf as he was shouted down in some of the rallies he accompanied Ruto.
On Sunday, the heckling became too intense in Kirinyaga to the extent it threatened to scuttle Ruto’s visit to the county. Supporters of Governor Anne Waiguru and Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici engaged in heckling and counter-heckling as the DP moved from one stop to another after attending a church service at Kianyaga All Saints Cathedral.
Waiguru received a warm welcome at Kianyaga trading centre but her rival Ngirici was heckled. At Kutus town, however, it was Waiguru’s turn to be heckled as Ngirici was swarmed with appreciation.
A fortnight ago, Thika Town MP Patrick Wainaina Wa-Jungle found himself in an uncomfortable zone when a retinue of youths shouted him down during Deputy President William Ruto’s tour of his constituency.
Wainaina, who was hosting the DP on a series of meet-the-people stopovers in Thika, was taken aback when a group of youths heckled him near Thika Stadium roundabout, cutting short his speech.
The MP, who defected to UDA and is seeking the Kiambu governor seat, had been invited by Ruto to greet the gathering but could not continue as he was booed off stage.
Wainaina pointed an accusing finger at Kiambu Governor James Nyoro and his political advisor Bishop David Ngari ‘Gakuyo’ accusing them of being behind the incident.
“It is unfortunate that some leaders are uncomfortable about my intention to vie for the governorship, but I will not be cowed by any efforts to frustrate me,” the legislator said later.
Nyoro was not around as he had travelled to the US on a private visit the previous week. Gakuyo, who is seeking to succeed Wainaina in Thika Town, on his part dismissed accusations by the MP as baseless and unwarranted.
Last month, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale was shouted down at Khayega market by an irate crowd that asked the DP not to hand the money he had promised them to the former lawmaker or area MCA Farouk Machanje.
The DP was forced to give it to a trader at the market to share among her colleagues.
Khalwale and the MCA were accused of failing to deliver previous donations. During the heated encounters that appeared to have caught the DP unawares, Ruto avoided putting himself between the agitated crowds and those they were targeting although he unsuccessfully attempted to cool down the tempers in Kuresoi where Cheboi was the recipient of the crowd’s anger.
However, as the heckling threatened to interfere with the DP’s vote-searching forays and possibly, his political fortunes, he was forced to finally intervene on Sunday, asking the UDA supporters to avoid violence and heckling during his meetings.
“We are peaceful people focused on the transformation of our nation. We are not violent people. Those who believe in the use of violence are known,” the DP said in Kirinyaga.
Yesterday, former Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale asked UDA supporters not to heckle leaders urging them to allow everyone to speak to them, saying they had the ultimate decision on who they would elect. Although Duale maintains that the ugly scenes will not affect the DP’s popularity, it was not civil to jeer those addressing them.
“The incumbency comes with its own challenges. If the constituents are not satisfied with what you have done they may heckle you.
I would like to ask our supporters not to heckle. We are in a democratic country and we should listen to each other without heckling,” he told PD on the phone.
Duale said there were three possibilities for the heckling witnessed during the DP’s rallies. He said the leaders who had underperformed or had been unavailable during their five years in office risked getting a hostile reception from the crowds.
He also said it was possible opponents could hire hecklers to jeer those they are competing with. “If someone does not read the political mood of the crowd and speak against their expectations they risk being heckled,” he said.