Why Ruto may reap big from nationwide forays
By Anthony Mwangi and Emeka-Mayaka Gekara
Deputy President William Ruto has for the past three years been on a single-handed campaign to build his own political bridges across the country, having realised that the President was not keen to publicly endorse him.
Besides consolidating his Rift Valley political base, the DP appears to have circumvented the President and engaged in a top-gear hunting mission which has seen him cultivate allies across the country.
Ruto had expected to inherit President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rich Central Kenya vote bank, but the latter has been ambivalent, forcing the DP to lobby for support through his allies in Tanga Tanga, one of the factions in the ruling Jubilee Party.
The other is Kieleweke, which backs the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
And despite a warning by the President against early campaigns, Ruto allies have continued to drum up support for the DP’s 2022 State House bid.
“The DP has penetrated all parts of the country by launching projects even those that should not be flagged off by a person of his status,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, adding: “The perception that Ruto cannot make it has been created by the so- called Deep State, a group of individuals holding no positions in government but who call the shots.”
But Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a fierce Ruto critic, downplayed the DP’s power strategy, saying his ascendancy to State House squarely hangs on Uhuru.
“If the President was to make an announcement against Ruto, that would be the end of him because Uhuru’s influence will determine the political direction the country will take,” said the MP.
University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora also thinks Ruto’s fortunes could change should Uhuru persuade the Mt Kenya voters against his deputy.
“If Mt Kenya supports Ruto, then he is headed to State House. But the question is, just how much can Mt Kenya people be trusted? The thing is when the right time comes they will face Mt Kenya,” he said.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, however, is confident the President will back Ruto to succeed him. “I still expect that he will pronounce his position when the campaigns for 2022 start,” he said.
In Kiambu — Uhuru’s home county— Ruto boasts the support of eight out of the 12 elected MPs while in Nyeri county, only Wambugu is opposed to him. In Murang’a county, only Muturi Kigano (Kangema) and Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo) seem to oppose the DP.
Governor Anne Waiguru of Kirinyaga has also been a vocal critic of Ruto, especially after seemingly mending fences with Raila.
The DP also hopes to retain the support of pastoralist communities who see National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale as their face in his camp. They include Samburu, Maasai, Somalis and Pokots and Turkana communities.
Turkana Governor Joseph Nanok, who is also ODM national vice chairman, who was an ardent Raila supporter, last year endorsed Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
“As 14 governors from Rift Valley, we are working on a plan to fully support the Deputy President and form the next government because the whole country is focusing on Rift Valley to produce the next president. As Turkana people, we want to be part of that government. I will not accept to be outside government again,” he said then.
And in Ukambani, former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama last month triggered debate with suggestions of a possible coalition between Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Ruto as equal partners. “Soon and very soon, mark my words: I want to call leaders to create the committee to devise how we can work with Ruto,” he said.
Other leaders from the region who support the DP are Machakos Town MP Victor Munyaka, Vincent Musyoka (Mwala) and Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East).
Duale has hinted he will retire after achieving his goal of helping the DP get to State House.
Ruto seems to cast his net wide. At the Coast, his forces are led by Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, Governor Salim Mvurya (Kwale), MPs Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Naomi Shaban (Taveta), Mohammed Ali (Nyali) and Tana River Woman Representative Rehema Hassan.
In Western region, the Ruto brigade comprises Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka and National Assembly whip Benjamin Washiali. The Jubilee Party won four parliamentary seats in Bungoma, including Barasa (Kimilili), Daniel Wanyama (Webuye West), Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon) and John Waluke (Sirisia). Bumula’s Mwambu Mabonga, who elected on an Independent ticket, also supports the DP.
Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary and former Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba is Ruto’s pointman in Busia county.
In Nyanza, embattled Migori governor Okoth Obado has been a long-time supporter of the DP while Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi has been a dependable ally in Gusii region.
MPs Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango), Ezekiel Machogu (Nyaribari Masaba), Innocent Obiri (Bobasi), Oroo Oyioka (Bonchari), Alfah Miruka (Bomachoge Chache), Zadoc Ogutu (Bomachoge Borabu) and Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango) have also thrown their weight behind Ruto.
“We are Team Ruto,” Maangi said at a recent meeting attended by the MPs. “We have resolved to rally behind the DP and we are his foot soldiers on the ground,” said Osoro.