Opinion | Of William Ruto and the 2022 sucession plan

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Deputy President William Ruto. PHOTO/COURTESY

By GEORGE KOPIYO

newsdesk@reporter.co.ke

2022 is and will be an uphill battle for the man from Sugoi. Only uninformed villagers believe that the President is “elected.”

Kenyan Presidents are selected through boardroom rituals attended by top ethnic elite, facilitated by Kenya’s oligarchy and then tossed to the average citizen for ratification. The elite know that the average voter is simply a socially engineered robot riding on emotive programming. An automaton whose software is blind tribal loyalty.

And Ruto must pray that the majority of the oligarchs of yore are with him. If they decide to oppose him, even his money will not save him. Not even his rumored Kshs.1 billion helicopter.

These oligarchs control everything, including the media. With the rumored acquisition of the Nation Media Group by high profile politically active individuals, the institutionalization of the oligarchy media model in Kenya is complete. Standard Group is in the hands of the Moi family, while The Nairobi Star is partly owned by Kittony’s family, who happen to be close friends of the Mois. K24 is currently controlled by the Kenyattas.

The media house with the highest viewership and listener-ship numbers, including rural and vernacular reach is Royal Media, controlled and owned by one SK Macharia, who is considered a “free agent.” He supports political sides, depending on his own commercial and political interests.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga when they announced they will work together. PHOTO/PSCU

The oligarchs also own nearly two thirds of the companies listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. The Nairobi Securities Exchange comprises approximately 66 listed companies with a daily trading volume of approximately USD 10 million and a total market capitalization of approximately USD 23 billion.

The oligarchs are well represented in the listed companies by way of shareholding. To put that in perspective against William Ruto’s wealth, it is like fighting an opponent with money valued at nearly two thirds of the market capitalization of the NSE.

These oligarchs have deconstructed and humiliated Raila Odinga in more than two elections. Now Raila is on submission mode. Given Ruto’s past, it will only take 6 months of constant barrage of negative headlines in digital and print media – from allegations of impropriety in private family life, allegations of corruption, land issues, post election violence in 2007, where he was a member of ODM’s top organ “The Pentagon – together with a website similar to “who is the real Raila dot com” to deconstruct and destroy his public persona for good. I am sure some of his detractors are already developing a strategy around such a negative campaign.

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto when they promised to rally behind Mudavadi in 2013. PHOTO/COURTESY

The oligarchs do no like strong headed politicians. The oligarchs did all they can to prevent Raila Odinga from becoming president. They love flexible and malleable ones – like Mwai Kibaki and Musalia Mudavadi.

They could also be considering fronting Kalonzo Musyoka. Presidents who will listen to them when they demand payback and favoritism in big government business, military procurement, infrastructure projects, favorable business regulation, legislation and taxation etc. There was an initial boardroom deal for Mudavadi to succeed Kibaki. That resolution was later trashed under the guise it was made under the influence of “madimoni.”

With Raila firmly working with Uhuru, he could simply forfeit his Presidential ambitions and remain elder statesman and king maker in the court of the oligarchs. It is not far fetched to think that in 2022, the oligarchs could also comfortably front Odinga for President.

The man is currently being rehabilitated in order for him to abandon his confrontation style politics and phrases like “land reform” and “historical injustices.” Odinga will be in his senile years if he becomes President. That allows the oligarchs to operate the government by remote control, just as they did during Mwai Kibaki’s tenure.

The oligarchs do not love hardheadedness. Oligarchs abhor competition for big business. Ruto is a ruthless politician with a “mind of his own.” He is in competition with the oligarchs, cultivating a personal business empire much to their chagrin.

Retired President Daniel arap Moi. PHOTO/COURTESY

Then there is the public perception of “selfishness” and “insatiable” greed which refuses to go away. Then there is jealously among his peers who think he is rising too fast. The oligarchs equally fear that should William Ruto rise to the Presidency, he will turn against them, just like Vladamir Putin did to the oligarchs of Russia, some of whom are in jail while others are in exile. The oligarchs from whom the Kshs.300 billion SGR project was snatched by the Jubilee government are also waiting for their day of revenge.

In the circle of the old oligarchs of yore, Ruto is an “outsider.” Kenya’s politics at the highest levels is based on some sort of informal “insider-ism.” If he (Ruto) attempts to use the “son of a peasant” angle as his main campaign theme, he will flop miserably.

The oligarchs will frame Ruto as a man of “questionable” wealth, passing off as a peasant. They will unleash Cambridge Analytica style of scotched earth propaganda warfare, just as they did with Odinga. William Ruto’s politics has been based on anti-Odingaism rebellion. Now that Odinga has joined with his fellow oligarchs, what will be Ruto’s political platform?

The oligarchs know the man, for they created him, in 2012 in order to vanquish Odinga. William Ruto’s rise to the Deputy Presidency was a boardroom deal facilitated by the oligarchs, riding on prevailing anti-ICC emotions then. It is the same oligarchs that will deconstruct him into oblivion should political expediency demand thus.

The oligarchs are gathering, largely without Ruto and that should worry him. There are many “handshakes” happening in board daylight and at night, within the tightly knit circle of Kenya’s oligarchy.

Most of those handshakes are done in private for obvious reasons. Many oligarchs hate publicity. The recent meetings and handshakes are not by accident. Nothing in politics happens by accident, including William Ruto watching a “Harambee House” meeting from a window of this “annex” office.

It will not be a walk in the park for the man from Sugoi as some folks are suggesting. Raila Odinga is more “electrifying” with near fanatic following around Kenya, yet he never became President.

To assume that William Ruto will become President simply because of his “personality,” “work-ethic” or some imaginary political debt owed to the people of Rift Valley by a block of voters elsewhere is pedestrian thinking.

By the time we get to 2022, the political terrain will be so unfamiliar that it won’t matter much in terms of “who owes who what.” It will be a race for survival of the fittest. William Ruto needs to urgently convince the oligarchs that HE is the man they can trust post 2022. He badly needs the oligarchs on his side.

‘This is the season of ruthless alignments and betrayal galore. Political alliances however rosy are not to be mistaken a wedding, marriage or love affair. The dalliance between Uhuru and Ruto is fast coming to an end. Uhuru read the riot act during the formation of his government for his legacy term. It is business unusual.

The shared press conferences in white shirts, folded sleeves and red ties are no more. Time for ruthless backroom dealing. No room for emotions or glittering public relations antics. No room for “my brother, my friend.” It is time for zero emotions, just the pursuit of raw political interests.

In Kenya political debts are most often settled via a familiar currency called betrayal.

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