Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram
He may not have been present when the now famous handshake happened on the facade of Harambee House, but Deputy President William Ruto may be seeming to reap more than just crumbs from President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga’s deal.
Even though he already had visible advantage over his would-be competitors, Ruto has shown impatience to sit on his laurels and wait for the fruits of the handshake to fall into his basket, if his recent forays out of his comfort zone are anything to go by.
Ruto’s immediate fortunes may seem to be assisted on the ascending swing by the escalating warfare in the wobbling Nasa, whose stability is now leaning close to the ground after Tuesday’s ouster of Moses Wetang’ula as Senate Minority Leader.
Political analyst Joseph Kilonzi Kimau throws a long shot at what is likely to take shape: “The die is cast. Raila is a master in destroying any competition within his backyard. He is going to spend the next four years fighting his dissenting Nasa co-principals until they are neutralised to Ground Zero.
You can trust him to achieve that.” “Meanwhile, his concentration on intra-Nasa wars will give Ruto ample time to entrench himself especially in areas that have been previously hostile to him. If anything, Ruto has already shown intention to do that in the one week that has passed since the handshake.
He will already be in position for the presidency by the time the guns of warfare in Nasa go silent,” he adds. Though the prophesy of Nasa co-principal Moses Wetang’ula for the Opposition alliance to brace for “a messy and noisy divorce” did not happen during his ouster on Tuesday.
Pundits still predict it is coming. Last week, Ruto made an unexpected foray to the Coast region where he dwelt for four days on a “development tour” though it was politics around the handshake and Uhuru succession that took centre-stage.
Previously fierce critics of the Jubilee administration such as vocal Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa showed how the handshake had indeed shaken things as they came out to endorse the new co-operation and even pitch for Ruto’s candidature in 2022.
Others who gave a nod to Ruto’s bid were his buddy Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja, MPs Jones Mlolwa (Voi), Ali Mbogo (Kisauni) and Danson Mwashako (Wundanyi).
At the other far end of the country, on Saturday, Raila visited his bedrock of Siaya county and Ruto’s Elgeyo Marakwet support base to drum up support for his new-found relationship with Jubilee, even as he prepared the ground in his Nyanza turf for Uhuru to make his first visit since his re-election.
The imminent parting of ways in Nasa notwithstanding, visits to the former Western province twice in as many weeks by Ruto last month did not come as a surprise to most observers of his itinerary. It had been his key hunting ground outside Jubilee zones in the run-up to last year’s elections.
As if to demonstrate his growing political prowess, Ruto hosted a dozen legislators from Western and Rift Valley regions who gathered at an interdenomination ceremony in his political bastion of Uasin Gishu county where they unanimously declared to back him for the 2022 State House bid, just two days after he himself had toured Bungoma county, including the volatile Mt Elgon area.
He was to return to the area a week later, when he went to Mumias, Kakamega county, to attend the homecoming ceremony of Sport Cabinet secretary Rashid Echesa, a development that helped to point at the intense and high-pitched political atmosphere the country is staring at in the next five years.
After Uhuru’s re-election last October for his second and last term in office, in all practical purposes, focus immediately turned on his 52-year-old loyal deputy as the undisputed pack-leader with the country tumultuously ebbing towards the incumbent’s tricky succession matrix, though all signs are that it will not be a walk in the park for the self-proclaimed ‘Hustler.’
With his ruling Jubilee Party’s unassailable control of both Houses of Parliament which has now been boosted by support from Raila’s ODM troops, most of would-be-competitors have been roped into the same fold or fallen by the wayside coupled with a noticeably disjointed and wrangle-riddled Opposition.
Regardless of how events pan out in the coming four years, Ruto remains—for now at least—the unrivalled topper of the table standings in the preamble to the next national political contest, much so helped by the positively working chemistry between him and his boss on one hand and his own shrewdness and political artistry on the other.
Raila’s move to co-operate with Jubilee in an agenda he and Uhuru have defined as ‘Building Bridges’ has left an already feud-marred Nasa in smithereens and laid the fertile ground for a Ruto head-start.