Does William Ruto read from Raila Odinga's political script? - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 21 February 2021

Does William Ruto read from Raila Odinga's political script?


In Deputy President William Ruto’s strategy book on ascending to power, ODM leader Raila Odinga is the only formidable opponent and has to be subdued before the race begins proper.

In fact, nearly all his arsenal is trained on the former Prime Minister but in the event he announces that he’ll not run, the DP will have to go back to the drawing board.

The resolve, we established, stems from the many similarities in personality and style the two espouse in their conduct of politics, what some observers have in other instances christened as ‘the lifting of Raila’s script by Ruto’ since Mr Odinga is the senior one in the political arena.

“Only Raila concerns us, not the other fringe aspirants,” Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot admits.

Dr Ruto is both a student of former President Daniel arap Moi and the hard-tackle politics of Mr Odinga when he sat in the ODM’s Pentagon in the run-up to the infamous 2007 elections. He understudied Moi while in Kanu as a key cog in his re-election campaigns of 1992 through the Youth for Kanu (YK’92) and rose to become both Cabinet minister and party secretary-general.

Like Mr Odinga, the DP does not fear taking on the system even if he belongs to it but feels his interests are no longer being catered for. After the NDP and Kanu merger in the dying days of the Moi regime, Mr Odinga led a host of politicians in storming out of the government when Moi named Uhuru Kenyatta his preferred successor.

Loyal support

Mr Odinga had been waiting in the wings to take over from the late President. He would lead another revolt against President Mwai Kibaki after he reneged on a gentleman’s agreement to name him Prime Minister after the 2002 General Election.

Today, the DP has constructed a big chunk of loyal support in the ruling Jubilee Party, peeling away nearly half of the MPs to his corner. The team has no kind words for President Uhuru Kenyatta whom they accuse of betrayal.

On Monday, he hosted more than 100 of the MPs at his official residence in Karen in Nairobi where they promised to push for the common man’s agenda in Parliament.

Similar to Mr Odinga, the DP knows too well that power is never handed to anyone on a silver platter.

Mr Odinga was never favoured by his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga to lead the Luo nation once he exited the scene. Senate Minority leader James Orengo was. But the ODM boss staged a coup that saw him emerge as the leader with the likes of Orengo playing second fiddle.

William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM party leader Raila Odinga during the funeral service for former Matungu MP James Murunga at Makunda Primary School.

File | Nation Media Group

Mr Orengo even contested for the presidency in 2002 as Mr Odinga led the community into backing Mr Kibaki’s ticket that year.

Such is the story of the DP. Moi even after mentoring him never chose him to take over the kingship of Kalenjin land. The former Head of State preferred his son Gideon Moi, the Baringo Senator, to take over the mantle from him but the man from Sugoi outran them after going directly to the people. He is now experimenting the same by going to the mountain without waiting for Mr Kenyatta’s endorsement.

Further, their strong character and charisma make them attract love and hate in equal measure.

It is undisputed that Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto have the bulk of hardcore supporters in the country. Just recently, DP’s supporters blocked Senator Moi from accessing the venue he was meant to get blessings in aid of his State House bid by a section of the Talai elders in Nandi.

Nothing personal

Another group pelted stones at the convoy of Mr Odinga in Githurai before those loyal to the former Prime Minister retaliated when the second-in-command visited Burma Market in Nairobi.

The former Prime Minister insists the DP is his student and that there is nothing personal about their rivalry.

Githurai 45

Youths engage in street fight in Githurai 45, Nairobi when ODM leader Raila Odinga toured the area on January 27, 2021.

Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

“Why should I fight Ruto really? In fact, it is me who recruited him to the change movement and helped him sharpen his political tactics,” he says.

But DP Ruto and his allies say if anyone were to learn a thing or two from the former Prime Minister, the student would only end up with bad manners.

“While Raila’s politics is backed by tribal following, personality worship and whipping up of emotions, Ruto’s revolves around people empowerment and is broad-based.

“In Raila’s school, you only learn how to organise demonstrations, how to dispute elections and be violent,” Jubilee deputy secretary-general and a Ruto confidante, Caleb Kositany fires.

The lawmaker from Soy, however, agrees that the two are so far the most well-placed in the race to succeed President Kenyatta.

“They are all ambitious politicians who want to become President. They have a mass following,” says Mr Kositany.

For Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga, two quintessential politicians in Kenya, there has to be a clearly identified enemy before the business of politics can be conducted. They are all experts in pushing a “them versus us narrative”.

In the case of the leader of the Tangatanga movement, dynasties (a reference to elite families that ruled the country in the past) and poverty are the enemies while for the Orange party leader, poverty and ethnic polarisation feature high in his agenda.

Aden Duale

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale addressing the press at Deputy President William Ruto's official residence in Karen on February 8, 2021. 

Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

DP Ruto, a child of privilege just like Mr Odinga having been mentored by Moi, says it is time for hustlers to rule and dynasties have to give way.

Mr Odinga has been there before, seeking to be President ‘as affirmative action’, arguing it was high time the two tribes, Kikuyu and Kalenjin that have ruled the country since independence handed over power to the other ethnic groups that have not tasted it.

‘People’s president’

They are populist. They believe in big rallies and possess unmatched crowd mobilisation prowess.

Mr Odinga has been known for organising mega rallies as a show of might with Uhuru Park grounds in Nairobi being the most symbolic for him, the same venue where he took the oath as ‘the people’s president’ in January 2018.

Today, it is commonplace to see DP’s handlers sharing images of rallies he has addressed to demonstrate how much of a man of the people he has become.

They are proponents of redemptive politics. Mr Odinga built his career presenting himself as a champion of the poor. DP Ruto is today doing the same with his wheelbarrow politics.

His main argument against the proposal to change the Constitution is that there is nothing good for the ordinary citizen in it and instead meant to create big jobs for the ruling class.

“Raila has thrived on what you may call mass hysteria. Where he goes to the common person and tries to identify with their aspirations. And he has sold that very well to the effect that most deprived children of the earth look up to him as a saviour.

“And you could say, without any fear of contradiction that Ruto must have learnt that from him and therefore tries to find out what other way he can amass the common man’s hysterical if not dogmatic following,” Prof David Kikaya who has analysed country’s politics for decades asserts.

He adds that most Kenyan politicians of Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Ruto’s generation are political students of Moi but admitting that the DP may have also learnt a thing or two from Mr Odinga in their days in ODM.


Prof Winnie Mitullah of the University of Nairobi holds that DP Ruto and Raila’s brands of politics are diametrically opposed.

“Maybe the same in their level or ability to mobilise support. The rest is a little bit varying, especially on where they are coming from and how they are engaging in politics.”

Both being media-savvy and with a gift of the gab, the two can move the masses. In the last two elections, DP Ruto was the main campaigner for his boss, the President.

Equally, they are good at coining catchy slogans and campaign themes that make it easy for their supporters to identify with.

The political conversation right now revolves around ‘hustler nation’ fashioned by Dr Ruto. In the past, Mr Odinga invented others like Okoa Kenya, an initiative that sought to change the laws of the land ahead of the last elections. Nyundo (hammer) slogan or Tinga (tractor), which is associated with his ODM party, are some that come to mind.

The DP is today hogging the limelight with the wheelbarrow, which is the sign of the new political party UDA, which is linked to him.

Starting his politics while averse to criticism, the DP must have learnt that you do not have to get worked up by every sentiment made in the political arena. Mr Odinga is known to be somewhat tolerant today even though he was never that way in his younger days.

And appreciating the place of rigours of thought in campaign strategy, Dr Ruto has recruited several academics in his team. In the photos shared after hosting MPs on Monday, Prof Edward Kisiang’ani is seen in the front row.

Mr Odinga has over time surrounded himself with university dons such as Prof Akong’o Oyugi and Dr Adams Oloo, the former vice-chairman of the Building Bridges Initiative team.

Political capital

And in a departure, there is a perception that the DP’s political capital, unlike Mr Odinga’s, is anchored on pecuniary considerations, either through conspicuous expenditure like handouts to political hangers-on, huge donations in harambees or to individual politicians in exchange for support.

But National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, an Odinga ally, says there is little comparison between the two leaders, pointing to what he termed Dr Ruto’s love for politics of money.

“The first thing he does when you visit him is to size you up and decide how much you are worth.

“The tragedy is that you may have gone to see him for a totally different, and perhaps, genuine problem. His answer is money,” says the Suna East MP.

But some believe that Ruto represents today and Odinga yesterday.

“Ruto is now the liberator of the downtrodden and a networker, traits you could only attribute to Raila in the past. Raila on the other hand is retrogressing,” said one MP allied to the DP.

Big network

Observers say while DP has been around for a shorter period, he has proved to possess the ability to attract and retain friends unlike Mr Odinga whom they say has to keep working from scratch each time an election approaches.

“Ruto is leveraging the contacts he has accumulated over time. Either when he was working with Raila during which he created a big network around him,” said Prof Mitullah.

Their choice of allies also differ. While Mr Odinga mostly goes for the established allies (kingpins), although sometimes younger ones too, the DP has a knack for younger ones.

The former PM boasts of reform credentials, a fighter for democracy while the DP has found himself fighting off claims of a system’s man who started his career in YK92.

Critics argue that the DP has never been identified with any struggle on the same side of the masses or one that is ideologically rooted.

His hustler mantra has kicked up a storm with fear it could divide the country along class lines even as he is accused of failing to break it down into a coherent policy.

University don Eric Aseka says the concept of hustler nation is deceptive packaging of hidden interests.

“It is a threat to national cohesiveness because it is fomenting a confrontation that will erupt in violence,” he said.

His colleague Herman Manyora agrees, arguing that political scholars have failed to locate DP Ruto on any ideological spectrum.

“He is not associated with any ideology. In any case, he has never pronounced any and therefore it will be unfair to compare him with Raila.”

In DP Ruto, Mr Odinga sees a modified replica of himself, a factor that will only escalate the rivalry between the two as the country inches closer to the next General Election. By Daily nation  

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