BY JACOB OKETCH
hen he came up with the slogan “hustler”, Deputy President William Ruto may not have expected the reaction it would elicit among the populace. It was an act of powerful imagination of the state of a people. Evidently; poverty is a big concern to the leadership of this country – no doubt about that.
The issue of inequality is a big challenge not just in Kenya but across the Continent and beyond. There are tested policies that are being implemented by governments across the world to try and mitigate the problem. What is not in doubt is that a bigger part of this inequality is a direct consequence of the rapaciousness and greed of the political class, mired in corruption and mismanagement of public resources.
In history, the times when agitation of the masses to protest inequality and exploitation by the government of the day were characterized by flagrant abuse of the rule of law. In fact, there was total disregard of the rights of the masses. Kings ruled by decree and military governments did the same. There were no checks and balances whatsoever in any arm of the government, legislature, judiciary or the executive. Indeed, that was an environment where the only meaningful means of change had to be revolutionary.
The same cannot be said to subsist today. Locally, the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution ushered in an era of freedom of expression where the Bill of Rights shields the populace from all manner of abuses. Even when you look at the matter of inequality, the government of the day is inundated by policies that are addressing the challenge of youth unemployment and absorption into the national economy. These measures may not be foolproof but they go a long way in mitigating the challenges that Kenyans experience on this front.
Nonetheless, a call for improvement on how we manage the youth explosion and the problems therein is laudable. To this extent, the Deputy President’s mission is something that every Kenyan should identify with. Things only take a turn for the worst when you flip the coin and examine the second bit of the DP’s political slogan. The slogan in full is something like ‘Hustlers versus dynasties’. Now this is where this political mantra goes haywire. Surely, what constitutes a dynasty? Kenya is just about 50 something years old. The current generation of leaders is the third one. We had independence leaders led by the founding father of the nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, then came the Moi era and now we have the generation that took over from the Moi generation.
I may be wrong but I understand dynasties to mean a long line of rulers from particular families. Where is this long line of rulers in Kenya who have ruled the republic for generations when we only have the fourth president serving at the moment? Is it not the first time ever, in our republic when a serving President happens to be the son of a former President? What has actually happened is a situation where two tribes, Kikuyu and Kalenjin happened to have produced the leaders who have ruled Kenya since independence. And even this did not happen by design. It is something that has been largely controlled by the political circumstances of the time.
I have always defended the legitimacy of the BBI proposal simply because nobody came up with an alternative for Kenyans to consider. Punguza mzigo may have made an attempt but proposal of this magnitude requires a broad consensus and it seems the Punguza proposal did not achieve that. With the almost unanimous passage of the amendment bill by the county assemblies, the battle lines are now clearly drawn. President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have now begun the journey to the law change and anybody who stands on their way must expect serious bruises.
The Deputy President who has all along opposed the BBI crusade seems to be beating a hasty retreat having been resoundingly defeated at the county level stage after the Bill was overwhelmingly passed there. Dr Ruto says he will not take sides on the matter but will instead concentrate on the 2022 presidential contest. He seems to have sensed that the tide has turned against him and digging in may be counterproductive.
But the DP had dug in too deep already. That brazen onslaught on the President’s backyard, which started way before the BBI process gained momentum is one miscalculation that the DP will live to regret. What was the motivation of provoking the President to that extent even when he is still fully and firmly in office and has more than a year to go? Going by the way the MCAs have responded to BBI report, the ground will continue to shit for the DP, as long as he still continues to antagonize the President.
It is not difficult to see how isolated the DP has become. The idea that he holds parallel Jubilee Legislators group meetings at his residence bespeaks of someone who has decided to run a parallel system from the one controlled by his boss, something that contravenes even the party constitution which stipulates that the party leader is the one who has the mandate to convene group meetings of its members unless he has delegated that role to someone else.
The Deputy President can still recalibrate his political projections. The dynasty talk pits him against all the major political players in the country, foremost of them, his boss. Furthermore, the mantra is a hollow proclamation that cannot resonate with the majority because it is alien to the history of the republic of Kenya. It is also unnecessarily antagonistic. Dr Ruto can take advantage of the time and repudiate this undesirable mantra.
In any case, Kenyans ought to seize this opportunity to reexamine the Constitution, precisely, to interrogate these very issues of poverty and inequality. How come that the hustler troop did not champion for their views to be captured in the BBI document. Since they were in government, they never saw the need to do so and now is when they feel they should be heard, when the train has left the station and the key motivation for this move is the 2022 presidential succession.
The referendum bells are now ringing loudly and Kenyans are once again being called to chart the nation’s path. Posterity should be the key word in this exercise – parochial and sectarian interests should take a back seat as we make this important decision.
Writer is author of Aphorism and Poems of Light