BY JACOB OKETCH
The implosion that we have witnessed within the ruling party Jubilee has revealed the kind of political formations that we should expect ahead of the 2022 General Election. At the centre of it all is Deputy President William Ruto who has fallen out spectacularly with his party boss President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The big question is what now for the embattled DP going forward?
The first two weeks of May the Jubilee Party has undergone a transformation of epic proportions. First were the changes that were made in the party’s management council where four new faces were introduced to replace those who had landed government positions. The DP and his handlers fiercely fought this move but in the end those changes were gazetted as legit and they have stood.
The next frontier was the Senate where the party’s Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and the Chief Whip Senator Susan Kihika were thrown out of their lofty perches. At almost the same time, the Ruling Party entered into a coalition arrangement with the independence party KANU. Both of these, were again, strongly challenged by the Deputy President’s camp but they held. Then Deputy Speaker of the Senate Prof Kithure Kindiki, a close ally of the DP who has also been touted as his possible running mate in 2022 was axed from the position. Jubilee’s nominated Senators who defied party leader by snubbing summons to State House have also been put to their defence by party machineries. The jury is still out.
There is talk of further changes to be made in the national assembly as a further purge of those perceived to be disloyal to the party leadership. Those targeted are House committee chairs. Clearly, the ruling party is terribly fractured and observers are wondering if the party can be salvaged anymore or rather if the feuding sides can come to the negotiating table.
It is clear that the DP has to chart a new political path going into the 2022 contest. This however does not mean that he has to quit the party. He can bide his time in the party even as he consolidates a new political formation. They say a day is a long time in politics. There is quite a lot of time for the DP to restrategize and find a way of coexisting with his boss until 2022. However, the DP ought to learn the value and virtue of patience and perseverance. Many theories have been advanced as to how retired President, the late Daniel Arap Moi managed to ascend to power; his utmost humility and perseverance in the face of untold humiliation by the founding father the late president Jomo Kenyatta’s handlers stand out. This is a virtue that the DP has to cultivate going forward.
The no holds barred approach that the DP has been employing in his duel with the President will be counterproductive. It seems the President has unleashed elaborate measures to contain his deputy. The many handlers of the DP have to stop being abrasive on this matter of cleaning house. Most of these guys owe their existence in the National Assembly or senate to him. Be that as it may, their grumblings will not make them more admirable in his eyes. If they are principled enough as they pontificate then they should step down and seek a fresh mandate in a new political outfit. That does not seem to be anything they would go for. The DP needs to rally his troops to a cessation of remonstrations of the President in the manner they have been doing.
Recently, the DP went to the President’s backyard ostensibly to distribute donations in kikuyu Constituency, of all the places, in mitigation of the food situation occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, even to a casual observer, this move was an affront to the Head of State. In any case, the DP could choose any other place to show his commitment to assisting the less fortunate during these difficult times but not where he went. Still, he could choose to hand his donations to the government agency that is charge of Covid-19 donations. It is these kinds of moves that paint the second in command as combative.
This is the time for him to lie low and watch as his detractors overdo themselves in their effort to slow him down. This does not mean that he should just sit and watch as the vultures circle him. There are times when silence can be a very powerful weapon and this may just be the time for the embattled DP to heed this law of power.
The one factor that could play in the DP’s favour is the covid 19 pandemic. The President has unveiled a team that will handle the post- covid 19 economic recovery. This is an outfit that is bound to generate a lot of debate since it will also be making financial decisions. There is likelihood of it messing up with some embezzlement of resources here and there. Given that the DP has been sidelined in this arrangement, he will have the locus standi to hold those involved to account and also avoid the missteps that may occur. This can be a powerful arsenal to use in convincing Kenyans that those who are fighting him are actually the foul guys and not him. How things play out as far as this is concerned remains to be seen.
The Opposition chief Raila Odinga has been making inroads in government. His rapprochement with President Uhuru Kenyatta has given him the leverage to be part of key government’s decisions. What should worry him, however, is the backlash that may occur should he assume a key position in government that may ensconce him in the failings that may occur while he is there. Now that Raila leads the Post Covid-19 Recovery Team, he must navigate these waters very carefully with the understanding that any failure will be squarely at his doorstep.
The person the President has picked to steer the recovery programme will play a key role into 2022 General Election. The recovery is bound to stretch to even after the President will have concluded his term. This means the chair of the recovery team has the big man’s confidence. The president’s agenda four will ultimately be realized in the long term.
The President has to be alive to the fact that whoever takes the mantle of leadership after him has to be someone who fully supports his agenda so that his mission may eventually be accomplished even after he has left office.
But even as the DP retreats from the war of attrition with the President, he has to stay above the water and keenly monitor what other key political players are doing. 2022 election will also involve succession and so political formations and coalitions have started in earnest. Unlike in other elections when coalitions are cobbled late into the game, whatever formations we are seeing emerging now may just be what will be there when election time comes. The DP is disadvantaged in this respect because he has to perform his functions and duties as the number two until such a time that he can be freed to go full throttle into campaign mode. Other players are fairly unrestrained.
It may be too early to give an accurate prognosis of the outcome however, from what is going on, it appears that there is a collective effort from the major political players to isolate the DP. Jubilee’s bringing on board of Gideon Moi and cavorting with Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila Odinga, is a pointer to this. Even Isaac Ruto, former Governor of Bomet has been roped in. It does not take a genius to see that there is a concerted effort to counter the DP’s fanatic following in his backyard by bringing his kinsmen on the negotiating table. These are very interesting times indeed.