Ruto: Defiant DP who took road less travelled
With yesterday’s election, the curtains started falling on William Ruto’s days as Deputy President.
Two options now await him; if he wins the election, he stands to become the next Head of State. If he loses, he will become the leader of the Opposition.
However, the dice rolls, the former Eldoret North MP will be joining a thin global list of second-in-command who differed with their bosses while still in office.
Irrespective of how his fortunes turn, history awaits the 56-year-old Ruto, who served as the 10th second-in-command.
This year marked his debut in his quest to become Kenya’s Chief Executive. He will make history if he wins to become the first Deputy President to succeed his boss and the third to win on his first attempt after presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi.
He went into the electoral contest as only the second principal assistant to the President to seek to succeed his boss, after Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, who blazed that trail in 2013.
He took the gauntlet with the peculiar status of a candidate contesting against strong opposition from his own boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who opted to cast his lot behind former Prime Minister Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), one of the parties affiliated to Azimio-One Kenya Coalition.
The President and Raila had a closing of ranks in March 2018, when they agreed to bury their political differences and work as a team. The two then initiated collaborative working ties that have since come to be known as the Handshake.
Ruto was 31 years old when he resisted the advice of his mentor — the then powerful president Daniel arap Moi — not to contest the Eldoret North parliamentary seat in 1997.
His decision went contrary to Moi’s wishes although he vied under the banner of the then ruling party, Kanu, of which Moi was chairman.
Moi had thrown his weight behind his long-time associate William Saina.
Ruto secured the Kanu nomination and went ahead to win the seat with a landslide.
He was at it again in 2002 when, against all odds, he threw his weight behind Uhuru’s presidential bid.
Uhuru was the Kanu presidential candidate at a time when it was not fashionable to belong to the party. Many political luminaries, including Raila, had jettisoned the independence party to join the Opposition spearheaded by eventual contest victor, Mwai Kibaki.
In 2005, when the country held a referendum on the Constitution, Ruto and Kanu closed ranks with the radical wing of the then ruling coalition, Narc, to vote against the document. His notable comrades-in-arms at that time were, among others, Uhuru of Kanu and Raila of Narc. Their Orange campaign against the proposed Constitution carried the day against their rivals, then led by Kibaki in the Banana campaign.
Now, Ruto and Raila find themselves on different sides of the political divide, with each seeking to succeed Uhuru and become the fifth President of Kenya.
Interestingly, in 2007 Ruto broke ranks with his Kanu colleagues and joined Raila in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) when the then Lang’ata MP vied for the presidency against Kibaki. At the time, Uhuru supported Kibaki, who was declared the winner, a decision that plunged the country into violence when the outcome was contested.
Ruto and Raila would walk different paths again in 2010 when he became the notable face of the forces opposed to another referendum on the Constitution. Kibaki, Uhuru and Raila were all supporting the change of the Constitution. This time, Ruto’s camp lost. But that was not the last of him.
Like a twine in a political rope, Ruto was to again join Uhuru, who he supported for the presidential election of 2013. The two, with Ruto as running-mate, were on the opposite side of the political divide with Raila.
They went on to defeat the ODM leader in both 2013 and 2017.
He and Uhuru became inseparable until Raila came knocking on the President’s door on March 8, 2018, and the two shook hands.
With that, the situation rapidly changed and Ruto found himself increasingly isolated. Ruto has, however, openly demonstrated his readiness to resist attempts to silence or coerce him or change from his seeming circumlocutions route to the House on the Hill.
The former MP has unfurled himself as a new breed of politician. Invariably viewed as intelligent and eloquent, cheeky, humorous, abrasive and cantankerous, if not disrespectful, headstrong and arrogant, Ruto’s bravado-riddled, stoking-the-hornet’s-nest style of politics has, in the swish and swash of time, earned him both friend and foe in equal portions.
Records show that not since the fallout pitting the Founding Fathers of the nation, Jomo Kenyatta (Uhuru’s father) and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Raila’s father) has a rift between a president and his deputy been so loudly pronounced as has been the case between Uhuru and Ruto.
Unlike all his predecessors, Ruto’s position as Deputy President is protected by the Constitution, which means he could not have been dropped. Before the promulgation of the current Constitution in 2010, the President had the luxury of appointing and sacking a deputy at will.
Today, a presidential candidate and their running-mate constitutionally go as a joint ticket. Thus, once in office, a deputy president cannot be fired by his or her boss even if they were to differ on policy, principle, sabotage or personal level. They can only be removed through resignation, death, sickness or impeachment.
A president and his deputy come as a package, whether they enjoy a warm or endure an icy relationship. That is the precarious situation Uhuru and Ruto have found themselves in since 2018.
Now, the tenure of their ticket is coming to an end and a new page is set to open once the electoral commission declares a winner of yesterday’s presidential election.