Opinion

Why popular Ruto is suffering crisis of confidence

Why popular Ruto is suffering crisis of confidence
  • Deputy President increasingly looks like a man getting overwhelmed by a crisis of confidence.

  • The streak of conspiracy theories hardly betrays the demeanour of a presidential election contender with soaring popularity ratings and the frontrunner by a mile.

  • When the Deputy President’s allies talk of the ‘system’ working to block him from ascending to the presidency, they most probably mean to say their man doesn’t control the election rigging machine.

A wag from Murang’a, who definitely has his ear to the ground, in May told me about William Ruto’s soaring popularity in central Kenya. An opinion survey reportedly conducted by the intelligence around that time, according to my nosy friend, put the Deputy President’s approval ratings in the region widely believed to hold the decisive vote in the 2022 presidential election at about 80 per cent.

OLD GRIEVANCES

That might well be true, if you consider Mr Ruto’s high-intensity early campaigns in the area and the fact that none of the other serious presidential hopefuls has quite launched their vote hunting.

Central Kenya has cast its ballot for the winning candidate in the last four presidential elections.

Mr Ruto has also been quicker than anyone else to exploit the anxieties and grievances of a region looking for direction as President Uhuru Kenyatta, its favourite candidate in the last two elections, serves his final term.

A clever narrative created by local politicians affiliated with the Ruto-supporting Tanga Tanga group seeks to portray central Kenya as deprived of national government-funded development programmes due to the post-election Handshake deal between the President and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Although Mr Odinga hasn’t declared his candidature publicly, he is seen as the Deputy President’s most formidable challenger in the race to succeed Mr Kenyatta.

The ODM party leader has also been some sort of a hate figure in central Kenya arising from his recent ill-tempered electoral battles with candidates hailing from the region, historical falling-outs between the Kenyatta and Odinga political dynasties, and cultural differences between his ethnic Luo community and the Kikuyu.

The brilliance of the Ruto campaign narrative in the vote-rich region is underlined by its potential success in feeding the old grievances against Mr Odinga and neutralising Mr Kenyatta’s ability to influence his succession.

NEXT VICTIM

At face value, the 2022 presidential election should be Mr Ruto’s to lose.

Yet the Deputy President increasingly looks like a man getting overwhelmed by a crisis of confidence.

The streak of conspiracy theories – the La Mada assassination plot by his juniors in the Cabinet, the highly suspicious eggs theft at his Sugoi home and the insubordination by a county commissioner boycotting his church service in Nyeri – hardly betrays the demeanour of a presidential election contender with soaring popularity ratings and the frontrunner by a mile.

What is the real reason the Deputy President is running scared?

My guess is that Mr Ruto is beginning to come to terms with the reality of Kenya’s flawed democracy, from which he has probably been a beneficiary in the past and of which he could be the next high-profile victim.

It might be dawning on him that ‘it’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes’.

When the Deputy President’s allies talk of the ‘system’ working to block him from ascending to the presidency, they most probably mean to say their man doesn’t control the election rigging machine.