Ruto vs Raila: Of smoke screens and PR stunts – “watu si wajinga bwana!”

The more things change, the more they stay the same, Alphonse Karr wrote.

It has been about six months since Kenyans queued to vote. However, rallies and political re-alignments could make a guest to the state, think elections are due in a few months. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2023, saw petty politics take centre stage with subliminal gestures being thrown online, in form of photo ops, from Kenya Kwanza and Azimio sides. President Ruto rolled up the curtains as the play began. He made an irresistible call to opposition MPs for a sit down at State House and made sure the camera person understood the assignment. Details of what was discussed are scanty but what is absolutely clear is that this was a flex of power by Ruto, showing opposition the beauty of being in government. 

The ODM legislators were immediately called out by their party for disrespecting Raila Odinga. Meanwhile, the Azimio leader showed Kenyans that he is unshaken by the act and the betrayal as he posed for a photo, reunited with former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed – two individuals heavily blamed for his election loss.

In the Jacaranda rally, Raila called on Common Wealth and the United Nations to deploy teams to Kenya to look into the 2022 elections within two weeks, failure to which Kenyans will take matters into their own hands. The ODM leader also said he possessed evidence of former IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati visiting his home and asking for a bribe before the August 9 election. Chebukati dared him to release the footage and Raila conveniently avoided the topic in the Kibra rally, where he made another sensitive pronouncement – IEBC to be scrapped and Kenya to adopt US-style devolved electoral system. 

A pattern is revealing. Mr Odinga is set to host another rally in Mavoko and Busia, should we expect another controversial pronouncement? It seems he understands Kenyans are quick to forget and his job is to provide political pundits with something new, propaganda or not, to talk about every week on morning television and divert Kenyans’ attention. 

“In six months.” This should ring a bell, the most popular broken promise by President Ruto. It was partially excused after his bromance with ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta ended. But Kenyans never forgot, and are now smart enough to only believe what they can see. And currently, something that Wanjiku wants to see is the promise of a drop in unga prices being fulfilled. The broken promise of a gender-balanced cabinet has also not been forgotten.

Ruto the taxman. The president has embarked on a hunt for billions from the richest in the country. A hunt that awoke the country’s ‘granny’ from decades of silence. Even if he gets that money, will it be enough to cover up for the inadequacies in the Kenya Kwanza strategy to turn around the economy?  

Shouting matches. No one is enjoying power more than Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, the honest and truthful men*. He asked Ruto to allow him to ‘deal’ with Raila and aside from his official duties, that’s what he has been doing. No matter the platform, Riggy G will throw a jibe at the leader of the opposition and expect him to respond before he launches another missile. Riggy G has also been making roadside declarations, usurping powers that belong to governors, all in an effort to protect ‘his people’. 

How much time does the new administration need, for Kenyans to start feeling like they made the right choice on the ballot? Are all these sideshows meant to distract Wanjiku from the facts that; the shilling has fallen deeper than it ever has? That the North Rift has become almost ungovernable under this administration and residents are being killed daily? And, that the tax burden is hard to bear?

Wednesday, 8 February 2023. Elite Police officers raid the house of former Interior CS Fred Matiang’i. It’s too soon to call it a revenge mission or a wolf cry, but as we, Kenyans, grapple with hunger and the high cost of living let’s sit back and enjoy season two of ‘Hustler vs Dynasties’ with a little adjustment on the script to switch roles of those who play opposition and government. 

Raila and Ruto know the political playbook by heart. They know what they need to do for the country to move forward, why not save our time by sitting down, not for a handshake or nusu-mkate, but to agree on so that the country can have a clear direction? 

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