Why DP Ruto stopped attacking NASA leader Raila Odinga
The sudden metamorphosis of Deputy President William Ruto into a moderate politician with zero appetite for hard-tackles has confounded friend and foe as succession politics takes shape.
From an abrasive politician with an acerbic tongue to a mild and gentle soul, the DP’s withdrawal of punches against NASA leader Raila Odinga has sent tongues wagging.
He has in recent days toned down his rhetoric, taken a back seat on state functions and most importantly, held overlapping meetings with core supporters.
Notably, he has implored on politicians from his backyard to go slow on attacks against opposition figures, a move keen observers interpret as keeping his options open.
For those who have followed Ruto’s political life, however, the demeanor he has cut in recent days is a pointer to serious scheming in the background with an eye on succession politics.
“He is a politician who thinks and plans strategically. He’s a very influential person who has been a kingmaker and who now has trained his sight on the bulls eye,” Majority Leader Aden Duale says in veiled reference to the new Ruto.
A loyal supporter of Ruto, Duale has also ceased his perilous jabs against Raila. He admits that it is strategic.
The Majority Leader says everything is being done to ensure that their “number nine” striker (Ruto) does not suffer injury until the ball is passed to him to score in 2022.
“All of us in the pitch and the technical bench will ensure that our Messi continues to score home and away,” he adds.
Dismas Mokua, a political risk analyst says most successful politicians globally take a tactful retreat to do analysis before engaging a high gear and Ruto could have taken a few steps back to develop a superior understanding of the body politics in the country.
“The next four years will be a turning point in his trajectory. He could have realised that he does not need to create unnecessary enemies but instead build on a stalk of friends,” said Mokua.
Taking a low profile in the public domain Mr Mokua notes was giving Ruto an opportunity to renew friendship, build bridges and position himself on the job ahead in 2022.
Multiple sources at the heart of his strategy reveal that the DP is keen not to repeat the same mistakes his predecessors made in succession battles that flipped over. He is aware that the position of a Deputy President to an exiting president presents a “poisoned chalice” status from where many drink to their political death.
Despite lending service to former President Kibaki’s regime, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka ended up in retirement. A similar fate befell Raila who is still in opposition after serving as a Prime Minister in the last term of President Kibaki.
“He is a suitor who does not want to be seen too deep in the Uhuru presidency but instead create new amalgamations for himself knowing well that Jubilee alone cannot guarantee him victory,” Javans Bigambo a political analyst says.
He added: “Ruto could have also noted that the country is deeply divided and he may want to play low key and he seeks to build bridges.”
In the last three months after the repeat elections and the subsequent swearing in on the November28th last year, Ruto engaged in low profile politics avoiding confrontational approach in exchange for a quieter approach at least in the public domain.
In the recent days, there are two occasions where Ruto had an opportunity to stump his political authority in his characteristic agility and ruthlessness. Instead, he opted for soft positions which shocked his handlers. On January 30 as NASA leader Raila prepared to be sworn in, police were setting a stage for what could have been a possible deadly confrontation.
President Kenyatta away in Addis Abba in Ethiopia for the head of States annual summit. Ruto, in a wit of decision, saved the potentially deadly encounter by ordering for the withdrawal of security officers from around Uhuru Park effectively deflating the tension.
“After a wee hours meeting with the security bosses that lasted up to after nine in the morning, the DP ordered for the withdrawal of the security officers,” says a source close to the DP.
Political pundits argue that with the decision to allow the NASA oath to take place, the country avoided a ‘blood bath’.
“Ruto has learned to use the surprise element, like his friend-turned-foes Raila. Just when NASA expected confrontation, the governments move punctured the pregnant tension,” Bigambo adds.
The second incident, according to another source who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, was when in the midst of the crackdown on the opposition leaders after the NASA oath, Ruto strongly opposed a planned arrest of Raila.
During a meeting with Kalenjin elected leaders, Ruto is said to have told the elected leaders from Rift Valley to avoid any political attacks on other communities.