3 ways William Ruto is better than Raila Odinga
Will William Ruto become Kenya’s 5th President? Former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim thinks so. In an opinion piece he wrote for the Star newspaper, Mr. Maalim thinks that Ruto will easily become the 5th President if his opponent is Raila Odinga. Although Mr. Maalim is correct in his conclusion, his reasons for arriving at the conclusion are however insufficient to make Deputy President the 5th President. Mr. Maalim contends that William Ruto is better placed compared to Raila Odinga because the mountain votes cannot go to Raila and because Raila cannot be trusted.
Given the 2013 and 2017 voting patterns, Mr. Maalim can only be correct about the mountain votes if Raila is in dire need of those votes. The previous two elections showed that Raila does not necessarily need the mountain votes. This is because what Raila needs in addition to his assured votes is the South Rift (Kajiado, Samburu, parts of Nakuru) and North Eastern votes, votes that can easily be guaranteed thanks to his association with President Kenyatta and political leaders from those counties – assuming Raila’s voting blocks from 2013 and 2017 remain intact. Within this scenario, Raila can only lose if and only if Kalonzo (or Ruto) is a huge factor in Ukambani, and both Mudavadi and Wetangula are huge factors in Western. I am willing to bet that both Ukambani and Western voting blocks are still intact with Raila.
The foregoing aside, I still believe that William Ruto stands a better chance of becoming the country’s 5th President due to the following three reasons:
1. William Ruto is the current underdog
Right now, even if Russia has some justification for invading Ukraine, almost everyone globally is in sympathy with Ukraine, and that’s because Ukraine is the underdog in the ongoing war. People love underdogs. The reason for this psychological phenomenon is that usually, underdogs represent the circumstances familiar with the majority – who are usually the less powerful – people who hardly win in life, explained Dr. Asim Shah, professor and executive vice chair in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor . Underdogs are therefore easily viewed as “one of us”.
William Ruto seems to be aware of this psychological phenomenon. This I say because he decided to sell himself as a person who identifies with the strugglers/hustlers of this nation. He deliberately took the wheelbarrow, a symbol for hustling, to be the representation of his political ideology – the bottom-up economic model as opposed to the trickle-down model which has been shown to be ineffective.
To amplify his status as the underdog, William Ruto also adopted the political messaging that the 2022 election will be an election that pitties the hustlers against the dynasties. In this messaging, William Ruto has presented himself as the hustler (David) who must face off against the Kenyatta’s and the Odinga’s (Goliath) dynasties – dynasties hell-bent to ensure corruptly acquired wealth is safeguarded. This messaging has been so effective to the extent that it has become hard to convince those who identify themselves as hustlers that the message isn’t true.
2. William Ruto has elegant communication and oratory skills
One thing that political analysts credit Obama’s win both in 2008 and 2012 is Obama’s oratory skills, skills that come in handy when a political message is required to reach people’s hearts. In Kenya, most of our politicians lack this skill – except a few that include William Ruto. William Ruto has the ability to speak in such a way as to convince the listener that he has communicated a very important message, even when there is nothing important that has been communicated.
When listening to William Ruto during his tour of the United States and the United Kingdom, it became obvious to me that when it comes to communicating the plans he has for Kenya, Mr. Ruto has mastered the art of craftily evading the heart of the matter. For example, when he was asked by a VOA host to explain the plans he has for Kenya, the best William Ruto did was to say that he has a plan and a team and that he is set to take Kenya to the next level. He said these words in such a manner that would dupe the listener into believing that he had said something substantive, yet he just rephrased the host’s question.
Contrast William Ruto’s oratory skills with Raila’s lack of coherence in almost all of his speeches. In the previous campaigns, Raila was able to mask his lack of oratory skills with vitendawili and football analogies. But during the 2017 campaigns this tactic was attacked by both William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, and going by lack of vitendawili in this campaign period, it appears that Raila and his campaign managers have thought it wise for Raila to steer clear of using vitendawili – a move that appears to be working against him. Listen to Raila Odinga closely and you’ll realize that he doesn’t have the oratory wit to pass across his political messages in rallies or in press conferences.
3. William Ruto is the de facto opposition leader
William Ruto being the de facto opposition leader in the run-up to August 9th is that if the electorates are dissatisfied with the performance of the ruling government, they are very likely to vote for the opposition. This we witnessed in 2002 when the country overwhelmingly voted for Mwai Kibaki in the only election Kenyans consider to have been free and fair. The likelihood of voters voting for the opposition is significantly increased when the outgoing president endorses a candidate. The endorsement is generally read by the voters as a desire by the outgoing president to continue pulling strings even in his retirement.
The economic situation in Kenya currently is very likely to blind voters over any developments the government may achieve over the past 9 years. As of now, the general cost of living is continuing to rise by the day, where a few weeks ago Kenyans were up in arms on social media sharing the hashtag #lowerfoodprices. With food prices projected to increase as the year progresses, it is very likely that the cost of living will be at its highest ever by the time of this year’s general elections. The status of cost of living at that time will largely inform voters on whether they’ll vote for Ruto or Raila, and as already been mentioned, the voters will likely vote for an opposition figure if the government will be viewed as incapable of providing for the needs of the citizens.
The three ways Ruto is better than Raila in the run-up to the August 9th elections do not suggest that Ruto will overwhelmingly overturn Raila’s voting blocks to his side; but that Ruto will be able to steal a significant number of votes (up to 30% in some blocks) from Raila’s voting blocks. These small but significant voters who identify themselves as hustlers, voters spread across the country who are very likely to punish the government for poor performance, are very likely going to make Ruto the next president.
The reader of this article may wonder if I have anything in-store that’s pro-Raila. Yes I do, and it’s only one – Raila for the first time has the state machinery behind him. Ruto did not go to the US and UK to complain about rigging out of thin air. Remember Ruto was very instrumental in ensuring Uhuru becomes the President in 2013 and 2017, and both elections ended up in the Supreme Court. We also know that the Supreme Court had to overthrow the 2017 presidential elections – a decision that made Raila coin the term “vifaranga vya computer”. Since 2007, we have known that you cannot predict the outcome of elections in Kenya without factoring in the possibility of rigging.