February 18th 2018

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

DP Ruto playing PR in telling Buzeki to step down and ‘support’ Mandago

The question that still nibbles the minds of many is centered on the sincerity and enthusiasm with which the Rift Valley kingpin has made the endorsement remarks

By Athanas Kipchumbaakipchumba@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 13 Jun 2017 18:47 EAT

Mr Mandago with bussinessman Buzeki after a past meeting in Eldoret.

It’s an open secret that the deputy president could not, by multiple aspects, brave the political undertones that are sodden with pro-Mandago narratives which apparently spoke the language of “We don’t need your ‘alleged’ projects…”

Like a giraffe which sees far into the horizon or thereabout, notices his predators at a distance and plans for its escape precisely at the opportune time, Mr. Ruto had no option but to swim with the tide. He knew what the people of Nandi in the cosmopolitan Uasin Gishu County were craving and yearning to hear; his endorsement of the firebrand governor Jackson K. Mandago, who is one of the Jubilee’s  gubernatorial flag bearers in the North Rift region.

The former URP honcho- politically hit it big when he drummed up support for governor Mandago. At a political rally that could be aptly said to be well-attended in Uasin Gishu County, Mr. William Ruto said, “Mandago won the primaries in this county and deserves to be supported by all those who lost, including Kiprop alias Buzeki.

“Waswahili husema asiyekubali kushindwa si mshindani [A Kiswahili maxim goes, ‘he who doesn’t concede defeat isn’t a true competitor]. Buzeki should now withdraw and back Mandago because we want to be a team.”

This remarks, as predicted, instantaneously triggered wild cheers, copious ululations and abrupt chanting of pro- Jubilee slogans. Mr. Ruto knew, he has cemented his support base in his heartland. This can’t be gainsaid.

The question that still nibbles the minds of many is centered on the sincerity and enthusiasm with which the Rift Valley kingpin has made the endorsement remarks. Many political pundits took the DP’s ‘endorsement remarks with considerable pinch of salt. Why, you ask.

For those who have been following with the surgical accuracy and keenness of the mustard the political dynamics of the North rift since 2013, especially Uasin Gishu County, am certain, are convinced that William Ruto’s political support has never been with Mr. Mandago.

Well, let’s work down the memory lane. In the immediate former general election of 2013, the then URP boss was fully behind Mr. Julius Bitok who was vanquished at the ballot by the political neophyte, Mr. Jackson Mandago. It would thus be naïve of us to believe hook, line and sinker that Mr. Ruto supported the candidature of Mr. Mandago in his own volition or not. Pressure was graphically mounting, with desperate calls for his public endorsement of the ‘people’s choice’ that is Mandago.

Just to skirt around potentially explosive humiliation from his political stronghold, the DP had to dance to the tunes of his sub-tribe’s demands. Certainly, the wisdom of the occasion required exactly what he did last Saturday: “Endorse the majority’s ballot voices”.

This electioneering season, word has it that Mr. William Ruto has been clandestinely ‘sponsoring’ the business mogul, Mr. Kiprop Zedekiah Bundotich, with sole aim of unseating Mr. Mandago. Which calls to mind the surreptitious protracted political rivalry stemming from the last general election that saw Ruto’s preferred gubernatorial candidate, former university don, Mr. Julius Bitok outfoxed in a bruising contest. Sincerely speaking, Mr. Ruto couldn’t take that defeat lying down. He had to re-strategize. And of course, field for a strong candidate whose relevant qualification in the Ruto’s world of politics and by extension philosophical thinking is ‘financial might’. Even political charisma and the finest oratory prowess wouldn’t eclipse the need for financial strength.

He smartly landed on the high-flying businessman, who fitted the deputy president’s qualification frame. That the guy rolls in money, figuratively speaking, makes the perfect candidate to give the incumbent real run for his money.

Enter high octane campaign for party primaries. Mr. Ruto didn’t directly support any candidate, though at some point, in his guarded moments, he spoke in a language that wouldn’t require a rocket scientist to tell which candidates, in various elective seats, he backed.

True, the bruising political contest in Uasin Gishu County paints a portrait of ‘one Kalenjin subtribe[Nandi, comprising of the majority in the county] competing numerically against other tribes combined with some definite Kalenjin sub-tribes such as, the Marakwets, Keyios[where Buzeki’s roots can be traced], Kipsigis , Tugen, pokot and so on and so forth.

Questions are: How did Mr. Mandago manage to box all the Nandis into his corner, bearing in mind their numerical sinew? What made other Kalenjin subtribes to withdraw their support from the incumbent governor? What precisely angered other Kenyan tribes residing in the county to the point of massively opposing his re-election bid? Why were the Jubilee’s political top brass ‘reluctant’ to laud his nomination triumph? Did he win the party primaries in a uniformly leveled political playing field- devoid of intimidations, coercions and blackmails? Muse over it.

We hope to answer some of the above pertinent queries in the fullness of time, especially in our analytical focus on the dynamics of politics in the Uasin Gishu County.

Folks, there’s more than meets the eye on Mandago’s hard-to-believe nomination victory. With marked restrain, we are reluctant to deduce that Mr. Ruto’s lethargic attitude towards the endorsement of governor Mandago’s nomination win has anything to do with the scandalously polluted environment in which the nomination exercises were conducted. The stubborn fact is, Mr. Ruto has since the last watershed election never be in ‘harmonious relationship ‘with the incumbent governor. People may argue either way, but this fact will stand the test of time, and even sound debate.  

In a nutshell, it’s sagacious for Kenyans to fathom that Mr. Ruto’s ‘approval’ was nothing of cleverly playing public relations gimmick, as the wisdom of the occasion dictated.

If Mr. Mandago thought the DP believed in what he said, our unsolicited pities and sympathies go to him. Mr. Ruto, backs the businessman ‘on the down low’, at county level. We guess that Mr. Ruto has secretly called Buzeki to issue a ‘disclaimer’ over his [Ruto’s] endorsement remarks…

In this county, the battle of political titans especially for gubernatorial post, is far from over. Despite the ‘questionable’ endorsement by the DP, we would authoritatively tell that between the two avowed political rivals, none is resting on his laurels.  

Lucy Mwihaki contributed reporting for this article

Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press

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