As a primary school boy, William Ruto was asked to lead the choir to entertain guests for their school’s harambee. The son of a peasant made no impression on the dignitaries who included Cabinet minister Henry Kosgey, but the dignitaries made a deep impression on him. He wanted to be like them. That is the goal Ruto has pursued to this day.
Astutely ambitious, Ruto felled seasoned politicians in 1997 and found himself at the feet of former President Moi. All was well until Ruto emerged to fill the void created by Moi’s retirement in 2002. Suddenly, he became estranged from his mentor who preferred his last born son, Gideon, as his political heir.
Not much is known about Gideon’s childhood but suffice it to say that he did not need to prime a dying paraffin lamp by shaking it hard so that he could finish his homework. He was a baby when his father became Cabinet minister, only two when he became vice president and just 14 when he became President. He went to pricey private schools locally and abroad, hob nobbing with the rich and famous. He lived the lavish life of a President’s son and used that key position to build wealth and political networks.
In short, there are no two politicians in Kenya who are polar opposites. Gideon is conservative with his vast wealth while Ruto is compulsively distributive with his. Gideon maintains the air of privilege and entitlement while Ruto will buy roasted maize on the roadside.
To Kalenjins, who greatly value courage and open-handedness, there is no contest between the two. Ruto’s meteoric rise captures the imagination of the common man not just among the Kalenjins but all over Kenya.
Gideon on the other hand tends to rely on his father’s legacy. But he might have overplayed his hand because it has made him look like he is living in the shadow of his father.
Ruto’s achievements have now afforded him a massive ego, which prevents him from reconciling with the equally self-absorbed Gideon. At the end of the day it will not be a battle of wills and wits but of egos and shoes brought into the house.