A country doesn’t encounter your lot often, intellectuals who move beyond theorising by folding their sleeves and stepping into the arena, not as politicians but as the politician’s mind (and hopefully conscience), the politician’s politician.
In your case, and without overestimating your play within Kenya Kwanza, you come across as a one-man politburo, a commissar of commissars, as if you are the final advisor (economic and otherwise) the President listens to before digging his heels into the ground. More often than not, whenever the press or Twitter commentariat has been in doubt about one government policy position or another, they’ve always come to you – or you’ve always gone to them – and unequivocally, even if abrasively, muddied their waters further as you clarified matters by sticking to your and your principal’s guns, which oftentimes either upsets your interlocutors or is found indefensible or unfashionable by them.
But you move undeterred, as if yours is to break hearts.
Before becoming President William Ruto’s svengali (that’s what you seem to be), you spent years of your life building a cross section of public institutions, from think tanks to anti-graft platforms to publications. Politically, one could view you as one of the Young Turks behind the Young Turks, younger intellectuals who powered the youthful intellectual-activists of the early 1990s, among them Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o. Thereafter, you travelled with Prof Nyong’o into the Social Democratic Party’s politburo pre-and-post 1997, where alongside Dr Apollo Njonjo and others, you made a real go at building a leftist party. In 2002, you moved with Prof Nyong’o and others into government, he as minister for planning and you leading the Economic Recovery Strategy. It was therefore not surprising that in 2013 and 2017, you stood firmly behind Project Raila Odinga, just as Prof Nyong’o and a lot of your fellow travellers did, because much as he wasn’t the best (to some), he was the best bet your lot had.
Nobody will criticise you for breaking rank with Odinga when he opted for a private handshake with Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018, in place of the structured dialogue you preferred. You must have been greatly disappointed by this turn of events, considering yourself and others had put your lives on the line for the project. Others, like your fellow traveller Prof Nyong’o, found landing as governors and so on, with a few of you, even if not keen on elective politics or positions, left with the short end of the stick. That your next political stop was Project William Ruto must’ve been surprising – considering you had hardly travelled together, ever.
It was, to some, a case of you spiting Odinga and Company. Or maybe not.
Going by your fervour and bravado during your Project Raila Odinga days, the natural expectation – certainly a wrong one in hindsight – was that you’d play an important backroom role in Project William Ruto, not to get chased around by the police as you defended secret tallying centres as was the case under Odinga. But with every passing day, you got louder and prouder, as if you were home at last. Those you previously travelled with couldn’t possibly believe whatever they were witnessing – you surely didn’t believe Ruto was the answer – but you remained unbothered by their seemingly purist pursuits as you pursued the revolution.
And then it happened.
William Ruto won power, and now your intellectual project needed to start transforming the lives of Wanjiku and others. Ruto and his shenanigans aside, you now sat and sit next to the seat of power, if not at the seat of power, and could and can actualize the entire breadth of the revolution as envisioned possibly from your days as a Young Turk behind the Young Turks.
But as if making quick concessions in quick succession – as you did during the campaigns – you reiterated that an anti-corruption purge wasn’t in the cards in a Ruto government, and warned that you weren’t for bringing everyone along under your administration, especially the so-called upper deck folk who seemed big on moralising, and with whom you brawled more than was necessary. And the more you were questioned about your new government, the more you seemed to turn into a the-end-justifies-the-means type, embracing the real-politik stance of by-all-means-necessary as you praised the workings and manner of YK’92 orphans.
To you, it seemed, it had all come down to playground politics.
We won the elections, so go hang!
We won’t take offence or take it personally if you rubbish us today, or even ignore us for that matter. But easily being William Ruto’s most important brain, we will be absconding if we can’t bring this to your door. The ongoing political tug of war – even if motivated by other factors (Raila Odinga’s inability to accept electoral defeat, in your view) – is fuelled by dire economic circumstances in the country. And being that the economy is your forte, the fact that it affects the politics then means you mustn’t limit yourself to economics, because it is politics’ twin.
And much as you’ve been tearing each other apart with some of your erstwhile comrades who posit that you’ve had a reverse Damascene moment, turning from Paul to Saul instead of Saul to Paul, the prevailing economic and political environment calls for a David Ndii to put aside his toys, stop the tantrums with the neighbours’ kids and put on his big boy pants and close rank with those he knows have always meant well for Kenya, in seeking interventions that will change the current political and economic tide. In this regard, it will be fair game if giving Raila Odinga and his ilk a wide berth is part of the ask, but surely, and certainly, there are folks with whom yourself and others can have a clubhouse session with (exactly the point, because you chide the upper deck folk but you’re in there somewhere) and save the day, this day today.
Going by how you move – brush and unapologetic, half-grinning as if things are exactly where they need to be – one wouldn’t be completely surprised if the prevailing government response to the economy and the political crisis is part of the revolution envisioned by yourself and others (you’ve asked whoever can to overthrow you if they wish 😅). But be that as it may, it is also true that a man of your history still has a love for country (sorry to use soft language such as love during the revolution), including for upper deck folk. And if for nothing but this silly sentimentalism, you should either return the calls you’ve ignored (they’ve certainly been calling you) or make the calls you’ve thought you could and should.