The President, the Jet and the Spokesman


The President, the Jet and the Spokesman

During his spirited campaign to be president, William Ruto’s main refrain was that he was the son of a nobody – that his father was a nobody, which therefore made him a nobody. The President repeated time without number that he came from nothing, absolutely nothing, and that it was especially for this particular reason that his opponents, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, those whose fathers had been somebodies – Kenya’s founding president and founding vice president – were despising him, spitting on and at his feet, finding him unfit to be president. Granted, there may have been some truth in Ruto’s lamentations.

But then upon vanquishing these sons of somebodies and taking power as the son of a nobody, President William Ruto seems to have forgotten his campaign pitch – that he, the son of a nobody, sought power so that he could liberate the rest of Kenya’s millions of nobodies from the grip of the sons of somebodies, whose governance record, according to Ruto, showed they were against the majority nobodies. It all sounded like music to the ears of the Kenyan masses, because who wouldn’t support an end to bourgeois rule and the advent of a pro-people regime?   

But as soon as Ruto put down the bible, the optics started telling a different tale.

Instead of level headedness and magnanimity becoming their modus operandi as they settled into the difficult task of governance, hubris, brashness and braggadocio became the order of the day within the ranks of Ruto’s political and governance establishment, with Ruto’s own deputy declaring (apparently regrettably so, following the barrage of criticism that followed) that the Government of Kenya was akin to a company limited by liability, firstly and strictly beneficial to its shareholders, before their benevolence could allow them to consider anyone else’s needs. 

As if taking cue from the government-by-shareholders remark and similar chest thumping signals, cabinet secretaries, presidential advisers, state functionaries and factotums all decided that anybody and everybody who tried to question the conduct, politics, policies or campaign promises of the Ruto administration would have the same treatment meted against them; rude, defensive, standoffish. Those who questioned the government’s cold response to disasters were told the government isn’t a pity aunty. Those who challenged the regime’s politics were told to either overthrow the regime or sit on a pin until its five year mandate runs out. Those who queried the skyrocketing prices of commodities were told to manufacture their own. And on and on. Wanjiku, Mama Mboga and Boda Boda, the motifs for Ruto’s campaign, were on their own.  

But then as Kenyans were being served these humiliating public rebuttals, the President, notable members of his cabinet, some loud and unapologetic senior advisors in the president’s office and erstwhile low level politicians who’ve since become power brokers in the Ruto political machine seemed to be on a steady prosperity streak, with some either gloating or rubbing their new status, new liquidity and new acquisitions in the faces of the nobodies who President Ruto had promised to liberate from the yolk of the bourgeois. Now a new petty bourgeois rules.

Every other weekend, millions of shillings are carried in bulging backpacks and presented to church fundraisers, a stark reminder of the largesse of yesteryears which was fuelled by proceeds of grand and budgeted corruption. Official budgets at the highest levels of government – including the offices of unelected spouses – are on the rise, this as the millions of nobodies who the President promised to liberate from the economic insensitivities of the children of somebodies who’ve never gone without a meal are mercilessly taxed to the last and final coin. 

And of course all of this wouldn’t be complete without the acquisition of state of the art SUVs which are then paraded on social media accompanied with captions giving praise to God for his kindness and generosity; and a complete overhaul of erstwhile modest if not austere wardrobes into all designer-wear affairs, whether the said individuals wear the clothes and accessories or whether the clothes and accessories wear them is a different story (chambacho Wahenga, nguo ya kuazima haisitiri matako). And on and on. It is a literal gold rush. 

And even with all these rookie mistakes unfolding, nothing surpasses the tone deaf spectacle that was the President’s chartering of a jet to transport him and his entourage to the United States for a much hyped state visit (save for occurrences such when the President showed up at the site of devastating flooding in Mathare wearing a visible designer belt, whose cost could have significantly alleviated the suffering of tens of affected families at the scene).

Nobody can argue with the fact that a president has to put into consideration a number of factors – safety, comfort, convenience, and such – in making decisions such as whether to hire a private jet or not for such a mission, but President Ruto’s biggest undoing, if not the act of the hiring of the jet in of itself, is the manner in which he and his handlers handled public concerns regarding the cost of his globe trotting adventure, at a time when he is already taxing Kenyans heavily (Finance Bill 2023), and is proposing to tax them even more (Finance Bill 2024). 

Other than the usual hubris-laden and dismissive you-do-not-understand-how-government-works and the standard it-is-for-your-own-good-that-he-travels-on-such-a-jet answers, the winners were the President’s own tweet on the matter, where he argued hiring the jet ‘‘was cheaper than KQ’’ – which line has since become a meme – and the other, a truly absurd one, being government spokesman Isaac Mwaura’s response to the query during a meeting, where he termed the inquiry stupid.

Of course William Ruto fought hard to become President, and has a choice as to how he’d like to govern, but accountability and prudence questions aside, as someone who stood on the backs of the poorest of the poor of Kenyan society in his bid to become president, a lot of his and his people’s missteps can be forgiven but the continuous rubbing of their flagrance and arrogance in the faces of struggling Kenyans who feel disrespected and disregarded. 

Couldn’t the President release an elaborate communique gently explaining to his countrymen and women the wisdom in his manner of travel, or couldn’t the man being paid to communicate on behalf of government, Isaac Mwaura, come down from his high horse and do the needful instead of insulting tax payers?

Unless something changes drastically and fundamentally, and no matter President Ruto’s current or previous good intentions (if he’s ever had any, going by the contempt with which his regime treats Kenyans), Kenyans who continue to lament unheard and ask questions which seem to turn into rhetorical questions – either dismissed or disregarded by the regime and its apparatchiks – will remain holding onto the words of Isaac Mwaura, the man mandated to speak for government – kwa hivyo wewe unayeuliza maswali hayo, hayo maswali ni ya kipuzi sana.


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