Forget the polls, Ruto is a man to watch


President Mwai Kibaki has given notice of retirement and possible occupants to the House on the Hill are lining up.

When in Webuye campaigning for the Constitution, he asked Kenyans to look at his battalion and see \’nani anatosha.\’ One name was most likely not close to the minds of those in the Green Caravan; that of William Samoei Ruto who went against the grain and opposed the new law.

Pollsters have taken the cue and two weeks rarely pass without another of those opinion polls telling us who forms the best partnership for a possible 2012 swoop.

Today I chose to look at Mr Ruto, a top contender by any standards and most likely a thorn in the flesh for some hopefuls.

Mr Ruto is a politician and public servant in his own class. Whereas I don\’t entirely believe in his ideology and political persuasions I admire his courage, resolve and drive.

In our scene where politicians have multiple opinions on any issue and choose which to brandish depending on what interest serves them right, he has distinguished himself as one of the rare ones whose opinion about anything you don\’t have to guess.

As some top politicians \’watermeloned\’ their stands on the Constitution, he was clear on his No stand despite political wisdom that it was against popular mood. His campaign meetings were colourful, alluring and the attendance inspiring. You could feel the vivacity in the No campaigns. His ratings after the referendum have actually improved.

Politically, he is the ally you want to keep close or the adversary you want to watch closely as you work hard to win him to your side. In public service he is the minister whose work speaks for itself.

When he was at the Ministry of Agriculture, the ratings were high among State surveys.

Right from the start he was clear on his dream for the Ministry: boost food security by reviving irrigation schemes, subsidising farm inputs and irrigating over 1,000,000 acres of land.

He may not have entirely achieved the vision but he will be remembered for renewing the hopes of peasant farmers in various irrigation schemes in the country and offering subsidised farm inputs for farms.

After two years, the results were clear for all to see: 150,000 bags of maize from the once dead irrigation schemes and improved yields. No wonder the Agriculture Ministry bagged the best Ministry awards last year.

When he was transferred to the \’less’ glamorous Higher Education Ministry media headlines went, "Ruto Demoted" and the reporters were kept on standby for his resignation press conference. To the shock of many the Eldoret North walked into Kilimo House packed his bags and moved to the Central Business District to take up his new challenge. 

Since he stepped in at Jogoo House, the Ministry seemed to have got a face lift – or is it a life. A week hardly passes without a news item with substance. I remember his parting shot: I am looking forward to work with the academia, the professors and the students. It is an opportunity I am looking forward to. And sure to his word he has been \’working.\’

I watched Mr Ruto during a TV interview on Sunday and couldn\’t help marvel at his eloquence, resolve and persuasion of the topic at hand, Higher Education and Vision 2030.

His articulation of the topic was extremely persuading. He is not just issuing orders and targets but also offering the resources.

In his 40s, this former Christian Union choir master is way ahead of the pack of seasoned octogenarian Kenyan politicians in matters of courage and resolve.

Could he be the leader we need to drive our dream of a middle income economy by 2030?

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