13th Law of Power – Why Ruto should cease talking of Kikuyus Debt

In 433 BC, two Greek City-States wanted to enlist a third City-state on their side. Corinth wanted Athens on its side. Likewise, Corcyra wanted Athens on its side. Forming a strategic alliance with Athens was important for either of the city-states.

Each City State was given a chance to court Athens. Due to a stroke of history, Athens could be considered the mother of Corcyra and grandmother to Corinth. In a way, Athens was indebted to both.

It was of this debt that Corinth talked about as it sought to win Athens over to its side. According to Corinth, it would be unjust, unfair and unethical to form an alliance with Corcyra instead of Corinth.

Corcyra, on the other hand, applied the 13th law in the 48 laws of power. People hate to be reminded of their debts. Instead, they want to be in an arrangement that is to their benefit. People don’t like those they are indebted to. In the words of Mary Douglas, “The recipient does not love the giver, however cheerful.” In Corcyraeans judgement, Athens did not want to be reminded of the debt they owed them.

“When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude,” wrote Graham Greene in his book, The 48 Laws of power. While Corinth appealed to Athens gratitude, Corcyra appealed to Athens self-interest; the benefits Athens would accrue from forming an alliance with Corcyra.

Kikuyus Debt to William Ruto

In the run-up to the 2022 presidential elections, Ruto supporters in Mt. Kenya and campaigners are talking about a debt. The narrative that Kikuyus owe Deputy president William Ruto is not going down well with the Mt. Kenya nation. Although few have spoken about it loudly, there is an underlying feeling of revolt.

Hon. William Ruto stands the best chance of being Kenya’s 5th President. He’s the frontrunner by far and anyone competing against him still has a long way to go. But his campaigners, especially in Central Kenya, and those appealing to Kikuyus in diaspora need to change their tune.

Like the Corcyraeans, they need not keep reminding Kikuyus of their debt, real or imagined. They need to change tune and talk about the benefits Kikuyus will accrue from a Ruto presidency.

The 13th Law of power needs to be put to use. Instead, they need to uncover and emphasize out of all proportion the benefits Kikuyus will accrue. This might be the only way the biggest voting block will respond enthusiastically to a Ruto candidacy.

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