Deputy President William Ruto stood patiently in an academic procession of 99 graduands as he waited for his name to be called before he walked to the podium for conferment of a doctoral degree by the University of Nairobi.
His face lit with joy as his family, friends and supporters followed the event keenly.
The deputy president graduated with a PhD in plant ecology and were it not for his distinctive academic dress — a velvet red gown with tiffany blue trimming — one would never have distinguished him from fellow graduands.
Ruto was the only one who graduated with the degree in plant ecology, so was the situation with other graduands in the other doctoral disciplines.
The symbol of honour was conferred on the DP by the university chancellor, Dr Vijoo Rattansi, amid jubilation from the crowd, after which he received a big ‘shoulder greeting’ from President Uhuru Kenyatta and an embrace from his wife Rachel Ruto.
The couple also celebrated their wedding anniversary and Ruto’s birthday on Friday.
Ruto joined UoN in August 2012 and was supposed to graduate in 2016, but then he did not meet the required threshold.
DP Ruto later engaged with fellow graduands at the ceremony, who took dozens of selfies with him as he patiently smiled, sat and stood as they requested. The president together with a few other officials congratulated the DP for the feat that he achieved despite his busy office.
“Pongezi!” said Uhuru, “Sasa naona kwenye unatorokea saa zinging kufanyafanya.”
“You know I used to think he was cheating me when he used to tell me that he was going to do research. I thought he was trying to run away from work,” remarked the president in jest, sending the crowd in cheers, “At least now he can justify that he was actually doing research.”
“The deputy president has shown that he can be an extremely busy person in the office and at the same time achieve his academic dreams,” said Public Service CS Prof Margret Kobia. “I am sure he has been taken through a very serious academic rigour and he is graduating today.”
The other public figures who graduated were Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa (Masters in Law) and his wife Lucy Musundi (Bachelors in International Relations). Interestingly, just like the DP’s, it was also the couple’s wedding anniversary.
Also on the honours’ list is Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu (Masters in Law, and Meru Senator Mithika Linturi got a reprieve after a High Court ordered the university to grant him his degree in law.)
Additional reporting by Daily Nation