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Joe Ageyo interview with DP Ruto was hardball, not chitchat

Combat. That is how NTV editorial director for broadcast Joe Ageyo’s recent interview with Deputy President William Ruto at his Karen mansion should be described.

Was that a good or bad thing?

The cameras may have come to the DP’s home. So, it would be clear who is host and who is guest. But the sitting format (180 degrees, face to face, confrontational) and Ageyo’s posture (ramrod straight in his armchair, almost leaning toward his subject who was slightly slouched back in his chair) announced it before he spoke one word: this is not a social call; I am not going to mess around; my questions are going to hit, hard.

“How long have you wanted to be president? At what point did you start running?” That was Ageyo’s first question. No time for niceties, huh?

“In 2005, 2006 is the first time I offered myself for president,” Ruto said at the end of a winding entry.

But Ageyo’s incongruent follow-up suggested he didn’t even hear that. “What would you say to people who have been saying that the DP has been campaigning for the last four years […], since after the last election?”

It instantly told you that Ageyo’s focus was not on history, but the immediate past period when Ruto should have been busy serving as Deputy President to Uhuru Kenyatta.

For four years straight, the loud fallout between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy has stood out like a colossus.

Ageyo might as well have asked: you are an insubordinate, renegade, son of a b*** who abdicated his duties, aren’t’ you?

Never mind. The interviewee’s answers weren’t so important. The questions in the interviewer’s head were. And they were gotcha questions. They seemed designed to keep the interviewee on a tight leash, in corner. If you doubted this, the next question confirmed it.

“I’d like to ask you about your boss… I mean you are still the Deputy President, and you tell us that many times, [but] where would you say that stands now?”

After that, the better half of the interview that lasted one-and-half hours turned into a boxing match about Ruto’s “bad manners,” despite his nudging that the focus should have been about his candidacy.

The Nation’s own public editor, Peter Mwaura, took offence with Ageyo’s style.

In an opinion titled, “NTV’s interview with DP Ruto and the finer points of asking questions,” Mwaura ruled June 17 that Ageyo’s wheels came off. That he lost it.

“[…] it’s helpful for the interviewer to think through his line of questioning, to have a battle plan, so as to extract as much information as possible,” Mwaura wrote. “[But] the interview appeared unstructured and directionless.”

Why? Because “it was about questions and arguments that didn’t seem to be relevant to the declared purpose of the interview, ‘The Ruto Agenda,’” Mwaura wrote.

Mwaura drew a contrast with Nation managing editor Mutuma Mathiu’s interview with Uhuru Kenyatta in May 2020 at State House.

“Mr Mathiu had a plan of attack: establish rapport, then ask tough questions.”

And that yielded results, Mwaura implied. He wrote: “Maybe Mr Ageyo could have benefited from Mutuma’s book”.

Well, what if Ageyo’s plan was hardball? What’s wrong with that? Ruto can take hardball. And he showed it.

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