Nothing quite prepared me for the departure of Machakos Governor Alfred Nganga Mutua from the political coalition associated with ODM leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta. It is evident that he saw no political future for himself in Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party, and this, for an ambitious politician in his early 50s, cannot have been good news. I really can’t believe his heart is in the political outfit he has joined, the Kenya Kwanza coalition, but any politician denied space to grow will probably do exactly what he did.
But then, you may ask, why exactly should I be exercised about any lateral move by a politician from a county 80 kilometres away from my own? One reason is that I regard Dr Mutua as a fellow scribe, having trained in the profession in the United States, and later in Australia up to PhD level. Later, he relocated to the United Arab Emirates as a lecturer, which is when I used to see him roaming the newsroom while on sabbatical. I never knew what he was doing, though I later came to learn he was consulting with Nation Media Group in various capacities.
Dr Mutua is no ordinary politician. He came to the limelight in 2002 after he was appointed Government Spokesman by President Mwai Kibaki after a competitive recruitment process, a job in which he generally acquitted himself well.
However, it appears that after his second term, and having rubbed shoulders with members of that class, the political bug bit him and he decided to run for governor 10 years later under the Wiper Democratic Movement. But he was to ditch Wiper and form his own Maendeleo Chap Chap in 2017, winning a second term as governor.
Only a full biography can do justice to this man of many firsts, an individual who has accomplished more in 52 years than many ordinary fellows will do in their lifetimes. It is possible that in the fullness of time, some chinks in his armour will become more apparent, and most probably this precipitate move to Kenya Kwanza is one of them, but before we go there, let me relate an episode that may illustrate the kind of person Dr Mutua is.
Feeling adventurous mid-last year, I convinced Madam that we should take a trip to Machakos town because I wanted to talk to Dr Mutua about his new-fangled ideas on how to seek votes by holding small town-hall meetings all over the Republic in order to hear the views of people at the grassroots.
He had decided to run for president and had some very good notions of how to go about it when Covid-19 made such close encounters unviable due to lock-downs. As a result, this unheralded precursor to the bottom-up approach was stillborn.
I must confess I also wanted to savour the culinary delights he had been promising in his new hotel, an imposing white edifice in the Machakos central business district. Therefore, I told the governor that we were dropping by and could he spare a few moments of his time.
After the preliminaries, and before I had stated my case, this is what the man told us: “Ndimuoneire eighteen” (I saw you from 18 miles away). Up to this day, although he explained this expression (he is also multilingual, being proficient in Kiswahili, English, Kikuyu, Kikamba and probably a few international and local languages), I still don’t have any idea what he meant, but it was scaring to conclude that he had read my thoughts even before I opened my mouth.
This is probably why Mr Odinga’s coalition should sit up and take notice. Could it be that Dr Mutua has looked at the future and cannot see Azimio on the horizon? One would hate to think so because really, no anti-corruption fighter should feel comfortable in the company he has elected to join. The whole thing doesn’t add up. However, the reason that politicians are different from you and me is that they think differently and second-guessing them is quite confounding.
But none of the reasons given are enough to dispense with the value that Mutua could have brought to Azimio. If, indeed, he was angling for a ministerial appointment and none was available, was there no other way he could have been accommodated? This is hardly the time to shed off people who have stood with Azimio since its inception. This is when to bring everyone together, and the coalition’s bureaucrats cannot afford to take anything for granted. If they do so, the coalition may start haemorrhaging badly at injury time.
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Breaking News: Yesterday, May 13, senior programme producer with NTV, Kevin Gitau, wed his sweetheart, Cate Wanjiku, in a colourful ceremony that signalled their determined departure from the protective wings of their parents, and in the process, yours truly gained a new daughter, a project manager with high-tech firm Sama Kenya Ltd. On behalf of the parents on both sides, and with God’s blessings, I wish the couple a happy and prosperous future.
Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; [email protected]