What you need to know:
- Mr Muriithi was on a team that was to craft a coalition that would see three parties - Mr Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA), Dr Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) and Mr Mudavadi’s United Democratic Forum (UDF) - form the government in 2013.
- He was a member of UDF and Mr Mudavadi’s point man in Laikipia.
Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi has revealed how in 2013 Deputy President William Ruto hatched a scheme to determine who between Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi would be Kenya’s fourth President.
The governor said he was on a team that was to craft a coalition that would see three parties - Mr Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA), Dr Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) and Mr Mudavadi’s United Democratic Forum (UDF) - form the government in 2013.
Mr Muriithi, who was a member of UDF and Mr Mudavadi’s point man in Laikipia, ran for governor on the party’s ticket but came third after Mr Joshua Irungu (TNA) and former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri (GNU), now The Service Party leader.
With a coalition that brought together Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and Mr Mudavadi, talk was rife that Mr Kenyatta would step down for Mr Mudavadi.
A method was mooted to call 4,500 delegates from the three parties, with each contributing 1,500, and have them decide the coalition’s presidential candidate.
“The issue of Mr Kenyatta stepping down had not been agreed upon and with each of the delegates supporting their candidate, there had to be the deciding factor…,” Mr Muriithi said in an interview at his Nanyuki town office.
Q: How and when did you get into politics?
I first got interested in politics way back in 1997 but seriously started working towards contesting the Laikipia West parliamentary seat in 2003. I was perturbed by the sorry state of our people, who could not even afford education for their children, so I started working with groups and teachers, motivating them and ensuring that children from poor backgrounds were assisted to pay school fees.
Within five years, a village that had never produced a university student sent 10 to institutions of higher learning. This is how in 2007, on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket, I easily trounced the then MP, the late GG Kariuki, a heavyweight and veteran.
Then after serving for only one term as MP you went for the governor’s seat in 2013?
Yes...in 2010 when we were making the new Constitution that would usher in new positions including that of governor and having been successful as a member of Parliament, I was ambitious to climb the ladder. After the Constitution was promulgated, I joined Musalia Mudavadi in his UDF party following the problems in PNU and started marketing the outfit in Laikipia County.
And Mr Mudavadi was your presidential candidate in the 2013 General Election…
Yes, but you remember there was an alliance bringing together Uhuru, Ruto and Mudavadi in the runner-up to the elections…I was at the centre of that coalition.
You were among the ‘demons’?...
(Laughter)…No! Actually, we may never know who the demons were or where they emanated from but I participated in the drafting of the coalition under the instructions of the three principals. It happened so fast that within a matter of days we had deposited a coalition agreement with the Registrar of Political Parties.
We then started looking for a formula to select the presidential candidate. After lengthy discussions, we agreed that each of the three parties would send 1,500 delegates who were to make the decision.
But there was talk that Mr Kenyatta would step down for Mr Mudavadi?
The issue of Uhuru stepping down had not been agreed upon and with each of the delegates supporting their candidate, the deciding factor would have been Mr Ruto’s delegates. It was such a cleverly crafted move that we did not get the gist of the matter.
On the final day before everything went haywire I remember delegates had started gathering somewhere in Nairobi but some issues started cropping up. Perhaps those were the demons, although this would be speculation.
Why did the coalition collapse even before it came to life?
Issues of mistrust arose. For instance, there was concern that once Mudavadi was made the presidential candidate, all aspirants would defect from TNA and URP to UDF because of the weight that a presidential candidate carries and thus make UDF stronger.
That election sent you into the political cold for five years…
I wouldn’t say I was in the cold…I retreated into the private sector and for the next five years worked on a strategy that made me bounce back in 2017. That was despite the nominations betrayal.
What have you done differently in Laikipia County borrowing from the private sector?
First and foremost, I manage the county just like an enterprise. Breaking down everything and targets into a daily affair. I may not know whether other governors have done this but I know according to the county funds allocation, I manage an enterprise with a daily turnover. Each day I report to work I have to account for Sh35 million.
When you talk of managing the county professionally, what do you mean?
For instance, I have spent a lot of time and effort reforming the public service, and earned enemies in the process, but it has paid off. Many counties have found it difficult to right-size their staff or even declare some of them redundant, but we have boldly done so. At least 200 staff were affected by the restructuring exercise. Also, we have put a lot of emphasis on regular staff training for better performance.
In 2019, you sacked 34 doctors, kicking up a storm. Why did you take this drastic step?
The doctors refused to go to work and tried every avenue to intimidate me but I insisted that rules must be followed. If you abscond duty, the law allows me to dismiss you.
It was a new thing but leadership requires courage and the ability to make bold decisions. We employed other doctors to boost the provision of healthcare to our people.
Walking into your offices, one notices there is very little activity, no people around, where are your workers?
(Laughs) Why would I keep people around me, hangers-on who pledge loyalty saying, ‘Yes, sir’? No, that is not how work is done.
I learnt this from President Kibaki, who would be disturbed if you kept walking around him. He would ask, ‘You people, who is doing your work?’, and that is true. When you see a manager who likes people around him, there is no work being done out there.
Talk about the Laikipia Health Service (LHS), a first in the country.
Through the LHS, we are digitising the flow of service provision in all the 84 health facilities.
Under LHS, the healthcare centres have been classified into 15 clusters. Clustering the facilities enables identification of various epidemiological zones in the county to tackle different ailments affecting locals.
It is also meant to enable better stocking of supplies and essentials in accordance to the identified needs. Patients’ notes are digitised across the board. Service standards and branding are uniform across all the facilities.
You mentioned that ODM leader Raila Odinga was impressed by the support you are offering to small businesses and your efforts to champion innovation.
Oh, yes! Under the Laikipia Innovation and Enterprise Programme, we support 1,600 small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and about 1,200 of them have majored in processing. At least 200 of our staff are business development officers who are mandated to help these SMEs grow.
We have an economic stimulus package of Sh4 billion working with National Bank, KCB, Co-operative Bank, Family Bank, Absa and Equity to provide specialised finance. My administration is subsidising the economic stimulus loans by paying five percent and borrowers to pay 7.5 percent interest to stimulate the economy.
What is this thing about the Laikipia County Statistical Abstracts? What are their benefits?
We have partnered with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics to produce the abstracts because we believe in data-driven decision-making.
It is a 24-chapter book that brings together data from administrative sources, licensing processes and other government mechanisms that yield data.
Is this a requirement before a county government raises funds such as the Sh1.16 billion infrastructure bond you have floated?
Yes. The accounts must be thoroughly scrutinised and audited accounts should meet the threshold.
We are credit-rated and the actual issuing of the bond will be done once the National Assembly approves the guarantee.
There is also the smart town project…
Yes…we have made a proper physical plan of Ol Jabet, a remote town, paved the roads and erected streetlights so that people live in an urban environment. We want to replicate the same in 10 other trading centres so as to spur economic growth at the grassroots.
We understand you lease road construction equipment, isn’t buying a more viable option?
No! Why would a county government want to own the equipment (when it can lease it)? That is the reason you find many vehicles in government yards rotting because they have failed to maintain them.
Leasing as a financing mechanism is a good option for any organisation because it allows you to use assets without having paid for them.
What are you doing to curb bandit attacks in Ol Moran in Kirima sub-county?
My administration has been operating from Ol Moran in the last three months where we have rolled out development projects. We have constructed 326km of new murram roads as part of our contribution to improve security.
Why should residents of Laikipia re-elect you for a second term?
If you take a tour of this county, you will realise that citizens are satisfied with my performance and I am very much prepared to seek re-election.
We will continue with massive investment on the Laikipia Health Service because of our determination to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). We created 19,000 new jobs by mid-2021 and we target to increase this number to 50,000…and more.
Will you retain your current deputy governor, John Mwaniki?
Yes. I have worked extremely well with my deputy as a team because we are both professionals.
Balancing between your campaigns and your new role as Mr Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja board chair is a herculean task, how will you manage it?
Well, to whom much is given, much will be required. I have an incredibly talented team. For instance, as we speak there are 60 ongoing public forums on the county fiscal strategy paper being conducted by our officers in all parts of the county.