Tyranny of figures and chats comes to haunt Mutahi Ngunyi

Mr Mutahi Ngunyi, man at the centre of the National Youth Service (NYS) storm at the Devolution ministry. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Caustic comments by political guru on social media also raising great public concern.
  • Queries raised over payment of Sh38m to analyst’s think-tank allegedly for merely duplicating special report on NYS revival.

He is credited with some pithy, if not sometimes unpalatable, political analyses.

Mr Mutahi Ngunyi, the man at the centre of the National Youth Service (NYS) storm at the Devolution ministry, has not been short of ideas and comments on nearly everything.

After allegations emerged of irregular tendering and payments at the NYS, which has been undergoing restructuring, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru said she had stopped an attempt to steal Sh826 million through the government’s Integrated Financial Management Information Systems.

The Consulting House, which is associated with Mr Ngunyi, was brought on board to work on the reform blueprint for NYS. A payment of at least Sh38 million for the consultancy is among those that have stirred debate.

It may have come as a surprise to some that Mr Ngunyi was consulting for the Jubilee Government after his tweets in January last year that appeared to deride President Uhuru Kenyatta.

After a story in The Standard on Sunday claimed he was among those giving the President wrong advice, Mr Ngunyi tweeted: “If I ever advise Uhuru, and if he is advisable, it will be obvious.”

He also threatened to sue the newspaper for “insulting my intelligence” by saying he was Uhuru’s adviser.

Mr Ngunyi says his company is the brains behind the NYS five-point plan for the restructuring, ranging from recruitment and training to employment after graduation.

“As the consultant who designed the programme, I cannot run away from it. I am at the centre of what is happening,” Mr Ngunyi said last year.

But the former chairman of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Mr Gor Semelang’o, says Mr Ngunyi simply adopted what a task force appointed by then Youth minister Mohammed Kuti had come up with in 2007 and claimed it as his own, a charge Mr Ngunyi denies.

The NYS Review Task Force was gazetted on May 26, 2007 (Vol. CIX No. 36) and its terms of reference were: to review the objectives of the NYS Act and their relevance to present day Kenya; propose amendments to the Act in view of the changing youth agenda; examine the institutional reforms internally proposed by the NYS; and review the training curriculum.

The team that was appointed by Mr Kuti was chaired by Mr Donald Kibera while Mr John Silas Nyamato was the vice-chairman.

Just when the NYS saga broke out, Mr Semelang’o had taken to social media to discredit Mr Ngunyi’s work as a consultant for the NYS.

“This is the task force that did work that Mr Ngunyi renamed 5-point & got 38M,” Mr Semelang’o had tweeted and attached a copy of the Kenya Gazette.

But Mr Ngunyi told the Sunday Nation on Saturday that while he is not aware of the entire recommendations of the task force report, it is much inferior to what he did. According to Mr Ngunyi, claims that he adopted the contents of the task force report “is utter political nonsense.”

“The 5-point vision has issues that are completely different from what the task force had, as day is from the night. That particular allegation is nonsensical. I saw the terms of reference of the task force, which were not innovative enough and had no component on social transformation and daily savings that we recommended,” said Mr Ngunyi.

The 5-point vision, he added, was generated by a group of 15 consultants, some local and others international professors, military personnel and an investment banker who worked for about six months.

According to Mr Ngunyi, the current crisis at NYS is because of some remnants of the purge they had recommended and incitement by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who he alleges has paid the media to discredit the transformation at NYS.


“I can read people’s minds and I can guess that Raila is behind what you (Sunday Nation) are doing. I think he is hitting back because it is going to mess him up politically. Write this story in good conscience and do not be compromised because I will sue you,” he added.

Mr Odinga has been demanding the suspension of Ms Waiguru until investigations are completed.

“What is in question is the very shady, murky and extremely unethical procurement procedures at the Ministry of Devolution’s NYS projects where beans, dengu, sugar, rice and milk, among other things, are being supplied at exaggerated prices by shadowy companies, some of which are linked to senior officials in government, under questionable procurement procedures,” the ODM leader said in a statement emailed to media houses this week.

He said the President “has no authority to declare an end to investigations or no investigations whatsoever where the public has reason to believe investigations ought to go on.”

State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said on the same day that investigations on the NYS had been twisted to meet certain political ends.

“It is for this reason that we need to put the record straight in the spirit of uwazi (transparency),” he told a press conference at State House, Nairobi, also on Thursday.

Following the revelations of a scandal at NYS, Mr Ngunyi took to Twitter to defend his work and attack Mr Odinga for “leading the criticism”.

He also wondered how his Sh38 million consultancy fee could be a scandal and even threatened to sue The Star for under-representing the worth of a “security think-tank in 18 countries.”

Not long ago, Mr Ngunyi was an analyst much looked upon to make sense of complex political subjects.

Before the 2013 elections, he popularised the phrase “tyranny of numbers” which he used to project a win for the Jubilee Alliance over Cord. But his analyses and social media comments have progressively divided opinion.  

For instance, in the aftermath of the Mandera attacks in December 2014 in which Al-Shabaab was blamed for killing of 36 non-Muslims, his immediate reaction on Twitter was that the attacks were choreographed to eventually lead to the removal of President Kenyatta from power. He also appeared to blame the Opposition for the Al-Shabaab attack in Mpeketoni last June.

On Saturday, he defended some of his social media comments. “I do not hold public office. I am not a priest. I am a private citizen and I do not ask anyone to follow me on Twitter. My job is not to make people happy,” he said.

Ford Foundation had at some point sued him and four others for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $127,000 (Sh9.5 million) from the foundation. But Mr Ngunyi said the charges were withdrawn for lack of evidence.