For many senior government officials, the experience of former ICT Cabinet Secretary Bitange Ndemo, now an ambassador, after he left office in 2013 could soon become a reality after the elections on August 9.
“The day I left office, my phone literally ceased to ring. My ‘friends’ had moved on. I found myself checking my phone to establish if I had inadvertently put it off. The phone was fine,” Dr Ndemo said.
“Prior to my departure from office, receiving 30 calls an hour was not unusual. Although most calls were work-related, there were many social calls from many old and new friends, people you would expect to keep in touch with even when you left high office. Strangely, such calls cease until you establish a new kind of relevance,” the former Permanent Secretary in the Kibaki administration added.
It is this reality that is facing several cabinet chiefs and principal secretaries as President Uhuru Kenyatta exits. President-elect William Ruto will come with a new team and render most of the current cabinet secretaries jobless and, as Dr Ndemo experienced, deserted.
“For Dr Ndemo, he is lucky it is only his phone that went silent. For others it is beyond the phone,” says political commentator Javas Bigambo.
The tenures of cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries and principal secretaries are tied to that of the President.
The new President will also likely look to have his own appointees in the most important diplomatic missions abroad.
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, in a circular, had directed cabinet and principal secretaries to prepare handover notes for the new teams that will take over.
“Those who may not enjoy the luck and benefit of being re-appointed to the cabinet will have to thank Uhuru Kenyatta for having had the chance to serve in the cabinet. It is possible that some, with the help and lobbying of President Kenyatta and others who have been silently helpful to Raila Odinga, may land themselves various government appointments such as ambassadors and serving on various boards,” says Mr Bigambo.
Dr Ruto, feeling deserted and disowned by almost the entire cabinet, has not made any promises to the outgoing cabinet secretaries, but some such as Tourism’s Najib Balala have been openly lobbying to be retained.
Most are resigned to their fate. One source told the Nation that the CSs are looking for relevance post-2022.
“In transitional periods, career civil servants mostly look for continuity. The rest of us [political appointees] are looking at relevance beyond 2022 unless you are approaching retirement. In pursuit of relevance, people look for ways and other people who can help them in that way,” the source said. Those who campaigned for Mr Odinga and hoped to continue in office now have to face the reality of exit.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani was all prepared to reclaim the Marsabit governor’s position that he lost in the 2017 elections. However, reports suggest that he was prevailed upon to drop his bid and remain in the cabinet on the promise that he will have a role in the Azimio administration.
Outgoing Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya had been promised the National Treasury post. Other cabinet secretaries who were hoping to retain their jobs in an Azimio administration are Dr Fred Matiang’i (Internal Security), Mr Peter Munya (Agriculture), Mr Eugene Wamalwa (Defence), Mr Yattani, and Mr Joe Mucheru (ICT).
There are cabinet secretaries who came from the private service and could be looking to return there once their tenures come to an end. Some like Betty Maina (Industrialisation), Prof Margaret Kobia (Public Service), Farida Karoney (Lands), Moses Chelugui (Labour), Monica Juma (Energy) and Attorney General Kihara Kariuki have kept their next moves a secret and have also largely kept out of the succession politics.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha recently appealed to the incoming President to give him time to complete supervising construction of new classrooms that will accommodate junior high school students under the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).
“We intend to complete most of the CBC classrooms by election time. Should there be [some classrooms pending], I hope that before that person is sworn in, they can allow me to finish the remaining classrooms. I stand guided ... if I am allowed to continue, I shall ensure that all the classrooms are completed. If I am told to go and rest, then I will obey the command because I serve at someone’s pleasure,” Prof Magoha has said.