Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Murithi

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi. His government becomes the first county to float a bond to raise money in the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

| Gitonga Marete | Nation Media Group

Governor Ndiritu Muriithi: My beef with William Ruto

Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi has revealed how he fell out with Deputy President William Ruto over dissolution of PNU in merger of a dozen of parties in 2016 to form Jubilee Party.

The falling-out, he says, saw him summoned to the DP’s offices in Karen where he maintained that he was not the right person to give consent in folding of the party. As a result, he was denied the Jubilee Parry ticket to vie the Laikipia governor in 2017 and had to run on an Independent Party ticket.

“Clearly, there was a scheme to put in place people who would not resist orders but to people like us who have principles we could not buy that,” he says.

Several leaders including former Kiambu governor William Kabogo have in the past accused DP Ruto of bungling the Jubilee nominations in the run up to the 2017 General Elections, saying those who were handed the tickets were not the choice of the people.

Mr Muriithi also talks about his appointment as chair of ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja campaign board, saying Mr Odinga has made it clear that he wants to deal with professionals as he prepares to transform the country through the third liberation.

Q. You are seeking re-election on PNU ticket, how did you grab the party from Agriculture CS Peter Munya and why? Was it a case of the party coming back home?

(Laughs) I am not back to PNU by chance since I was first elected Laikipia West MP in 2007 on a PNU ticket and I have a long history with PNU as deputy treasurer. I was involved in the party’s registration and actually among those who frantically secured its first office on Lenana road. As Kibaki was ready to announce at Nyayo Stadium that he would run for President on the party ticket, we suddenly realized we didn’t have an office! As for CS Munya, I have not grabbed the party and our relationship is cordial.

So how and when did you leave PNU?

In 2012 when we were preparing for the 2013 General Election, tragedy struck when Prof George Saitoti died in a plane crash. He was our chairman then and was going to be our presidential flag bearer. The loss was devastating and a major disruption which marked the beginning of PNU’s decline.

And in 2016 the party folded alongside 12 others to form Jubilee Party?

Prior to disbandment of the 12 political parties I was one of those who resisted the folding up of PNU which saw me get summoned to Karen….

Is it DP William Ruto who summoned you? What did you tell him?

Everybody knows who resides at the Karen office where the 2017 nominations were managed. He demanded to know why I was opposed to folding up of PNU and this is what I told him on his face: ‘look, I cannot give you the permission to fold PNU because I don’t own the party’... Later we saw some people being photographed saying PNU had disbanded.

Did your opposition to the merger cost you the Jubilee Party nomination when the ticket was handed to former governor Joshua Irungu?

It was evident that I won the nomination but officials told me they were ordered that I should not get the ticket. The Political Parties Dispute Resolution Tribunal also found that I had won but all the same the ticket was given to my competitor. I decided to look for options and I won. My opposition to the merger could have contributed but I cannot for sure say it was the reason I got rigged out. That the pressure came from Dr Ruto may have been speculation but again he is the one who was responsible for the nominations.

Uhuru must have been aware of this injustice; why didn’t he intervene?

Uhuru was actually surprised at the outcome but he could not intervene because he had handed over the task of handling nominations to his deputy. What made me draw this conclusion is that despite running as an Independent candidate I would attend his campaign meetings and his people would welcome me.

Somebody must have been uncomfortable with you as Laikipia governor, hence the scheme to rig you out…

From the pattern (of the nominations), it was clear that there was a scheme to put in place people who would not resist orders. But to people like us who have principals we could not buy that. Yes, there might have been somebody who did not want me to be the governor but I proved them wrong. The people of Laikipia knew who their choice was.

There is a storm brewing in PNU with Secretary General John Okemwa accusing you of meddling with the affairs of the party…

I don’t really know what the problem is but there were meetings for aspirants and the SG opposed them. The chairman (David Kamau) clarified that PNU is guided by stipulated processes and structures and that the meetings were sanctioned by the National Executive Council.

But the SG is right, you are not a member…

It’s true I am not a member of any political party having been elected on an Independent ticket. But why would a secretary general of a political party place an advert in the newspaper dismissing an aspirant? As practicing politicians, we are liable to sabotage all the time. I cannot rule out sabotage on this issue.

So you have plan B?

Any party that does not have aspirants is a dead party. At this point when we are in an electoral cycle, every party is desperately looking for aspirants. Without aspirants, you have no oxygen as a political party. Any political party would find me attractive because I am independent…but yes, we have options…

How did you clinch that coveted position as chairman of Azimio La Umoja campaign board? Some people in Mr Odinga’s camp must be green with envy over your rising star!

Well…being a member, I was personally surprised when Mr Odinga picked me to chair the board and I gladly accepted the position. I think he appointed me because he felt I am qualified. When he visited Laikipia last year he was impressed that we are doing the kind of things especially on innovation that he would wish replicated across the country. Also, I am a professional and Mr Odinga wants professionalism in all he plans to do for this country.

As for people being envious, that is not true. Among those who congratulated me are actually those close to him. Others in the competition also called and said they were considering coming back!

President Kenyatta must have been behind your appointment…

I may not comment about that because I was not privy to the discussions between the President and the former Prime Minister but there is no doubt it emanated from their partnership under the Handshake. This can also be seen in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and Azimio La Umoja is a continuation of this partnership.

You were among the first leaders in Mt Kenya region to declare support for Mr Odinga’s Presidency, why?

It is because I believe that Kenya will progress in Mr Odinga’s hands more than any other Presidential candidate. Somebody who is committed to devolution and has the courage to make the right decisions. I myself know it pays to make hard decisions regardless of distractions. I am interested in someone who has shown commitment to this country. I am not interested in a person who will pursue riches…and certainly I am not interested in somebody who thinks that the way to uplift the poor is to destroy the rich.

What chances does Mr Odinga have in the August poll?

Every Kenyan can see that Raila is the only candidate fit to lead Kenya into the kind of growth we have been yearning for. During the recent rally at Thika stadium, it was evident that this is a Kibaki moment (when in 2002 Mr Odinga said Kibaki Tosha). Raila stands on a Mandela moment. The way he connected with the crowd in Thika until they rose in a moment of rupture with chants of Igwe!  Igwe! tells you Kenyans know who they want to lead them after Uhuru (Kenyatta). I have never before witnessed that kind of connection with a Presidential candidate.

How do you intend to deliver the Mt Kenya vote to Mr Odinga? 

We are already working with leaders cross the region and countrywide and I assure you things are changing in Mt Kenya region. From Murang’a to Nyeri, Nakuru, Tharaka Nithi and Meru, residents in this region have appreciated that we need to vote in a President who will take us to another level. I don’t think our competition has the capacity to do that…and our strategy is to tell Kenyans the truth about Mr Odinga who has in the past sacrificed his ambitions for the good of the nation.

What do think about Mr Odinga’s Social Protection policy of paying poor families Sh6,000 every month?

There has been a hullaballoo about Raila’s social protection plan with some people disparaging it but let me make it clear that the programme started with President Kibaki when he introduced the stipend for the elderly. Uhuru expanded it with health insurance and Raila plans to expand it further to ensure as we move to the Vision 2030 goals nobody in Kenya lives in absolute poverty.

Has Uhuru endorsed Raila?

Of course the President has not made a public pronouncement but there is no doubt he has achieved more during the Handshake period with Mr Odinga than the first term. As an observer this tells me that he has seen progress while working with Mr Odinga which is also evident from the BBI process…but more importantly, I believe Kenyans have seen this moment…

As a politician with experience in the private sector, what irks you in politics?

I don’t like the way politicians criticize others, and I am open to criticism. What disappoints me is that politicians are scared of using data to measure their performance as the label accusations at their competitors. Second thing is the culture of presenting problems to senior politicians like the President which is very sad because it is the business of leaders to craft solutions to problems facing the citizens and not to always complain.

You have mentioned Kibaki’s name several times during this interview. It seems you are still under his shadow...

(Hearty, prolonged laughter)…Kibaki’s shadow is larger than life and no one can claim to have gotten out it! We emulate him because he has been inspiration to many. He has been my inspiration all my life because I grew up around him at home and in politics, the Democratic Party, National Rainbow Coalition and PNU, the reason I subscribe to his brand of politics. He sold hope to Kenyans and not fear, and I believe Raila is also that kind of person.

If Mr Odinga asked you to be his running mate would you accept it?

Any leader would aspire to get into higher office so I am flattered that people think I could be deputy President of Kenya under Raila Odinga. What I could say for now is that we will cross that bridge when we get there.


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