alexa More problems for Kiambu Governor Waititu as star wanes - Daily Nation

More problems for Kiambu Governor Waititu as star wanes

Wednesday June 5 2019

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu. His star seems to be waning, barely two years after he ousted Mr William Kabogo with residents expressing dissatisfaction with the way the county is being run. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC WAINAINA
By ERIC WAINAINA
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On April 15, 2016, during a campaign rally attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in Kiambu, the then Governor William Kabogo was embarrassed by the electorate, who had grown tired of his alleged inept leadership and arrogance.

During a stopover at Ruaka trading centre, Mr Ruto was introducing leaders ac-companying them when he recognised Mr Kabogo.

The crowd heckled Mr Kabogo while they applauded his rival and eventual gubernatorial winner, Mr Ferdinand Waititu, who was then the MP for Kabete.

Mr Waititu had outwitted the flamboyant politician in the Jubilee Party primaries, which took place a year later, and also in the August 8, 2017 election, when he handed him one of the biggest defeats in the elections.

UNSEAT KABOGO

The streetwise politician garnered 746,945 votes to unseat Mr Kabogo, who was defending his seat as an independent candidate whose tenure was marred by pro-tests over bad policies and punitive levies that sometimes targeted the dead through exorbitant cemetery fees.

But just less than two years into his tenure, Governor Waititu is beginning to find himself in a similar predicament if the events that have happened in the past few weeks are anything to go by.

Pockets of protests have emerged against the county chief, who is locally referred to as Wakahare (squirrel), over alleged incompetence, impunity and graft in his administration.

HUMILIATED

Mr Waititu was humiliated on Sunday when DP Ruto, who was returning to Nairobi after attending a church service in Ruiru, stopped over in Githurai 45.

The deputy president’s attempt to introduce Mr Waititu was met by jeers from the crowd, which also objected to being addressed by the county chief.

The crowd was unhappy that the governor, whom they accused of arbitrarily evicting them from the Githurai market last year allegedly to pave the way for its rehabilitation, had done nothing, yet they had no place to carry out their business.

Demonstrations were also held in Gachie earlier this year over deplorable roads, with protesters chanting anti-Waititu slogans and waving placards, and in Thika and Ruiru last month over corruption claims.

CORRUPTION

Mr Waititu has for the past few months been grappling with allegations of corruption in his administration.

The claims have put him on the radar of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) whose detectives have questioned him, his wife Susan Wangari, daughter Monica Njeri and county officials, among them Finance Chief Officer Faith Njeri Harrison.

According to EACC Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak, Mr Waititu irregularly awarded tenders worth Sh588 million to companies associated with him and his immediate family.

Mr Mbarak added that their search found valuable evidence relevant to the investigations.

Three companies — Saika Two Estate Developers, owned by Mr Waititu and his daughter; Bienvenue Delta Hotel, which belongs to him and his wife; and Connex Logistics Africa, owned by his wife — allegedly received kickbacks worth millions of shillings from a company irregularly awarded the tenders.

POLITICAL ENEMIES

On Saturday, Mr Waititu, who maintains he is innocent, claimed that the misfortunes that have dented his image, are being orchestrated by his political enemies led by his deputy James Nyoro for political gains.

The governor does not see eye to eye with his deputy.

Often donning buggy khaki trousers, untucked oversize shirts and caps or hats, sometimes even at official functions, The Kiambu governor is viewed by many as someone who has little regard for etiquette and the rule of law and never shies from admitting that he can go to any length to get what he wants, including using orthodox means.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

His demeanour, until he speaks, paints a picture of a confused happy-go-lucky fellow and often quips, “I just roam just like that and many people think I am a fool, but I always have the favour of God because I always achieve what it want.”

To some, Mr Waititu probably fits the definition of an uncouth and abrasive politician who stops at nothing to get what he wants including crashing his opponents, at least going by his antics, but to others, he is a man of the people who always acts as a champion for the downtrodden.

Last year, Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wa Muchomba likened him to King Herod of the Bible, who comes out at distrustful, jealous, and brutal leader, who would ruthlessly crush any potential opposition, saying he not only belittles other leaders, but also uses hooliganism to deal with them.

Last year, the governor, who is on record asking President Kenyatta to go slow in the fight against graft, was on the receiving end after he suggested that instead of demolishing houses built on riparian land, the government should sit down with the developers and find a way to move the rivers instead.

DEFEND DOWNTRODDEN

Other than defending the downtrodden, the county chief is always ready to offend some in order to please others.

During the 2017 campaigns, Mr Waititu and former Thika MP Alice Ng’ang’a, as a remedy to ease traffic at Thika town’s Gatitu Junction, forcibly took over part of a piece of land near Chania River falls belonging to two businessmen and converted it into a public road, disregarding court orders.

The road was later tarmacked after Mr Waititu became governor and has greatly helped reduce traffic congestion in Thika town.

One month after being sworn in, following concerns of congestion in Kiambu Town, the governor invaded a piece of land belonging to the Postal Corporation and forcibly turned it to a bus terminus and not even a court order could change his mind. He is currently facing similar cases in Limuru court.

A similar scenario was repeated in Thika this year after Mr Waititu forcibly took over another piece of land also belonging to the Postal Corporation and converted it into a bus park.

JUSTIFICATION

He often justifies his actions as the only way to tackle issues.

During his tenure as the Embakasi MP, he was captured on camera hurling stones during a demonstration against the grabbing of a piece of land belonging to a school, and when asked, he said it was the best approach to handle the issue.

To ensure that the people who voted for him get the available jobs, he suggested that 70 per cent of jobs in private and public institutions in the county should be exclusive for locals, saying “Kiambu will not be open for everybody” and within days, the regional assembly had approved a motion to that effect.

UNIVERSITIES

The governor also, in what has been viewed as apparent ignorance, suggested that vice chancellors of local public universities should be recruited by the regional assembly to ensure the positions are given to locals.

Mr Waititu, who was born on January 1, 1962 in Kibera, rose through the political ranks from a councillor, a deputy mayor with the defunct Nairobi City Council to MP and assistant Cabinet minister before losing in the 2013 elections.

In 2015, he shifted his political base to Kiambu and vied for the Kabete parliamentary seat in a by-election after MP George Muchai’s death.

After winning the Kabete seat, he used the opportunity to launch his bid to oust former Kiambu governor Kabogo.

What followed was a bruising, brutal and bare-knuckled political fight for the Kiambu top seat.