In his self-appraisal published last Saturday, Mutuma Mathiu says President Uhuru Kenyatta had the better of him during the interview encounter at State House. But that was only because “he brought all his friends and neighbours to the fight”.
Mr Mathiu goes on to say: “Had he shown up alone — or only with a few friends — I’d have nailed his hide to the State House walls and he wouldn’t even have felt my knife.”
The NMG Editorial Director said he had brought along broadcaster Joseph Warungu, a “wonderful, experienced and calm interviewer”, to spearhead the exclusive interview. “My plan was quite simple. I was going to let Joseph take the interview. I would fly in his slipstream, breaking cover only occasionally to fire a bunch of carefully selected provocative questions at the President then slide back.”
But he was informed at the last minute that “only one of us would conduct the interview and it wasn’t Joseph”.
If there’s a rematch, he now can find comfort in the readers of the Nation. At the time of writing this, 2,385 of them had posted comments on Facebook about the interview, many of them containing burning questions that would help him to nail the President’s hide to the State House walls, and then some. With the questions, he can impale the President on a spear and exhibit for all to see.
Here are some of the questions. But before dealing them out, it’s fair to state no journalist has ever toppled or trampled over a President in a State House interview. We respect our President and we don’t have Stephen Sackurs of the BBC Hardtalk. Times are changing, though.
It’s also fair to state that Mr Mathiu had a plan of attack: Establish rapport, then ask tough questions. “Mr President, I don’t know whether it would be in order for me to start by congratulating you for the good news in the family,” he said.
President Kenyatta looked at him inquisitively, bemused and amused. “How do you now?” he asked. “Mr. President I’m a Nation editor, it’s my business to know….” Then the two burst into a hearty and infectious laugh. The audience is not told what the good news was.
It was a brilliant opener, a great ice-breaker. Mr Mathiu went on effortlessly to ask about the President’s daily routine and the Covid-19 crisis before moving on to sensitive politics. The interview yielded a series of news stories, and tremendous reader interest, leading to the grand finale broadcast by NTV on Sunday.
Now the time has finally come to deal out the questions from readers. The questions may be indelicate, naïve, embarrassing or offensive, but there is no recourse but ask them. We might even be surprised by the frank replies that we might get from the President.
Let’s plunge into the question that was most commonly asked: Mr President, Why did you cheat Ruto that you would rule for 10 years and then he will take over for another 10?
I will leave out related questions — because they are superfluous — such as those concerning David Murathe’s pronouncements, erstwhile attempts at demonising Raila Odinga in central Kenya and the about-face.
So, let’s go on to the other questions: You say we should not politicise the fight against corruption yet it looks some people are targeted, others not? Why did you allow the demolition of Ruai and Kariobangi houses, throwing children and the elderly out into the cold in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis?
Why has Francis Atwoli and other politicians not been arrested for breaking Covid-19 rules and curfew by holding meetings in his Kajiado house? Why have you not reined in or condemned police brutality and corruption while they’re enforcing the Covic-19 curfew and rules? Don’t you think you should always be seen in public wearing a mask as a way of leading by example?
You say the SGR is one of the achievements you would like to be remembered by, but are you satisfied that its cost was not a rip-off for the Kenyan taxpayer?
The questions went on and on, almost ad nauseam.
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