I’ll be on 2022 ballot and I’m in this to win, says Alfred Mutua

Sunday June 28 2020

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua speaking on June 8, 2020 outside his office. PHOTO | LILIAN MUTAVI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The past few days have seen Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua  unleash short video clips in at least 10 vernacular languages asking Kenyans to shun ethnic-driven politics and open a new chapter in the country’s politics. While he uses an autocue to do this, many Kenyans are mesmerised at his ability to speak their languages, almost flawlessly.

The governor, who twice defied a wave led by the regional supremo Kalonzo Musyoka to win the Machakos seat has his eyes trained on becoming the country’s next chief executive.

Saying he is his own man in the journey, the governor accuses President Uhuru Kenyatta of using old Kanu maps in his attempt to lead the nation to new development frontiers.

He says Kenyans deserve better than what they have received so far, and unless they change how they choose their national leaders, they will always get a raw deal.

Dr Mutua declared: “I’m at that age when leaders take over national leadership all over the world. I’m in the age of the likes of JF Kennedy, Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher when they took over power. Great leaders like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte took over the mantle of leadership at my age, in their 40s and early 50s and not in their 60s, 70s or 80s.”

The second-term governor spoke at the Maendeleo Chap Chap offices in Kileleshwa, Nairobi.


Why are you talking in 10 languages?

One of the people who have influenced my politics is democracy icon Nelson Mandela. In his book Long Walk to Freedom, he says, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ I chose this style so I can directly tell Kenyans that the issues I set out to address are serious matters. By the way, I have said these things before but after choosing to speak in different vernaculars, Kenyans are now listening to me. I plan to speak in 10 more languages.

Equally, I wanted to show Kenyans that it doesn’t matter where I was born. We are all the same, struggling with the same issues every day. I may be a Kamba but I can speak Ekegusii, Somali, Luo, Luhya or Agikuyu. The perpetuation of tribal blocs is a very primitive and regressive political system. All it does is support the elite and entrench colonial imperialism. It is the colonial powers who gave us tribalism. Nobody chooses to be born in a large or small tribe.

What’s your weapon against tribal alliances that have always carried the day?

I will target the largest group of Kenyans, the poor and the suffering, who deserve better. Poverty does not know tribe. As others will be going for their tribal blocs, I’ll be going for women, youth and men who want more money in their pockets.

In the meantime, I want to run a campaign to make people shun the slavery that is tribalism.  It is a shame that people are invited to a table to discuss sharing of the country’s resources not based on the ideas and vision they bring to change Kenya for the better, but on which tribes they represent. Myopic! You end up with chiefs and head chiefs as rulers of the country, not necessarily those who are competent.

Is the country ready for that drastic shift since the youth are as tribal as their elders?

The shift will only come when some of us stick out our necks and show the people that this is the way to go. Since the largest population of this country are the youth who are not yet poisoned by the tribal chiefs, it is easy to do it. Kenyans must rethink how they choose their leaders if they want meaningful change.

Is Chap Chap part of 'UhuRaila' and what is in it for you?

Chap Chap is independent. We have refused to be drawn into any coalition. We support the Handshake because of the stability it brought to the country but we’re an independent party that is going to stand by itself. And if we must get into any coalition with anyone, it will be one that spearheads economic revival for our country.

You were once a close ally of the President. We no longer see you featuring in his power matrix and Handshake politics, what went wrong?

The President remains a very good friend of mine. But he has his politics to do, I have mine. His matrix of power follows the trodden path, mine is different.

Would you join the Uhuru camp in Jubilee if approached?

I’m hoping they do not approach me. I want to concentrate on my own game.

Don’t you think your journey to power would be shorter without Mr Kenyatta’s support?

What is happening at the moment is nothing but a chapter in the Kanu rule book. All the people in that matrix are Kanu people. If you look at Mr Kenyatta, you see chairman of Kanu, you look at William Ruto you see YK92 and later on secretary-general.

Raila was also in Kanu, even becoming the secretary-general. Kalonzo Musyoka was Kanu damu (ardent Kanu supporter) all through. So was Musalia Mudavadi. Gideon Moi was and remains Kanu. I’m not in their equation since I have never been in Kanu.

It is Kanu that has brought us where we are, 60 years after independence with massive unemployment. It is time for change. Kanu is old and tired now, Kanu the driver has failing eyesight with tired bones. They have no new vision, no new ideas. A new general must take over now. We thank them for bringing us this far.

Are you saying Mr Kenyatta has failed?

I’m not saying the current leaders have not tried, yes they have but the question is, is this where we’re supposed to be, the answer is no. We must get creative ways of growing the economy instead of attempting to do this through taxing the poor.

Do  you think you stand a chance in an arena that has been dominated by bigwigs and household names since independence?

I will be on the ballot and I’m in this to win. I grew up in poverty and so I’m not going to waste my money. I use science, I believe in projections and calculations and for you to see me declaring my intention to run, I have done my mathematics. I have the acumen, the organisational skill, friend-raising ability, fundraising ability to build a formidable war chest and the communication skills to convince Kenyans. I have a track record. And the country is ready. When I ran in 2013 in Machakos, some dismissed me as standing no chance of winning. The same was said in 2017 when I sought re-election but here we are. So I like it when they dismiss me because it means I can take them by surprise.

Some feel all you’re doing is to raise the stakes, so you can be invited to the negotiating table by the big boys. Is a coalition with other players on the cards?

I’m not doing this so I can be given a small position. I’m in this because I believe I’m better placed to run this country for the sake of the people. I’ll go the whole way. The reality is, I cannot win the presidency without bringing like-minded leaders on board, with whom we’re quietly working on this project.

There have been other out-of-the-system candidates like Prof James Ole Kiyiapi and Peter Kenneth. How different are you from this crop of contenders?

I’m charting a new way that they didn’t. I’m starting a revolution. They may have just stood assuming people would like them for the sake of it. Mine is a targeted campaign, not internet-based. It’s not just about putting my name on the ballot. I know, from talking to people, that I’m ranked better than some of these veterans. I have an established party, from scratch.

Do you have the mettle to pull off national campaigns?

I was the inaugural government spokesman. I was centrally involved in the campaigns of President Mwai Kibaki and gained the requisite skills.

You asked police to investigate DP Ruto for threatening your life. How has the case progressed? Some say you’re only engaging in theatrics.

This is a serious matter. I’ll be checking with the police to see how far they have gone with investigations. It was not a case of ‘kufinywa mkono (firmly squeezing the hand by the DP)’ but a threat to my life.

How do you rate your performance as inaugural Machakos governor?

I have done well. I have been ranked several times as the best-performing governor in this country by different independent bodies. I could have done better if there was less politics and more synergy. There is a lot that I have not been done that I wish I could have done but I have set systems, and I have done great and amazing things for my people, especially on infrastructure.

There are indications that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko is shifting base to Machakos in 2022. Does it complicate your succession matrix, if any?

I don’t care what Sonko does or doesn’t do. It is his prerogative. But my advice to him is Machakos is not Nairobi and at least you must be able to speak the language to be able to talk to the villagers at times.

The other problem is runaway corruption, how would you deal with it?

I have three ways of tackling this. I’m going to set a deadline of about six months to have all corruption cases determined by the courts. And another three months in case of any appeals. Secondly, I would push for a law to have judicial officers, including judges, who are found guilty of receiving a bribe to serve a life sentence in prison. That way, the rich will not buy ‘justice’. Thirdly, we will set what in Japan they call the price fluctuation reserve system. We will, for instance, agree on the cost of buying a glass or building a highway, no contractor then can procure them above the maximum set prices.

It appears it is impeachment season for governors. Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru just survived one, with Ms Ngilu staring at another, is there a problem with devolution?

There is a lot of political interference in the running of counties by others who use MCAs to assert their authority.