Advertisement

Waiguru’s fate: Why a slight tumble may lead to mighty fall

Wednesday June 17 2020
WAIGURU

Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru when she appeared before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee that was investigating the Sh791 million NYS scandal in 2016. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN KAMAU

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru walks with the confidence of a big cat, but whether she has finally exhausted her political luck will be known shortly this month.

After surviving the intrigues at Harambee House over the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal, Ms Waiguru had jumped into the political arena on August 26, 2016, believing it was much safer. Now, and with hindsight and knowledge, she knows it was no better.

By her side, then, and as she received her party certificate, was well-heeled businesswoman Wangui Ngirici — now the Kirinyaga woman rep — and who carried all her campaigns using a helicopter branded with Jubilee colours.

KIRINYAGA POLITICS

Today, the two politicians do not see eye to eye, with each silently plotting for the other’s fall, which is not unusual in Kirinyaga politics.

Before she was plucked from the Treasury by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ms Waiguru was a little-known technocrat who had only hoped to become a principal secretary, a position she had applied for in the new Jubilee Coalition administration. It was at the Treasury that she had worked with Mr Kenyatta after he was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki to the Finance docket in January 2009.

Advertisement

But on April 26, 2013, Mr Kenyatta brought in Ms Waiguru, the director of the Integrated Financial and Information System (Ifmis) and head of governance at the Treasury, as the new Cabinet secretary for Devolution and Planning.

THE SCANDAL

Ms Waiguru, an economics graduate, had first been seconded to President Kibaki’s government by the World Bank as part of the Rapid Results Initiative project and would continue working in the system as a consultant for several other donor-funded projects.

It was from here that she would be picked by President Kenyatta to handle some of Jubilee’s flagship projects – including the revamped NYS with a hefty Sh25 billion budget.

It was in this NYS project under Ms Waiguru’s ministry that Sh791 million disappeared into the hands of shadowy companies. Ms Waiguru maintains that she was the whistle-blower and that she was the one who alerted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

So powerful was Ms Waiguru that when the first NYS scandal emerged in June 2015, Mr Kenyatta made the political blunder of defending her, saying investigations “had been twisted to meet certain political ends and there was no evidence of loss of funds”.

But after five months, and under pressure, Ms Waiguru resigned from her Cabinet post, ostensibly on the advice of her doctor. She was flanked by Charles Kariuki, an interventional cardiologist, and President Kenyatta’s adviser on legal and constitutional affairs, Abdikadir Mohammed.

“In view of the impact these events have had on my health, I have been advised by my doctor to take time off to recover and to undertake much lighter duties for some time,” Ms Waiguru said.

POLITICAL PRESSURE

By then, the Devolution ministry had been put under the Presidency alongside the Ministry of Interior, and like other Harambee House-based technocrats, where power and clout reign, Ms Waiguru, perhaps, found the political pressure too overbearing and as politicians called for her prosecution.

She then blamed her fall on “some politicians with dubious characters and a litany of misconduct allegations” and whose aim was “to achieve nefarious intentions … Even where facts point to culpability by other parties.”

Ms Waiguru’s name had been mentioned by one of the NYS suspects, Ms Josephine Kabura, who was charged with the theft. The matter is still in court.

ENTRY INTO POLITICS

Out in the cold, Ms Waiguru turned to politics. She had the name recognition and was better known to take on Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, who was also trying to get back into Kirinyaga politics.

At first, Ms Waiguru was projected to run for the Nairobi governor’s seat before shifting to the rural Kirinyaga. But thanks to the support she got from the flamboyant Ngirici campaign, she managed to sail through easily, having been introduced to the political mobilisers at an event in Kerugoya.

The dalliance between Ms Waiguru, who hails from Gichugu, and Ms Ngirici, from Kirinyaga Central, did not last long. While Ms Waiguru is a technocrat, Ms Ngirici is a grassroots mobiliser and shrewd operator.

Ms Ngirici’s husband, Andrew, is a shoot-from-the-hip operative who controls the late chief spy James Kanyotu’s multibillion-shilling empire. And in Kirinyaga, he easily controls the politics.

In national politics, though, Ms Waiguru is a better schemer and while she has a fair share of supporters at the national level, she has an equal number of haters.

During her wedding last July, Ms Waiguru invited a galaxy of national leaders led by President Kenyatta in a show of love and might. But she excluded Ms Ngirici and other rebel MCAs from Kirinyaga, thus opening a new wave of attack on her. Others invited included ODM leader Raila Odinga, the man who led a wave of attacks that led to Ms Waiguru’s resignation from the Cabinet.

CLIMBED TO THE TOP

In the Mt Kenya region, the association between Mr Odinga and Ms Waiguru fed a new narrative that she was eyeing a senior national position and as a Jubilee presidential running mate.

“I have at least two offers for the Deputy President position, but it is not the right time to name the parties,” she told the Nation in May last year.

But as she climbed to the top, she forgot the local Kirinyaga politics where her administrative high-handedness and frequent firing of executives was well known.

Last year, three MPs from Kirinyaga called for Ms Waiguru’s resignation, saying she had failed to resolve the health crisis in Kirinyaga hospitals. This came after she had failed to meet with striking health workers.

Ms Waiguru attributed problems at Kirinyaga Level 5 Hospital to sabotage and part of a scheme to tarnish her name.

With the Kirinyaga assembly now impeaching her, and as her fate lies with the Senate, Ms Waiguru is walking a path where a slight tumble may lead to a mighty fall.

This is one battle she might not afford to lose — for it will determine her political fate, both in Kirinyaga and in national politics.

Advertisement