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This man Ferdinand Waititu: The happy-go-lucky fellow

Friday May 24 2019

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC WAINAINA
By ERIC WAINAINA
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Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu looked casual on Thursday. He donned an untucked short-sleeved checked shirt, a blue sleeveless jacket that matched his trouser and a black pair of shoes, when detectives from the anti-agency whisked him away from his house in Kencom estate on Kiambu Road.

The abrasive politician, who appears to court one controversy after another, is in the spotlight again over allegations of siphoning millions of cash from the county treasury through fraud, conflict of interest and money laundering.

GRAFT PROBE

Mr Waititu, according to Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) boss Twalib Mbarak, irregularly awarded Sh588 million tenders to companies associated with him and his immediate family members. Mr Mbarak said Thursday that their search at Mr Waititu’s home recovered valuable evidence relevant to the investigation. 

But while the anti-graft officers where interrogating him, Mr Waititu’s lawyers were before Senior Resident Magistrate Brian Khaemba seeking anticipatory bail.

Governor Ferdinand Waititu addresses the media
Governor Ferdinand Waititu addresses the media on February 18, 2019 after touring the Kiambu Level Five Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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The governor was freed Thursday evening from police custody alongside his chief officer for Finance Faith Njeri after Mr Khaemba granted them Sh500, 000 anticipatory bail each.

After his release, the county chief walked from Integrity Centre, the headquarters of EACC, to Nairobi’s CBD and later addressed a presser at his Kiambu office where he denied any wrong doing.

“I should not be blamed for the issuing of tenders because I do not seat in the tender committee. I don’t award tenders.

Mr Waititu greets Bishop David Kamau during the
Mr Waititu greets Bishop David Kamau during the Easter Sunday mass at St Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kiambu town. PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“If tenders were awarded properly, I see nothing wrong,” Mr Waititu said when he was asked if his family has been doing business with the county. 

In his usual braggadocio, the governor, who claimed he is being fought because of backing the Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, taunted his wealth, saying he is a rich man who does not show of. He claimed his family has been doing businesses for a long time

Mr Waititu was previously on the EACC’s radar over alleged questionable expenditure at the county including the controversial ‘Kaa Sober’ programme which was costing over Sh2 million per day without the county assembly’s approval or cabinet, contrary to Public Finance Management  Act.

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu at the Kenya
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu at the Kenya Methodist University on October 14, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

His Thursday arrest came a day after the Kiambu County Assembly rushed and passed a supplementary budget in which it approved an expenditure of Sh722 million under the controversial programme.

The passing of the budget, which also saw the annual county budget raised from Sh15.6 billion to Sh16.9 billion, was widely seen as a scheme to regularise the controversial expenditure in which millions of shillings are suspected to have been stolen.

Always dressed in buggy trousers, untucked oversize shirts and a hat Mr Waititu, who is viewed as someone with little regard for etiquette, paints a picture of a confused happy-go-lucky fellow.

This is something that the 56-year-old politician, popularly known as Baba Yao, acknowledges. He has said before that because of his antics, he knows that many people have always concluded that he is not civilised.

But for him, this does not bother him. He usually says his focus is to achieve results that make the masses happy irrespective of the approach and consequences, even if it means applying means that are not in conformity with the law.

EGO

It was Mr William Kabogo, Mr Waititu’s chief political nemesis whom he defeated in the gubernatorial race in 2017, that coined Mr Waititu “wakahare”, meaning the “squirrel” in Kikuyu, during the campaign period.

Mr Kabogo, a man with an ego as large as Mr Waititu’s and a similar coarse character, said his opponent was a man with no etiquette, like a squirrel.

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