When city billionaire Jimi Wanjigi emerged from the shadows this week, he not only dropped some political bombshells — but also confirmed what was the talk of town: He is the ultimate kingmaker.
For the first time, the tycoon, who made his billions cutting government deals and tenders, was forced to speak in public, and on live TV, during a press conference at his 44 Muthaiga home, where opulence, power and abundance loom large.
Jimi, as he is known, was angry and eloquent; — even livid. “This is personal,” he said. “It is persecution!”
But has he come to play politics openly — in the footsteps of his father, a former Moi cabinet minister and MP for Kamukunji, the Stanford-trained James Maina Wanjigi.
On Thursday, he returned to the courts for justice and got some reprieve as Justice Chaacha Mwita barred the police from arresting him until December 9.
The Director of Public Prosecutions had claimed that there was reliable information on the commission of an offence. Police had initially said that they found some five guns in a Malindi villa — an allegation dismissed by Mr Wanjigi.
While the office of the DPP told the court that the matters under investigation were very serious and pose a serious threat to National Security and Public Service, Justice Mwita declined to set aside the Sh50,000 anticipatory bail issued on Tuesday, October 17.
That he had come out to play hardball politics was not lost on observers. Mr Wanjigi was neither meek, nor timid and it was clear that he had emerged to confront his accusers.
By his side were National Super Alliance (Nasa) luminaries Raila Odinga, James Orengo, Moses Wetang’ula and tens of supporters who had come to offer him political comfort after a harrowing 72 hour-siege that was only lifted by a court order.
It was here, he told the press after the police left, where President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Odinga met after the ruling on the 2013 presidential election petition and shook hands.
This, he also said, was where President Kenyatta’s government was formed. Neither Uhuru, nor Ruto has denied earlier association with this influential power-broker who has since shifted his loyalty to Mr Odinga, a man he calls “Baba”.
The admission was the first signal of how Kenya has become a plutocracy — a government by the wealthy — whose broken political system is now always controlled by the uber-rich tenderpreneurs who pull the strings of power.
That the businessman could invite, nay summon, the two leading contenders in a presidential race to his house is an indicator of how the political system is tilted against the ordinary citizen and how those with obscenely large amounts of money — old money and new money — control both the economic and political stakes.
Before they fell out, Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and Mr Wanjigi were close allies. So close, that in his book, former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, recounts how Mr Wanjigi accompanied them to his house to break the bad news: Kalonzo would not be on the presidential ticket and should pick another position.
For his part, Mr Ruto told a television host in July this year that Mr Musyoka introduced them to Mr Wanjigi and that “he (Kalonzo) knew him better”.
But Mr Musyoka denied the allegations, saying the DP and Mr Wanjigi were friends who fell out over the mega deals of the standard gauge railway and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s planned second runway after Jubilee won the 2013 elections. He also challenged Mr Ruto to deny that Mr Wanjigi assisted them to “fix” the 2013 elections.
Whatever the truth, it is now known on the day that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were waiting for the announcement of presidential results in 2013 at a house in Karen, Mr Wanjigi drove to the scene and sat between the two. The three were deeply engaged in some light banter and laughter. Someone was taking photos to capture the moment.
The friendship, according to insiders, ran until December 2013 when President Kenyatta was the guest of honour during the launch of the elder Wanjigi’s autobiography, The Shepherd Boy, at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, shortly before the President flew to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
A week earlier, the President had also broken ground for the construction of the Sh64 billion Greenfield airport terminal at JKIA — another project associated with Mr Wanjigi.
The President, according to close allies, was angry that some lawyers wanted to block the building of the Sh330 billion standard gauge railway, which had been removed from Mr Wanjigi’s hands and became a government-to-government deal between Kenya and China. As a result, Mr Wanjigi, who claimed this to be his pet project, was financially sidelined.
Whether this fallout — and his latter shift to backing Nasa — is the source of friction between him and the Jubilee government is open to debate. Mr Wanjigi has said that he reads politics in the dramatic raid of his house, a villa in Malindi, his office on Nairobi’s General Mathenge Drive and Caramel, the high end restaurant in Westlands.
While Mr Wanjigi engaged the police in a hide-and-seek game and they were unable to get him, and that the matter has now taken a political turn, might see Mr Wanjigi occupy a front seat in politics.
Previously, he was at peace playing cards behind closed doors.