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Bahati MP Ngunjiri throws jabs at both friend and foe

Sunday January 13 2019

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FRANCIS MUREITHI
By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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To many who know the current crop of lawmakers in Nakuru County, the mention of Bahati MP Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri conjures up the image of a political attack dog.

For long, he has been regarded as one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ardent loyalists who will go to any length to defend the current leadership.

But his criticism of Mr Kenyatta over the past week, which included leading a protest in Nakuru Town, has lifted the lid on the temperament of the 66-year-old legislator serving his second term.

He is a man who divides opinion. To his admirers, he is bold, courageous and heroic — a man who will not hesitate to break the rules while fighting for the rights of residents.

To his critics, he is a mere gadfly that always attacks, annoys or criticises others so as to be seen to be on top of things.

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Given his reputation, many politicians in Nakuru County would not dare take him head-on, as they know he spoils for a fight.

His occupation before he became a lawmaker constantly put him in the line of fire.

He was a co-founder of Twin Auctioneers in Nakuru and his violent approach to things was evident when, on one occasion, he clamped a Mercedes Benz car belonging to Uasin Gishu-based tycoon Jackson Kibor outside a Kanu office.

Former Eldama Ravine MP Musa Sirma has also tasted his wrath — Mr Ngunjiri attacked him in front of Mr Kenyatta, then chairman of Kanu’s Kiambu branch, at a Nakuru hotel.

After he got the voters’ mandate to be an MP, he was bound to be a bigger rabble-rouser.

During the campaigns preceding the 2017 General Election, this writer asked a close confidante of Mr Ngunjiri to disclose what the constituents didn't know about him.

The answer was concise: “Mr Ngunjiri is as fast and furious with his fists as he is with his mouth,” said the aide.

ASSAULT

An incident that could justify that description happened in August 2013 — four months after he had been sworn in for his first term in Parliament — when Mr Ngunjiri was accused of assaulting a traffic policewoman who had questioned why he was causing traffic obstruction with his car at a Nakuru street.

The scuffle took a dramatic turn when he also accused the police officer of assault.

And in July 2017, as he was campaigning to represent Bahati constituents for the second time, his rival John Mbugua, who is physically challenged, accused him of attacking him during an interview at a radio station.

Mr Mbugua claimed that he wrestled him to the ground, but Mr Ngunjiri dismissed it as an attempt to get sympathy votes.

A year earlier, Mr Ngunjiri had made a futile attempt to storm a hotel in Nakuru Town to eject opposition leader Raila Odinga from a private meeting.

The bulk of his utterances in the popular morning shows centre on defending the Jubilee administration and President Kenyatta.

The rest is dominated by vitriolic attacks on various politicians and perceived enemies.

QUIT

As for the fury packed in his mouth, one manifestation came last Sunday at a press conference in Nakuru.

The combative MP, who proudly describes himself as a political student of former President Daniel arap Moi, shocked journalists when he spewed toxic statements in a rare bare-knuckled attack on President Kenyatta.

His bone of contention was that the President had not disowned his close ally and former Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe, who is pushing to block Deputy President William Ruto from taking over the presidency in 2022.

“If Mr Kenyatta is tired of leading this country, he should immediately call for fresh elections so that we end this political mongering,” he said.

But he was not done yet. He went on with his harangue without batting an eyelid.

“The Head of State should carry the cross of incitement during the past campaigns for derogatory remarks against National Super Alliance principal Raila Odinga … It is Mr Kenyatta who started insulting Mr Odinga by calling him a drunkard and a mad person, and showed us to follow suit.”

PROTESTS

The shocker was yet to come. “If the President has joined ODM, please let him defect and go to ODM,” he said.

Mr Ngunjiri did not spare past regimes, even as he went full blast to defend the DP against corruption claims levelled against him.

Two days later, he was at it again when he led a handful of demonstrators in Nakuru Town to protest the dismissive word "washenzi" (fools) that President Kenyatta had used to dismiss those claiming Mt Kenya region has not benefited from mega projects like the rest of Kenya.

Mr Ngunjiri donned a white T-shirt written: “Mimi ni mshenzi, je wewe mwana Kenya (I am a fool, how about you, fellow Kenyan)?”

Just before the last General Election, Mr Ngunjiri launched a scathing verbal attack on Dr Ruto after Jubilee settled on Ms Susan Kihika as the party’s campaign coordinator for Rift Valley region.

Mr Ngunjiri dismissed Ms Kihika — with whom they don’t see eye to eye — as a political greenhorn and vowed not to work with her.

HOSTILITIES

His close allies say he was summoned to the DP’s office in Nairobi, and after a closed-door meeting he toned down his attacks.

But Mr Ngunjiri has had bitter disagreements with almost all present and past leaders in Nakuru, including former governor Kinuthia Mbugua, who is now the State House Comptroller.

He has also clashed with former MPs Nelson Gaichuhie (Subukia) and Joseph Kiuna (Njoro), as well as incumbent MPs David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East) and Samuel Gachobe (Subukia).

If there is one leader who has given Mr Ngunjiri a run for his money, it is Ms Kihika, who is popularly known as the iron lady of Nakuru politics.

Ms Kihika has refused to be bullied by Mr Ngunjiri’s antics and has taken him by the horns, exchanging pound-for-pound of political blows in public.

ATTENTION

It is the same Ms Kihika whom, at the advent of devolution, had an ally in Mr Ngunjiri, who campaigned for her to clinch the Nakuru Speaker’s seat on her first attempt.

This is after she lost the race to be Bahati MP at the nominations stage.

Another leader who has stood firm against Mr Ngunjiri’s antics is Gilgil MP Martha Wangare, who at one time occupied a seat reserved for Mr Ngunjiri in a campaign helicopter and refused to budge.

After a bitter exchange in front of Dr Ruto, Ms Wangare is said to have told Mr Ngunjiri that the helicopter didn’t belong to his relatives.

It is against this background that many of his critics argue that he is now waging war against the President in a bid to seek his attention.

But sometimes his untamed outbursts make him look like a reincarnation of Kanu-era politicians such as Mulu Mutisya, Kariuki Chotara and Dixon Kihika Kimani — Senator Kihika’s father.