Miguna Miguna. Few people can sit on the fence when questioned on their views about this man. You either ferociously dislike him or you show keen admiration for the towering son of Nyando.
And now, he is running for Governor of Nairobi. His ticket is blunt and audacious. Here I am, he says. I’m a man who has not engaged in the blatant corruption and greed which is the hallmark of every politician in this country.
I won’t bribe you to vote for me. But I urge you to join my team and help to clean the rot in the capital of Kenya which, he says and quotes Auditor-General reports, is also the corruption capital of Kenyan counties. Count me in, Miguna.
It is true that Miguna is not the most cuddly or likeable of fellows. He has a strong, even abrasive personality. His most famous book, Peeling Back the Mask, is a sparkling compendium of insults at once biting and amusing. Everyone who stood in his path was, to use his favourite insult, “clueless” and an intellectual dwarf.
(I got a taste of how difficult it is to deal with him on the very first occasion we met, when I went to his office for what I thought would be a routine interview and he became the first and last interview subject to insist on a contract indicating I would not misquote him.)
But Miguna has one huge advantage which basically virtually no other Kenyan politician can boast. He is a clean man untouched by the stench of corruption which has reached crisis proportions at every level of government from the very highest to the lowest ones in every village.
This week, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari summarised the Olympian graft problem in his country this way: If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.
Kenya is not yet at Nigeria’s level but it will not take too long to get there.
From the national government to the village, the richest Kenyans, those who fly around in helicopters, work in government.
It has been said time without number that one of the core problems in Kenya is that voters lament endlessly about corruption but are happy to sell their votes to the highest bidder every five years and then spend the time between election cycles complaining about rampant graft.
Miguna stands out as that rare man of integrity who has entered the political battlefield selling his clean record.
Think what you may of his books but, throughout his tenure in the office of the prime minister, he fought a gallant, mostly losing fight against corruption until he was kicked out.
He describes one senior official there as being implicated in graft scandals “as long as the River Nile” and laments that he became the laughing stock in the office for not “eating” with several very senior politicians taking to “jokingly comparing me to the Mau Mau who woke up one day in December 1963 to hear reports that Kenya had obtained independence but, refusing to believe it, chose instead to ‘return to the forest’”.
Some will argue that Miguna’s temperament is too uneven for the task of managing a large, complex bureaucracy such as the Nairobi County government.
As a long-suffering taxpayer in the city, I have no time for that argument because a succession of leaders with glittering MBAs have delivered absolutely no benefits to residents over the last two decades (with the lamentably brief John Gakuo era an exception).
Others raise the issue of campaign financing and make the point that he would never be able to foot the huge costs required to oil a countywide campaign.
But his opponents who are deep pocketed will likely be using funds acquired through “fantastically corrupt” methods.
If Nairobians want a fresh start, they can make a bold statement to the rest of the country by donating to Miguna’s campaign because he won’t spend any money buying them. I will certainly consider it.
That would set a precedent that can be applied on the national stage especially when, in future, the emotionally freighted contest between a Kenyatta and an Odinga (which makes any rational decision making impossible) will not be on the cards.
Set to one side all the unnecessary and juvenile insults hurled on Jeff Koinange’s “bench” on Thursday evening. In his bold and credible position against corruption which is matched by his record on the issue, Miguna bagged a good number of followers in his bid for the governorship.
Yes, maybe he can.
[email protected] @mutigam