Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua first gained public attention through a memorable travel column in a local daily. But when he was appointed government spokesman, the general consensus among opposition politicians and the media was that he lacked the depth and gravitas for the position.
In his first appearance on national television, he sparred with fire spitting human rights activist Maina Kiai and left the studio with a bloodied nose: “Even if you are doing propaganda for government, at least argue intelligently!” Maina charged. A year down the line, senior reporters wouldn’t be caught dead at his weekly press briefings.
What could not be denied, however, is that Mutua, the movie maker, was an incredibly gifted brand master, with an eye for colour and glitz. His offices were posh, unlike the drab government offices with broken furniture Kenyans are accustomed to. It is this genius for branding and spin that he brought to his political campaign and the office of governor; cute pictures with his First Lady, posing with old women, launching projects, scoring a series of ‘firsts’.
The country noticed. Here was a man walking the talk, getting things done, a man seething with ambition and itching to dance at a bigger national political stage. To get to that position, however, he would first have to elbow former vice president and Cord co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka (and to an extent Charity Ngilu) out of the way and become the undisputed Kamba political kingpin. While he was elected on Kalonzo’s Wiper Movement, the grumbling in Wiper has been that he seemed way to close to President Uhuru Kenyatta for comfort. A day of reckoning between the two was inevitable.
When he launched his Maendeo Chap Chap Movement with characteristic pomp and colour last Saturday, an event that was broadcast live by five local TV stations, Wiper party leaders and loyalists blasted the governor, saying he was being used by Jubilee administration to create confusion in Ukambani, dent the Wiper party and deny Cord votes.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr says Maendeleo Chap Chap is a lame excuse by the governor to cover up a clear agenda of dividing the Kamba community and downplayed the perceived supremacy battle between Mutua and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, saying Mutua’s populist politics will die a natural death.
“The movement is clearly a storm in a tea cup. As Wiper we are not worried at all,” says Mutula Jnr, also Wiper vice chairman.
He continues “It is absurd that Mutua would rebel against a party that created him politically. It is possible he used Wiper as a ruse to propel him to power whilst his heart lay elsewhere.”
So is Wiper about to expel him from the party? Mutula Jnr advises against such a decision, noting that doing so would propel Mutua to a hero status. The best thing, the senator says, is to let Mutua dig his own grave and bury himself. The senator, however, promises that the stage is set for a bruising battle against the governor in 2017.
“His real or perceived supremacy battle with our party leader will be his Waterloo. The battle (to oust him) will be vicious, relentless and defining. I don’t envy him,” Mutula Jnr notes.
Kitui County professionals have also waded into the debate, dismissing Mutua as a showman full of drama and devoid of tangible development. The professionals say compared to sacked Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, Mutua is a greenhorn in politics who cannot deliver the Kamba vote to Jubilee.
“Ngilu was a political force, having been elected four times and served as minister in several dockets. She even ran for presidency but could not deliver the Kamba vote. What makes Mutua, a rookie politician, think he can succeed where Ngilu failed?” Campbell Munyambu, the organising secretary of Mwingi Professionals Forum poses.
Munyambu says the governor cannot claim that he will unite the Kamba community while his own county is divided.
“A man who is at war with everybody, including his senator, deputy governor and women rep, how will he unite others? Because of his greed for power, he blew up his opportunity to grow politically,” he asserts. “Did you see how he desperately tried to praise President Kenyatta, even likening him to Pope Francis and US president Barack Obama? It is clear he is a Jubilee protégé.”