This is why Raphael Tuju could be the most powerful Cabinet Secretary

Raphael Tuju, the Jubilee Party secretary General during an interview at the party headquarters[Photo: Pius Cheruiyot]

Besides preparing githeri, a taste he acquired as a student at Starehe Boys Centre, Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju loves listening to loud music.

As his ‘fellow’ Cabinet Secretary nominees were sweating it out through the vetting at Parliament on Friday afternoon, Tuju was thinking on how to create noise on what he calls perceived bias of the Judiciary towards the State.

Fed up with the push and pull between the courts and Government over the crackdown of Opposition politicians, he retreated to his office and wrote a three-page letter to the Judiciary detailing Jubilee Party’s position on the matter.

Away from his well-furnished office along Thika Road, debate continued on whether he is a Cabinet Secretary or not. If yes why was he not in Parliament being vetted like the rest? Is he too powerful?

“It is important that the party’s position, aspirations, beliefs and ideology are represented in the running of Government otherwise we won’t meet what we promised the people,” he told Sunday Standard.

While it cannot be disputed that NASA principal Raila Odinga is the most influential person in Nyanza, Tuju, one of the region’s most hated sons could as well be on the way to becoming the most powerful person in Cabinet. Despite not having a portfolio, he is set to have a say in all the 22 ministries and will be eligible to cast a vote in cabinet meetings.

This is despite being the key spokesman for Jubilee and leading the war against the Opposition, something he has done with vigour. Last Saturday he termed Raila’s swearing in a mockery during a funeral in Odinga’s backyard.

“When I was a kid I used to play ‘kalongolongo’ (a children’s cooking game). Now that I have grown up you don’t expect me to play the same game. The swearing in was like ‘kalongolongo’,” he told mourners in Rarieda.

A man of firsts, Tuju loves to play on the opposite side of the field, has no regrets and has earned stripes in the process.

After falling out with Raila in 2007, Tuju who lost his Rarieda constituency seat in the process has leaned toward the political ideology of Central. He declared intention to run for President in 2013 but dropped out in favour of Peter Kenneth.

“I have failed many times. What I want to tell the youth is when you fall you have to rise again,” he said in 2011.

Chief Justice Chunilal Madan was the first minister without a portfolio following his appointment by the colonial administration in 1956. Tuju will be the second in Kenya’s history but first in the modern era. Uganda and Tanzania have Cabinet Secretaries without portfolios who have large influences in their Government.

Never give up

Across the world a number of countries like Jamaica, Bermuda, Netherlands, UK, Philippines, Portugal, New Zealand, Norway and about 30 others have had ministers without portfolios at some point. However their difference with our country is that most of them have either parliamentary or coalition government while Kenya runs on a purely presidential system. Being a new position in modern era politics in Kenya, several quarters including those from within government are confused.

“You cannot have a CS who only sits in the Cabinet sometimes on a need basis... Tuju remains Jubilee SG,” Dennis Itumbi, State House digital communications director said on Twitter. The constitution is also clear on how someone ends up a member of Cabinet.

“The President shall nominate and, with the approval of the National Assembly, appoint Cabinet Secretaries,” says Article 152.

So why was he not in Parliament being vetted?

“I will be representing the interests of the Jubilee party in Cabinet. This is important so that our manifesto is met?” he responded.

But in case you are doubting, the retinue of aides and security; all which are the facades of around Tuju is a good place to start.  After all he is the third most powerful member of the ruling Jubilee Party after President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

And he has not failed to show these powers to those who have decided not to tow the party line.

Last month he nullified changes in the leadership of the Jubilee party at the Murang'a County Assembly. Whether he will be able to use his new found influence in the Cabinet plus his powerful position in the Jubilee party to create himself political space in Nyanza, only time will tell.