A man who throws his family members under the bus to exonerate himself from corruption charges is one clutching at straws. And the straws gave in. Desolate. Angry. And impeached. Mr Ferdinand Waititu fought, clawed, clowned but Senate could hear none of it. The senators overwhelmingly voted to kick him out.
Mr Waititu was alone Wednesday, but when he sought to become the governor of Kiambu, the then populist Nairobi politician was the love of politicians eager to tap into his street theatrics and no-holds-barred stunts against his rivals.
Everyone knew Mr Waititu — a stone merchant-turned politician who could easily participate in street fights. The mobs loved him and, for that, the political elite wanted him. He, like Gideon Mbuvi Sonko in Nairobi, could stand over stinking trenches, mesmerise the crowds as ”down-to-earth” and turn physical, if it came to that. For that, he was cheered on by exuberant crowds drowned in political ecstasy.
Nobody checked his management acumen — and political parties, when approving nominations for governors, hardly care.
Mr Waititu, then and now, represents all that is wrong with our party politics. He epitomises all that is awkward about our national institutions. Sonko is in that class too, full to the brim with ne’er-do-wells, social misfits and loud mouths-turned-leaders.
The impeachment of Mr Waititu by the Kiambu County Assembly was yet another test on whether the Senate could play its cardinal oversight role within the counties which have become the new citadels of corruption.
For years now, political parties seeking to mobilise voters have been turning to such populists to drive the masses and harvest votes — and turn a blind eye to any integrity issues that follow such populists. That is how Parliament has ended up with the likes of Babu Owino, the perennial University of Nairobi student leader who was elected the MP for Embakasi East and who is currently charged with attempted murder.
In a country where integrity is no longer an integral part of our politics — after the deliberate watering down of Chapter Six on Leadership and Integrity — politicians with stained backgrounds now survive at the altar of political patronage; where tribalism, nepotism and corruption have become the criteria for party nomination, election and survival.
Mr Sonko — who has been stopped by the High Court from conducting any business until he is cleared of corruption charges — is one of the faces of a dangerous trend of politicians who ironically purport to ”speak for the ordinary mwananchi”, while running down the institutions they are supposed to build.
When he entered politics as a Narc Kenya candidate for Makadara parliamentary seat in 2010, Mr Sonko, an ex-convict, was only known in the matatu industry. He had packaged himself as a young philanthropist, a matatu owner and a land dealer, which neatly camouflaged his past.
Under Mr Sonko’s watch, the revenue collection in Nairobi has not only dropped, but corruption and ineptitude has crept back. More so, Mr Sonko’s leadership style saw him operate without a deputy after the sober-minded Polycarp Igathe resigned in January 2018 — throwing the county into a crisis.
With senior politicians and bureaucrats becoming the masters of doublespeak, the crisis facing the country is now thanks to a leadership vacuum orchestrated by patronage and where whims of the political class determine leadership.
Months after he was elected in Kiambu, Mr Waititu bought a Sh250 million property in Nairobi’s Central Business District, a signal that he was moneyed, after all.
Mr Waititu was not alone. Many other governors have purchased prime properties after a short stint in politics. Chances of ever knowing whether this wealth was genuinely generated are slim since, again, Parliament decided that wealth declaration will be shrouded in secrecy — giving politicians and public servants a loophole to make money and grow rich.
The arrests have been minimal, though. Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal is one of the few facing corruption and abuse of office charges.
Mr Lenolkulal is charged with irregularly obtaining Sh84.7 million by supplying fuel to the Samburu County Government through his fuel company, Oryx Service Station, between March 27, 2013 and March 25, 2019.
When legalese and decorated arguments could not pass muster, Mr Waititu resorted to his stock-in-trade Embakasi-style justice; he sought to dissociate himself from his family, saying he should not be skinned for the sins of his relatives and, like his other reasons, this too fell flat. The governor was shown the door.