Like father like son, Jimmy tastes politics

By Standard Team

Businessman Jimmy Kibaki stirred the hornet’s nest at the weekend by declaring his political intentions.

With his father set to retire in 2012, Jimmy Kibaki has been sending signals of yet another familiar scene of a political dynasty.

Kenya has been characteristic of retiring politicians handing over their political mantles to their sons or relatives.

The son of the President may be well meaning in his intentions, but his political entry comes at a time when queries about dynasties have been raised.

If Jimmy succeeds his father politically, the family will join the ranks of former President Moi whose son Gideon was elected Baringo Central MP in 2002.

Will he be another ‘Cerelac’ baby? Or will live to the challenge and face Kenya’s harsh and dynamic political scene?

Jimmy must prepare for harsh words from political rivals, observers and commentaries in the media that will poke holes in his political bid. He must know he inherits a wide constituency of his father’s followers and enemies alike. His peers will seek to sink him while his allies will dictate his political ranking.

Political intentions

At the weekend, Jimmy made public his political intentions when he called on the youth in Kenya to counter tribalism through building of nationalism that will transform leadership in the country and guarantee natural progression.

One of the guests at the function was Tip Tip Party leader Kalembe Ndile, who had a lot of lessons for Jimmy.

"Where has he been? At 46 Jimmy should have been exposed to Kenyans earlier. But I am glad he has left his father’s closet for the public to probe and see if he is fit for leadership," Kalembe said.

"Yeye ni kama kuku wa gredi ambaye anazoea maisha ya kufungiliwa na kufungiwa na sasa amewekwa na kuku wa kienyeji wanaozoea kurandaranda na kuhepa mwewe," (Jimmy has started rubbing shoulders with people in the grassroots. He is like a broiler chicken that has been put with traditional breeds. He will have to learn the tricks of survival), Kalembe said.

Jimmy launched the Simama Kenya youth initiative and said it was not formed to fight the older generation, but to awaken the youth to their role in leadership.

Hard questions

Jimmy and his allies are faced with hard questions. Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara says they should tell Kenyans what they fought for and what they stand for.

"Some of us spent our youthful days fighting for liberation that is being enjoyed by President Kibaki today. His son Jimmy should tell us why he wants a younger generation while his father was elected in old age," Imanyara says.

Former Ntonyiri MP Maoka Maore challenged young politicians to ensure they are not tainted with corruption scandals.

"You can have a 70-year-old with integrity and ability who is better than young MPs soiled with oil, maize and land grabbing scandals. Definitely the older one is better," Maore said.

He said Kenyans were tired of political dynasties and Jimmy must justify an elective post.

Speaking at Nzambani Secondary School in Mutito constituency during the launch of the national youth forum, Jimmy allayed fears the initiative was formed for political purposes.

"Simama Kenya is neither political, tribal nor regional and is not a vehicle to advance objectives of individuals," said Jimmy.

He dismissed speculation that he will use the lobby to join political leadership, adding he was a businessman keen on the plight of the youth.

Mutito MP Kiema Kilonzo said there was lack of focus in national leadership with the youth being used as political hirelings.

Kiema said the youth in Kenya should not be gullible and fall to the whims of politicians, but instead should chart a direction and play their role in governance.

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni said the debate on the system of governance should guarantee universal suffrage in choosing the president and prime minister.

Speakers said large numbers of youths remained in prisons because of loss of focus in their role in national issues.

Activist Tom Namwamba said the Kenyan youth should demand and encourage participation of the youth in decision making in governance, matters of national concern, and in public-private institutions.

Dr Namwamba said the initiative shall mobilise and unite all Kenyan youth to participate in the liberation of the economy, promotion of national consciousness, patriotism, unity, affirmative action programmes and work actively for the elimination of oppressive laws, customs and structures, which militate against equality with the view of attaining national cohesion and youth empowerment.

Others who addressed the meeting were Wajir South MP Abdirahman Hassan, political activists Tony Gachoka and Stanley Livondo.

Jimmy’s initiative, viewed as a plunge into national politics is, however drawing curiosity among politicians in Central Kenya.

Although a number of MPs have cautiously welcomed him into the political fray, they have said he should come up with his own policies to win the hearts of the Othaya people.

Right to vie

The MPs say the junior Kibaki has a right to vie for any political seat not because he comes from the first family, but on his own merit.

Mathioya MP Clement Wambugu said if Jimmy decides to vie for the Othaya parliamentary seat, he should be judged on his own merit, not his father’s.

"We welcome him if at all he wants to be in politics. He has every right to fight for a political seat and I don’t think it should raise any eyebrows," said Mr Wambugu.

He said Jimmy should enter politics if he truly believed in genuinely assisting the Othaya people and the country at large.

"He should be ready to work with the people to bring more development," said Wambugu.

Kieni MP Nemesyus Warugongo said: "If Jimmy was planning to vie for the seat he should avoid clinging on his father’s coat or influence."

Mr Warugongo said the President’s son should not expect any sympathy from voters by virtue of being from the first family.

"We expect that he will come up with his own policies and tell the Othaya people what he is planning to do for them. Jimmy should not expect his father’s credentials to sell him to the electorate," Warugongo said.

Mwea MP Peter Gitau, who said Jimmy had a democratic right to vie for the seat, echoed the sentiments.

He said since he was lobbying for the empowerment of the youth, the young people would boost his campaign if he decides to run.

"We wish him luck if he is positioning himself to replace Kibaki as the Othaya MP," said Mr Gitau.

Stories by David Ohito, Paul Mutua and Francis Ngige