Pomp as Ngilu launches bid to succeed President Kibaki

By Peter Opiyo

Water and Irrigation Minister Charity Kaluki Ngilu high-fived her way to the podium to unveil a five-point agenda at the launch of her presidential bid on a National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) party ticket.

Ngilu tossed her had into the already crowded ring of presidential aspirants, this being her second stab at the top seat, the first having been in 1997 when she made history as the first female presidential candidate.

The Kitui Central Member of Parliament brings the number of women presidential candidates to two after Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua, with the rest of the field made up seven men.

The men in the race so far are Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime Ministers Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta, former Education PS Prof James ole Kiyiapi as well as Peter Kenneth and Raphael Tuju.

Resplendent and graceful in a blue outfit, the Kitui Central MP was mobbed by a bevy of beauties, donning the blue colour of NARC party, and gave a promise to Kenyans.

As she emerged from one of the five makeshift doors on the podium, that symbolized her five areas of focus, her mind was at the same time processing the past 49 years of Kenya’s independence, assessing what it has brought to Kenyans, and her verdict was: little success.

“Fifty years of planning, talking and policies that have not translated into decent lives for half of the Kenyan population is enough. The time for small talk is over. It is time to implement the big picture that our founding fathers and mothers conceived at independence. These are the promises that I will keep in order to deliver a decent life to all Kenyans,” she said.

Her message warped through the tented hall at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, just a few metres from the statue of the first President Jomo Kenyatta.

Away from the personality-dominated politics, Ngilu focused on issues affecting Kenyans, and drove her point home that if elected her job would be to improve the lives of Kenyans.

She pegged her focus on five areas: Food and Water, Health, Education, Wealth Creation and Women empowerment. Accompanied by MPs Joyce Laboso, Rachael Shebesh, Cecily Mbarire and Kiema Kilonzo, the Water minister took stock of the 49 years since Kenya gained independence, saying nothing has been done to improve the lives of Kenyans.

Bad leadership

“Fifty years ago, Kenya attained her independence and a new nation was born. The new Kenya galvanized the great hopes, dreams and aspirations of her people. Today we stand at the cross roads of history,” she said.

Banking on her over 20 years experience as a public servant, she told the gathering that she has the diagnosis of Kenya’s problems, blaming the country’s tribulations on bad leadership.

“As a public servant with over 20 years experiences I understand the challenges that Kenyans are grappling with. Kenyans I feel you,” she said in her 48-minute speech she read from teleprompter. She also kept a written hardcopy version that she flipped through as the teleprompter changed pages. Ngilu christened her bid “basic needs revolution”, that would put food and water on every Kenyan table, ensure every Kenyan gets quality education, create wealth, underpin Kenyans’ access to wealth and inspire a revolution to further empower women.

The minister earlier made her entry in a trademark style, greeting those along her path in high-five salute.

On wealth creation, Ngilu said her plan would be to revolutionise the smallholder agriculture through subsidies and credit facilities for farm inputs.

“It is unacceptable that 50 years after independence, our farmers are still tilling land with hoes and oxen-pulled ploughs. I will revive agricultural extension services,” she said, pointing out it was a shame Kenya imports even agricultural produce, yet it can produce more.

Each county would also benefit from resources to help them invest in tourism products unique to the counties to help re-engineer tourism sector and bring earnings to the regions.

Her government, promised Ngilu, would also invest heavily in renewable energy and initiate programmes for public schools and hospitals to run on green power.

To ensure provision of water and food, Ngilu said her Government would build more dams and increase acreage under irrigation to cushion Kenyans against food insecurity.

Reinforcing her points with statistical findings, Ngilu said according to World Bank figures in 2010, Kenya spent Sh26 billion to treat preventable diseases because 16.4 million Kenyans did not have access to clean and safe drinking water.

“Our people are dying of cholera, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases because we have not invested adequately in water harvesting and storage. I will reverse this,” said Ngilu. On education, the minister said her Government would set aside funds for employment of at least 5,000 teachers annually and supply each child with a computer laptop to ensure they are ICT compliant.

“I will develop infrastructure through primary to secondary where we will build a secondary school for every two primary schools. We will support each county to develop their technical institutions by providing them with annual grants,” she added. MPs Laboso and Shebesh, both in ODM, described Ngilu as their role model and a person who has been championing women’s rights for decades.

Quality health care

“We have come here as women who work with her in Parliament. We are here because Charity Ngilu is our role model,” said Laboso, the Sotik MP. Ngilu also said she would channel money to universities to fund research and development.

She said she would put in place a medical scheme to ensure all Kenyans access quality health care by allocating more resources to the health budget. According to National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) figures, the minister said, Sh2,850 can be spent on each Kenyan annually for provision of healthcare.

“This translates into a health budget of Sh114 billion per annum. The current health budget is Sh80 billion. We can therefore provide Kenyans with an affordable national healthcare scheme,” said Ngilu.

And having served as a Minister for Health, Ngilu said she has the ability to bring this to a reality.