Kimani Ngunjiri: MP with a fire in the belly and a quick punch

Bahati Member of Parliament Kimani Ngunjiri. (Photo:File/Standard)

By Karanja Njoroge

Nakuru, Kenya: Mr Onesmus Kimani Ngunjiri contested five times in a bid to become MP for Subukia constituency and his efforts finally paid off this year when he won the Bahati seat on a TNA ticket.

The shrewd businessman joined politics as a Kanu youth winger in Nakuru District where he became the party branch chairman and a close political ally of former President Moi.

But his entry into the National Assembly has been marked with controversy just like his tenure as the Nakuru branch Kanu chairman.

But again, Ngunjiri is no stranger to controversy. His abrasiveness has over the years earned him friends and foe in equal measure.

Those who have interacted with him in his long running political career know he does not shy away from confrontation whether physical or verbal. A recent incident where the MP is accused of assaulting a female traffic officer in Nakuru has rekindled memories of past cases where he has gone physical.

Ngunjiri fought many battles for Kanu in Rift Valley but has since undergone some sought of transformation from a Kanu die-hard to an influential Jubilee figure especially in Nakuru County.

He is the chairman of the Nakuru County MPs despite being new in Parliament. His overzealous support for the Government was recently evident during a heated exchange in the National Assembly after CORD MPs attempted to divert funds from the laptop project to pay teachers.

Ugly exchanges

In the undignified scenes witnessed in the House the MP was heard challenging the CORD MPs to a physical duel. Ngunjiri’s appetite for ugly exchanges did not start with his election to the National Assembly.

During his tenure as Nakuru Kanu chairman he engaged his political opponents in physical exchanges whenever things were not going in his favour. In 2000, Ngunjiri engineered a coup at the Nakuru Kanu branch, which saw the ouster of the then chairman Wilson Leitich.

The protracted leadership wrangles at the party headquarters in Nakuru town was marked with ugly scenes of fights pitting his supporters against those of Leitich.

Police were on several occasions called to quell the skirmishes that saw the destruction of property at the party branch office –a three storey building along Mburu Gichua road. For other Kenyans, the recent incident with an inspector of police might have shocked them but not Subukia residents.

Residents recall a confrontation that nearly turned violent in September 2004 between Ngunjiri and his perennial rival Koigi Wa Wamwere after they differed at a harambee in aid of a school.

Guests had to scamper for safety after guns were drawn by their security personnel to avert chaos.

Residents who attended the function at St John Secondary School say trouble started after Ngunjiri attacked Koigi who was then the area MP.

He challenged Koigi to a physical duel as shocked members of the public watched.

An agitated Ngunjiri claimed the former MP was using the then newly introduced Constituency Development Fund to gain political mileage at the expense of his rivals.

Koigi, a virulent critic of the Kanu regime did not disappoint when he stood up and blamed the party for the problems the country had faced since independence.

Incensed by the stinging remarks a furious Ngunjiri armed with a walking stick attempted to hit Koigi leading to a confrontation that lasted over 40 minutes.

The former Subukia MP clutched a bottle of soda to ward off any attack as some of the guests took to their heels.

Another incident between Ngunjiri and prominent Nakuru lawyer Waiganjo Mwangi prior to the 2007 elections is also fresh in the minds of the residents.

In a video footage in possession of the The Standard on Sunday, the legislator punched the lawyer during the chaotic Narc Kenya elections.

Recalling the incident, Mwangi said his efforts to pursue justice were frustrated by the police because even after reporting at Bahati Police Station, no action was taken against Ngunjiri.

“We were at Kiamaina Secondary School and accusations started flying around from Ngunjiri and his supporters that I was an outsider and should not contest a seat there. In a flash a blow landed on me,” he said.

He claimed police refused to issue him with a P3 that would have enabled him seek legal action against Ngunjiri.

“Those days people were apprehensive about him as they thought he was powerful,” the lawyer said.

A former Nakuru nominated Councillor Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor says he was also at one time on the receiving end of the MP.

Chepkurgor had been nominated as a civic leader in the Nakuru County  Council despite opposition from Ngunjiri who was an influential player in the Narc Kenya party.

“We were at a meeting in a local hotel when an argument erupted with Ngunjiri asking me why I was opposing him and if I knew who he was. I left that hotel with my shirt torn into pieces,” Chepkurgor recalled.  

Some residents say the MP’s temper was his major undoing which led to his failure to clinch the Subukia seat for many years.

Playing victim?

Deputy President William Ruto   caused laughter recently during a tour of Nakuru when he alluded to Ngunjiri’s past elusive quest for the seat.

“I am happy that you heeded my call when I came to campaign here and elected Ngunjiri, the man has fought for this seat for many years,” Ruto said while addressing a crowd at Maili Kumi trading centre. 

Due to his easy going nature and accessibility, Nginjiri became popular with majority of the constituents and sailed to Parliament with a huge victory.

Mwangi however, says the MP’s overwhelming support in the last election was a result of party euphoria and has nothing to do with leadership credentials.

“He rode on the TNA wave and anybody on that ticket could have won the seat in this area,” the lawyer said.

His supporters, however, defend the MP as a man of the people who is being victimised for fighting for their rights.

“The MP is spearheading a fight against corruption in the police force and as we all know corruption usually fights back,” said Mr James Maina Mugo, the executive director of Social Watch.