Ezra Chiloba is a man who believes in systems. He has a near obsessive affinity for order and processes, which makes the goings on at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission where he is the chief executive officer even more puzzling.
Since the annulment of the presidential vote, the commission has been in turmoil, reeling from the sudden realisation that the cracks between the commissioners and the secretariat cannot be peppered over any more.
Now, everyone, including Chiloba is holding on for dear life at a time when they should be solid as a rock, ready to oversee a fresh presidential election.
His was never an easy task, accepting his appointment to the post in January 2015, he indicated to the country that he was ready and willing to steer the commission from a tumultuous past.
One of the key functions of the 38-year-old when he took over was to restore waning public confidence in the electoral body, which had taken a severe beating since the 2013 General Election.
His predecessor was dismissed and charged in court for alleged underhand procurement deals with British printing firm Smith and Ouzman. Chiloba clearly believed he has what it takes to succeed where James Oswago had fallen, to soar to previously uncharted heights and to deliver a credible and successful elections for Kenya.
On August 7, Kenyans believed that IEBC could deliver their end of the bargain. Everything went well until the announcement of the results on August 11.
Then the Opposition started asking questions in the readability of his baby, the elections. And on September 1, after the Supreme Court ruling, Chiloba’s well-cut, well-fitting suits seemed to be the only thing in place in an election that was termed a near fraud by the country’s highest court.
Friends say he is abrasive. His foes say he is arrogant. Some say he is a control freak. While others still say he is a perfectionist. In a topsy-turvy world where allegiances are pledged and paid in full, it was a matter of time before his character clashed with his boss’ and he realised that the ground on which IEBC had set its foundation was shaky.
Like his boss Wafula Chebukati, his feigning of ignorance to the goings on at IEBC is not a credible defence. He has been the subject of many memos and statements over the past week.
Some supporting him and others, like Chebukati’s 12-point memo, appearing to finger him for the failings that characterised the invalidated election.
Chiloba is also known to be ambitious, and there are some who are of the opinion that he has been the one running the show at the polls body with the backing of State operatives.
His alleged fatal attraction to the centre of power has been pointed out by his critics. On several occasions it has been insinuated that Chiloba is a friend of the ruling party and that he was put in IEBC to do their bidding.
“I had never met Jomo Gecaga (President’s Kenyatta’s Personal Assistant) until December 8 last year when he brought the President’s papers here. And I was like, so you are the guy? Up to this point, I can’t pick out the President’s brother, Muhoho Kenyatta from the crowd. I hear he was in Bomas but I didn’t see him,” he said in a recent interview.
The believability jury is still out on the man who is now battling perceptions that he prefers one side of the political divide. He being in the news came with its perks too. For a few days, he was a trending topic on social media for reasons not related to the elections.
Almost overnight, he became the perfect pinup for ladies across the country who swooned over his apparent ‘good looks.’ On social media, the moniker Chilobae occupied discussions. But, like most online fads, Chilobae faded faster than you could say ‘transmission’ as rifts within IEBC laid bare its dirty laundry.
Inevitably, Chilobae moved on swiftly to be replaced by Chilobye, and when Chebukati’s memo became public, some wags turned it to Chi-Robber.
The moderately religious man shares a name with an individual in the Bible who found himself in similar uncomfortable position.
The Biblical Ezra was a man living in Babylon when the king sent him to Jerusalem to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. Ezra led a large body of exiles back to Jerusalem, where he discovered that Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women.
He tore his garments in despair and confessed the sins of Israel before God, then braved the opposition of some of his own countrymen to purify the community by enforcing the dissolution of the sinful marriages.
Once this task was completed, Ezra read the Law of Moses to the assembled Israelites and priests entered into a covenant to keep the law and separate themselves from all other peoples.
Perhaps in this case, Babylon is where the IEBC was pre-Chiloba, and he is now braving the resistance of his own countrymen (commissioners) to purify the community (IEBC) by enforcing the dissolution of sinful marriages (tender cartels, politicians and all that is bad with Kenya’s electoral process).
Or maybe he is just a man, who failed to heed his chairman’s call of fighting temptation and chose a path whose final destination was not the most ideal for the country.