It was never going to be a walk in the park for Ambassador Amina Mohammed, and in the last couple of years, she has been forced to muster all her diplomacy skills to weather storms.
If she were from a greatly superstitious community, her paternal uncles and maternal aunts would be thinking that unnatural forces sent by men with evil eyes have been sent her way to rub off the future gods had written on the stars.
Yet, she stubbornly trudges on in shoes that many thought were too large and too heavy for her carefully manicured toes. Amina was one of the standout performers in Uhuru Kenyatta’s first cabinet. She took to her role like a camel to the desert, bravely shouldering the responsibility of the International Criminal Court (ICC) shuttle diplomacy mission.
With her star fast rising, she soon became a darling of many. She had fought the good fight and won. Or so she thought. Politics, she came to learn, has neither rules nor regulations. The only acceptable standards remain self-preservation, even if your survival depends on the decimation of a friend.
Nothing illustrated this more than her move from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to that of Education. For someone who had grown up professionally within the set and functioning systems of the UN, this was an unsettling move.
From dealing with well-mannered foreign attaches, she found herself eyeball to eyeball with union officials with little respect for her credentials. In late 2017 and after endless rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle, the President finally gave some wind to the gossip mill. Amina was among 13 Cabinet Secretaries left unsure of their fate after they were not named in a list of CSs reassigned or retained in their positions.
But like many other storms, she survived. Just.
And as she took on the Education docket, aspersions were cast over her suitability for the ministry. The general consensus was that she had been handed a backfiring handgun and she was only too willing to pull the trigger.
Her entrance led to a sort of rebellion within the ministry, with some senior officials claiming she was not cut for the rough and tumble politics of education. Just as she was settling in, ghosts from an alleged past started creeping out of her closet. Her name was increasingly mentioned alongside scandals that unraveled during Jubilee’s first term.
Those who know her argue that Amina deliberately portrays an outward image of perfect innocence.
But underneath the moisturised skin lies a layer thicker than most are aware of. That and a schemer’s mind more politically aware than most give her credit for. These, they say, enabled her survive her latest goof with regard to the roll-out of the new education curriculum that attracted the President’s anger and a rumoured dressing down from the country’s chief executive.
For the first time in her public life, Amina came out unsure of what steps to take next. Doing away with the new curriculum in one instance before unapologetically flip-flopping on her decision. A few weeks later, she was making Form One selection directives that left a good number of parents confused and with increased blood pressures.
Somehow though, she has emerged unscathed. Unlike many in her position, she does not come to cabinet meetings worried about the political block she represents because she has none.
Perhaps it is her fast tongue, which makes nonsense of all known acceptable speech speed limits, or her ability to tactfully slip out of hard questions directed at her by interviewers, a trait most likely picked up from dealing with Russians and the Chinese.
We may never truly know what powers her. But we certainly know that she has endlessly, like a rabbit out of a magician’s hat, always shown up even when it seems her chips are not only down, but have been stolen and transferred to Siberia.
We also know that every time she pops out of the President’s hat, the jackals are always waiting, itching to get a bit off her.