Natembeya hapless in Mboya, Tuju shadows

Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya. [Elvis Ogina, Standard] 

Governor George Natembeya of Trans Nzoia believes he is a man on a roll with his ‘Tawe’ campaign in western Kenya.

Views on the former provincial administrator’s intentions diverge. Some believe he’s keen on ‘Luhya unity’ and wants to be ‘kingpin’ but others think he’s a mere victim of self-pity.

As he tests the political waters, the first-term governor frequently targets National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula. He disparages the Ford-Kenya leader to the bone.

Additionally, he scolds seasoned leaders like Prime Cabinet Secretary and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, questioning their accomplishments in public office. He flatly rejects the Abaluhya cultural notion of ‘respecting’ elders.

Whenever he speaks in burials and rallies, Mr Natembeya garners applause from his supporters for this rhetoric, and he seems contented. He says ‘Tawe’ is a call to reject negative factors afflicting his community like poor leadership, poverty and nepotism.

Impulsively, he suggests that everyone else, except him, is living in the past and perpetuating these ills. While he is entitled to his opinion, what’s baffling is the passion with which the county chief takes on Mr Wetang’ula. Could this be another David versus Goliath battle or personal vendetta?

And amid the clash, who will blink first? What’s clear though is that Governor Natembeya simply wants to grow his clout. You can take this to the bank – he will ‘tembea’ hastily like that into pre-mature political oblivion. With no clear audacity to win over his region, he risks burnout.  

Confidence to challenge others shouldn’t be mistaken for capability. Also, focused leadership defeats grandiosity. What he’s doing may be cool but the approach primitive. Mr Natembeya should work hard then use his sterling record to prove he’s a better leader than the old guard.

There are several examples of why greenhorns like him must first study the terrain before stepping on everyone’s toes. Competent leaders are humble about their abilities. He can step back and learn from Daniel Moi’s strategy. Despite the initial dismissal as a ‘passing cloud’ by Kiambu Mafia, Mr Moi’s measured approach and patience ultimately led to his 24-year presidency.

Let’s remind the governor of Cabinet minister Tom Mboya who tried in vain to outdo Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Nyanza and within Kanu. Then there was firebrand James Orengo who fought Raila Odinga in Nyanza, and a rebellious Anyang’ Nyong’o of SDP who played tough only to eat humble pie and join the Odinga bandwagon.

Natembeya should equally be told how Odero Jowi, an energetic Ndhiwa MP got his star extinguished by circumstances he never anticipated. Former minister Dalmas Otieno’s ‘kalausi’ movement against ODM was another stillbirth. Mr Raphael Tuju, after his election in 2002, found the same path slippery despite his ‘grand’ pro-people ideas.

What about a freaky Peter Okondo whose tongue led to an ignominious fall in 1990? If you are old enough, you will remember that Western’s top leaders like Masinde Muliro, Moses Mudavadi, Elijah Mwangale, Musikari Kombo and Kijana Wamalwa detested grandstanding. The older leaders were more amiable. They listened more and spoke less. They valued unity of purpose over selfish crusades aimed at taking credits where none is deserved.

Methinks Mr Natembeya should tone down now. The temptation to overshadow the ‘big boys’ even if you don’t agree with them, is suicidal. Moreover, not every of the governor’s political cheerleaders will show up on election day in 2027 to re-elect him.  

Still, its foolhardy to misjudge the mettle of a powerbroker like Wetang’ula, the master survivor. The Speaker is the proverbial cat with nine lives. The wise say the cat can spend the first three years playing, the next three straying and for the last three, he stays. It is as it is!

I admire Mr Natembeya’s energy. He can prove his ability through life-changing policies and projects, not battles. That way, he can ensure his political longevity.