Najib Balala master schemer or political survivor?

Tourism CS Najib Balala. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Najib Balala was the first cabinet secretary in office to congratulate President-elect William Ruto after he was declared winner of the 2022 presidential election.

“Congratulations on your victory Dr. William Ruto, President-Elect, Republic of Kenya ??. It is by God's grace and the true will of the people, you were elected President. You have the ability to transform this country for the betterment of all...,” tweeted Balala on his official Twitter account.

“Wishing you the best as you prepare to assume the responsibilities that come with such a high office. Hongera! God be with you, God Bless Kenya,” added Balala.

The congratulatory message from the Tourism CS went out less than 10 minutes after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya (IEBC) declared William Ruto the fifth president of Kenya on August 15, 2022.

Ruto got 7,176,141 against his closest rival Raila Odinga who got 6,942,930. This translates to 50.49 per cent and 48.85 per cent respectively.

Najib Balala congratulates President-elect William Ruto. [Twitter: @tunajibu]

Balala’s message raised eyebrows among some Kenyans who flooded the comment section, poking fun at his ‘strategic’ timing.

“Alaar! Man’s has already sent his CV to the President-elect,” tweeted Muhammad Onyango.

Damaris Mabeya: Congratulations our new Tourism CS.

Wanjiru Kung’u: Get that bag ... When I grow up I want a soft life like yours ...

@eng_kimathitim said, “That was fast bwana CS”. To which @AtienoB1 replied, “Time is money.”

Former Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut simply responded, “Chess master”.

Balala is a politician of nine lives known for steadying the tourism docket in three successive governments.

His longevity in national politics is attributed it to his prowess in strategically positioning himself politically in new political dispensations.

Track record

Najib Balala is among the longest-serving ministers in the Kenyan government.

He has been in service for over 25 years, with 17 years as a minister - 12 years of which he stood at the helm of the Tourism ministry.

He started his public service career after being the mayor of Mombasa in 1998 and served as MP for Mvita Constituency between 2002 and 2013.

During his tenure as Mvita MP, he also served as a Minister for Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services from 2003 to 2004, and Minister for National Heritage from 2004 to 2005.

His career was however blotted when he was fired by President Mwai Kibaki as part of a purge of those who campaigned against the draft constitution in the 2005 referendum.

Balala wasn’t in the cold too long, he made a come-back in 2007 in the Tourism ministry under the Mwai Kibaki – Raila Odinga coalition government.

In 2013, he unsuccessfully contested for Mombasa Senate under the Republican Congress Party of Kenya (his own party).

Balala served as the first Minister in the Ministry of Mining, and is credited with delivering the Draft Mining Bill in 2014, the first policy and institutional framework review of Kenya’s mining sector since 1940.

He has advocated for community empowerment, and promotion of cultural and local heritage, with enthusiasm for conserving the Swahili culture.

“No one wants to be in the opposition. It’s cold there and even those who are keen on being elected know that. I have been in government since 1998 and I will be in the next one and serve in any position that is there for the good of all Kenyans,” Balala once said, as quoted by the Nation.

The 55-year-old politician is a husband, with four children.