Waititu’s abrasive style that rubs his deputy wrong way

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu (centre) and his deputy James Nyoro (right) are no longer reading from the same script. [Photo: File/Standard]

Barely 100 days in office, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his deputy James Nyoro are at loggerheads, raising fears of a turbulent five years in the county leadership.

Simmering differences between the two came to the fore at a church service attended by Deputy President William Ruto last Sunday when the abrasive Waititu accused his deputy of “making too much noise”.

The two came together ahead of the August General Election in an unholy alliance under the umbrella of the United for Kiambu banner to remove former Governor William Kabogo.

In a power-sharing arrangement, Dr Nyoro agreed to shelve his gubernatorial ambitions and deputise Waititu, while three other members of the team, including businessman David Ngari, alias Gakuyo, were to occupy senior positions.

Following the public spat between Waititu and Nyoro, residents now fear the political union could be short-lived and would unravel before the leaders embark on delivering on their mandate.

Marriage of convenience

“What is happening was expected since the unity was more of a marriage of convenience to dislodge Kabogo. After achieving their dream, the union was bound to crumble,” says Lucas Ndung’u, a resident.

At the centre of the differences in the United for Kiambu group, which sent Kabogo home, is the lone ranger and abrasive leadership style of Waititu.

His remarks about Nyoro appeared to have caught the Deputy Governor and Ruto by surprise.

“Your Excellency the Deputy President, I never thought my governor would say that. Sometimes there will be small issues here and there, but it’s not a must they be made public and I never thought he would go public with our small issues,” Nyoro said.

Waititu, alias Baba Yao, who is no stranger to controversy, has ruffled feathers in his first 100 days in office by making other controversial declarations.

Recently, he announced that companies and universities in the county will be required to have at least 75 per cent of locals as employees once a proposal by the county government is legislated.

Waititu also proposed that recruitment of vice chancellors for public universities in the county be conducted by the county assembly to give locals priority.

His announcement targets two key public universities -- Kenyatta University and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

‘Not our people’

“KU and JKUAT, for example, are not employing our people. If you go there, the staff are not our people. We want to make sure the head of such an institution is recruited by our assembly. We want to ensure the person picked is from Kiambu,” the governor said.

In a move likely to put him at loggerheads with the national government, Waititu said new companies seeking approval to establish companies in the county will be required to show a list of people they intend to employ, three quarters of who must be locals.

The county is home to many companies in Ruiru, Thika and Limuru besides multinational coffee, tea and flower firms.

But even before the residents could absorb the radical proposals, Waititu issued another thunderbolt by sending 60 ward administrators home and abolishing their positions.

The administrators had been hired by his predecessor and had been accused of campaigning for the former governor in the run-up to the August 8 elections.

Waititu has instead promised to deal directly with MCAs who are the elected leaders at the ward level.

“My administration will only deal with people who have been given the mandate by the people. They will be in charge of all the county government programmes and projects in their wards,” he said.

Legal experts caution that the governor could be exposing the county to myriad law suits which will be expensive.

“The one-man style of leadership could prove to be Waititu’s undoing. He should have, for instance, ordered an investigation into the conduct of the ward administrators since not all were against him during the elections,” says a Kiambu lawyer who declined to be named.

After winning the Jubilee nominations in May, Waititu caused a stir when he led the clearing of a private land said to be a road reserve near Blue Post Hotel in Thika.

He and former Thika Town MP Alice Ng’ang’a personally supervised the clearing of the road to unlock traffic jam in and out of Thika town, winning praise from matatu operators.

“Before the governor opened this road, traffic jams were a nightmare. The situation has improved since that bold move,” says Mathew Kinyanjui, a matatu operator on the Nairobi-Thika route.

But businessmen Michael Kariuki and Duncan Macharia accuse Waititu of invading their private land, saying they have legal documents proving ownership of the parcel.

“Waititu invaded the land and started constructing a road with an aim of solving traffic congestion in Thika town, which is impunity,” says Kariuki.

The new road was named Baba Yao Mama Tena Road.

Last month, Environment and Lands Court Judge Lucy Gacheru issued temporary orders stopping Waititu from taking over a Sh100 million piece of land in Kiambu town belonging to Postal Agency of Kenya.

The application was filed by the corporation and Fave Gas Oil Limited, claiming their land had been illegally invaded by people believed to be county employees.


The dispute started when the governor reportedly ordered the invasion to pave for the expansion of the Kiambu town bus park under construction on the adjacent land.

The corporation said the county government’s earth movers invaded the property and started demolishing houses and cutting down trees.

Postmaster-General Dan Kagwe said he wrote to the governor, asking him to keep off the land as the corporation had signed a lease agreement with a businessman to put up a petrol station there, but his pleas were ignored.

Waititu’s style of leadership has, however, won him accolades from some local leaders.