Don’t allow political filters a role in graft war

If we are going to believe Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in his recorded telephone call with Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, he risked President Uhuru’s ire to release the latter’s wife. If that were the case, then therein lies the soft-belly of the ongoing anti-corruption and renewed tide to stem it in order to restore the sanctity of our laws.

But let us delve deeper into the conversation between the two executive clowns in our county governance system. Ignore for a moment the overlap in the stories of their lives as far as education and personal character are concerned.

That is a story for another day, but which can be freely discussed in social places without the inhibitions of, or strident libel laws that accord Waititu and Sonko equal measure of reputation – that then ought to be protected – as you.

One thing came out clearly in the leaked conversation and it does not matter who did the recording. Both governors have access to the president. Not long ago Sonko, while Senator of Nairobi, put the president on speaker phone and got his assurance that the demolitions on South B’s Kenya Veterinary Lab land would be stopped. In fulfilment of his promise, the president called Agriculture minister Felix Kosgey overseeing the operation to stop forthwith. No earthmover or backhoe has been driven that direction ever since.

In the latest case, Sonko tells Waititu that he could only risk releasing his wife since the arrest orders came from the big house. Despite Waititu’s insistence that Sonko should also let go her associates, Sonko is categorical he would only do that if Waititu gets the president to issue the order.

Throwing stones

The circumstances of the arrest of Waititu’s wife are interesting. The day before, the Kiambu Governor who believes in instant justice system like throwing stones at your enemies, had chided those behind the ongoing demolitions in Nairobi saying that the owners of structures sitting on riparian land should be made to bear the cost of redirecting the rivers. He condemned the action as punitive and wasteful.That night Sonko asked him in a Facebook post to concentrate on Kiambu affairs. The tone of the message suggested there was some unfinished business between the two, probably dating back to the days when they were city MPs, or when one was a senator and the other a loser in the Nairobi Governor seat.

In the morning, we learnt that Waititu’s wife was inside the cells. Your guess on who gave the order is an easier than figuring out if Weston Hotel will also be brought down.

The president made it clear he had lost friends in the demolition exercise. He vowed the destruction of what lies on riparian and illegally acquired land in Nairobi will go on. Yet, at the back of our minds, we know of several great challenges discernible from recent conversations.

Soft cushion

The first is that the exercise will soon be muddled in legal tussles where again predictably corruption will play its soft cushion role for crimes. Second, true to our Kenyan culture, we will be realigned to look at the exercise from the tribal lens and support or fight it on the basis of impact on the wealth portfolio of our tribal tin gods and privileged political queens.

Third is an off-shoot of the second, which is manifest in the current discussions on which side is more corrupt in government; Uhuru’s or Ruto’s? In this warped thinking, the issue seems to be that corruption is only bad when it is the other side with its snout in the feeding trough! This is a thin line the president and his government team will find hard to navigate, but then, we all hope they do.

Finally, there is the political price that even for a final term president like Uhuru; may be too heavy to pay. This presents yet another complication; how far back Uhuru can let the roll-back go without veering off the land and state largesse acquired by his father and his generation. When you start some things, there is no knowing whether you’ll be able to control the process, yet for the time being, the harvest of political capital and praises are sweet.

That is where the calls from Waititu to Uhuru and from Uhuru to Sonko come in. We start failing the moment we allow political filters to play a role in this war. Yes, Waititu probably had his way.

What then, will the president tell his other friends when they come knocking? Like in the Bible, we have a case of hot or cold, where there is no provision for lukewarm, on our hands as a nation.

Mr Tanui is Deputy Editorial Director and Managing Editor, The [email protected]