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Nine lives? The untold story of Ferdinand Waititu Babayao

  Ferdinand Waititu [Photo: Evans Habil]

His name is a mouthful: Ferdinand Clifford Ndung’u Waititu Babayao. He once said he adopted the name Clifford because it was his teacher's name and he liked it.

Many of his peers can only envy his political accomplishments: He has been the deputy mayor of Nairobi, MP for Embakasi for one term and Kabete for another.

Rough at the edges and devoid of polished English, you can only write Waititu off at your own peril. History has proven that he has a way of bouncing back.

Born on January 1, 1962, Ferdinand Waititu began his political journey in 2002 when he was elected councillor for Njiru Ward on a Kanu ticket. Councillors in the City Council then elected him deputy mayor under the old constitutional dispensation.

In 2007 elections, he quit civic politics to try his hand in the Embakasi parliamentary seat – then covering an equivalent of four present-day constituencies in Nairobi.

He was running against the incumbent, the fiery David Mwenje who was already battling ill health and a newcomer, Meritus Mugabe Were running on Raila Odinga’s newly formed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in a divisive general election that would culminate in the infamous Post Election Violence (PEV).

The political arithmetic favoured Mugabe Were who edged out Waititu and Mwenje. But in a sad twist of fate, amidst the chaos of the PEV, Were never got to be sworn in. He died in a mysterious robbery at his gate in Woodley on January 29, 2008.

Read Also: Revealed - How Governor Waititu made billions in one year

 Ferdinand Waititu [Photo: Jenipher Wachie]

In the by-elections that followed, Babayao clinched the seat. He was later appointed an Assistant Minister in the Grand Coalition government that followed, a position he held until September 2012 when he was suspended over claims of incitement and hate speech.

In 2013, Babayao was a close runner-up in the first Nairobi governor election on a The National Alliance (TNA) party ticket, losing to ODM’s Evans Kidero. His teammates on the TNA party ticket, Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Racheal Shebesh, clinched the Senator and Woman Rep seats respectively.

Early 2015, he surprised many when he shifted his political base to comfortably take the Kabete Parliamentary seat in a by-election following the shooting of MP George Muchai in a Nairobi street.

Many who had dismissed Waititu’s contention for Kabete also laughed off his declaration that he was going for Kiambu governor seat in 2017 against the incumbent, William Kabogo.

Kabogo himself declared Waititu a non-starter. But Babayao had a smooth road paved for him after easily defeating Kabogo in the Jubilee Party primaries and went on to win the governor's seat in a landslide victory.

Read Also: Secret behind Governor Ferdinand Waititu’s billions

Waititu would plunge into controversies as soon as he settled into office. Fast and furiously, he fell out with the agricultural economist James Nyoro whom he had picked as a running mate in a power-sharing agreement prior to the 2017 poll.

Dr Nyoro settled for the deputy governor position in a marriage doomed from the nuptials. Soon he was accusing Babayao of sidelining him in running the county.

 Ferdinand Waititu [Photo: Beverlyne Musili]

Within a year, Baba Yao had removed all of his 2017 poll competitors who had given up their ambitions for him while Nyoro held his protected office by a thread.

In August 2018, Waititu suspended Health Executive James Murega and his trade counterpart Isabela Waiyaki in what his critics viewed to be a crackdown on Nyoro allies.

According to insiders, many county officials were sometimes baffled by Waititu's unpredictable management style.

For example, after Murega had left, Waititu called a meeting of all directors in the health docket and after they introduced themselves, took the microphone and announced that each was to drop the title director and revert to their positions before devolution kicked off.

Reports indicate that Babayao would commission employment of casuals who would later brag and openly defy county directors.

Read Also: Why Governor Waititu is not daft as we think

In February 2018, Waititu initiated the employment of at least 600 alcohol addicts under a controversial rehabilitation project called Kaa Sober. The former addicts got daily stipends to fight the alcohol menace working as casual workers.

Today, the Auditor General has questioned exactly how many people were hired under and the amount spent on the project.

It was one of the first projects that Nyoro terminated when Babayao was suspended following the corruption charges on July 29, 2019.

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