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Media-savvy Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua proves he has no equal among the 47 governors

By Makau Mutua | June 28th 2015

No one can accuse me of being Governor Alfred Mutua’s bosom buddy. That’s not all — we are in two totally different professions. I seek the truth where he seeks love.

He wants Kenyans to adore him. I want Kenyans to know the truth, and speak it to power. But I have to give my namesake the devil’s due — the Machakos CEO is more than a master of theatrics. I have come to believe that there’s some substance beneath all that hoopla — and braggadocio.

We’ve seen some smoke. That’s why there must be fire. More than any other governor, Dr Mutua seems to have understood what devolution is all about. He’s backing his flash with substance. Let’s peel the onion. I didn’t have a generous view of Dr Mutua when he served as the Government Spokesperson from 2004-2012. There’s a bagful reasons. He often sounded like the PNU spokesperson when he wasn’t carrying water for President Mwai Kibaki. His job seemed to attack ODM and PM Raila Odinga. He would deliberately conflate and torture facts to shave the truth, or simply deny the obvious. Case in point — he denied that Kenyans were dying in droves in Northern Kenya when TV footage was awash with grisly images.

He enjoyed attacking the press. He was civil society’s primary antagonist. He was the master of double-speak. Long story short — you couldn’t trust the fellow. There wasn’t much to like about Dr Mutua.

I was surprised when Dr Mutua ran for governor of Machakos County on an “opposition” ticket. I couldn’t find anything in common between him and Mr Odinga, CORD’s leader. Ukambani was a CORD zone but Dr Mutua figured the only way to bag the seat was to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Kenyan elections are deeply ethnic, and woe be unto who doesn’t sing after the tribal baron like a parrot. That’s why every time Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka would ask Dr Mutua to jump, he would tongue-in-cheek retort: “how high boss?” But that was then. After the election, Dr Mutua turned his back on Mr Musyoka and CORD and returned “home” to Jubilee.

Dr Mutua is ideologically more at home with Jubilee boss Uhuru Kenyatta than Mr Odinga. He avoids Mr Odinga like the plague, and seems to despise Mr Musyoka. He can’t even hide his feelings. He’s giddy like a star-struck school girl around Mr Kenyatta and stiff like a corpse in Mr Odinga’s presence. This is what drives Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama totally bonkers. I would advise Senator Muthama to avoid Dr Mutua lest he invites a stroke. But CORD leaders, including Mr Odinga, shouldn’t attack Governor Mutua. He’s made his own bed — let him comfortably sleep in it. He apparently believes he can snag the Machakos gubernatorial election on a Jubilee ticket in 2017.

Methinks Governor Mutua may have a point. I am not sure the 2017 gubernatorial elections in Machakos — and much of the country outside Kikuyu strongholds — will go to the ethnic parties in charge now.

In Rift Valley, for example, DP William Ruto’s URP could suffer debilitating losses. Machakos County is likely to go Jubilee, although I am not ready to ask you to take that to the bank. Dr Mutua could still stumble, or be portrayed as Mr Kenyatta’s poodle.

No one likes a lapdog unless it’s yours. My crystal ball tells me Dr Mutua’s show-stopping development record as governor could free him from CORD, and persuade Machakos citizens to vote the man and not the party.

Dr Mutua is a man given to drama. He has a gargantuan ego. Most politicians do, although I think his ego is out of scale. He’s never seen a camera he didn’t like. The man studied communications, and has put his public relations stunts to good use. But I believe Dr Mutua isn’t simply an empty suit that looks good on TV. He’s doing a bang-up job as governor. He’s delivered on infrastructure, health, and trade.

He’s attracting investments into the county. He’s a merchant of hope and great optics. He’s milked every opportunity to the bone. He’s a marketing wizard. He’s made Machakos the talk of the country. Every other governor is green with envy.

Is CORD justifiably miffed at Dr Mutua? Perhaps. I recall Republicans in the US balking when Governor Chris Christie, Republican of New Jersey, got too comfortable with President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Governor Christie let his love affair with Mr Obama die off rather than be branded a traitor to his party. Should Dr Mutua kill his mutual admiration with Mr Kenyatta? Methinks not.

He is Mr Kenyatta’s soulmate which can’t be said of Governor Christie and President Obama. Dr Mutua can flirt with anyone because he’s got no equal among the 47 governors.

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