Linturi, the sower of seeds of doubt

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi when he issued modern grain driers at National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot in Meru. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Jesus Christ is risen! If you happen to be near Waziri wa Kilimo Mithika Linturi, hammer that point home.

Of all the characters Linturi could choose from this Easter, he picked Thomas, a man who believes that hands are better judges of reality than eyes.

Against all evidence, Linturi doubts the obvious in ways that would put flat-earthers to shame. Bwana Waziri has spent the past week insisting that there was no fake fertiliser in the market. 

So much so that he ordered National Cereals and Produce Board (abbreviated NCP-Mbi, at least according to Linturi) outlets to stay open this Easter season.

But farmers have seen and touched the fake stuff, sold to them by the NCPB as part of the government’s fertiliser subsidy programme.

For some Sh2,500, going by government records, they acquired a sack full of soil and goat droppings. Other reports suggest that other farmers got donkey poo, which, apparently, isn’t even suitable for guava trees, known for their resilience.

Like the biblical Thomas who could not believe his fellow disciples had seen the risen Messiah, Linturi insists that the farmers’ eyes are playing tricks on them. And so he wants them to ignore what they have seen and felt and, instead, trust in his word.

Trusting Linturi’s word is not the easiest job. Had it been, the silver fox would be governor of Meru County.

“Mimi nimejionea mwenyewe na fertiliser iko hapa,” he said last week in Elburgon, challenging the farmers to subject the allegedly fake fertiliser to lab tests.

Some have already tested it and reached the same conclusion as farmers, who are growing desperate with the onset of the planting season. They include Agriculture Principal Secretary Kipronoh Ronoh, who suspended the distribution of subsidised fertiliser after finding some of it was bogus.

Further, after thorough testing, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) also confirmed that the NCPB has been selling fakes to Kenyans. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations also recently seized some consignments in Kakamega.

In the face of these revelations, Linturi’s boss, President William Ruto, wants those involved in the unfolding scandal arrested, meaning that he is perhaps alone in insisting that donkey and goat poop is the highest quality of fertiliser money can buy.

On Friday, Waziri termed those saying the subsidised fertiliser is fake “conmen who do not wish Kenya well”.

“Kazi yao ni kueneza propaganda,” he stated.

Perhaps the story behind Bwana Linturi’s insistence that there is no “mandoandoa” in the government’s fertiliser is that he fears the repercussions that could accompany an admission of guilt. Before him, there was Mwangi Kiunjuri, the recipient of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tongue-lashing.

“I promise you and I swear before God, you try that again and you will see what is going to happen to you,” Uhuru hit out at Kiunjuri over allegations that someone within the Agriculture Ministry pocketed money meant for farmers.

Linturi wouldn’t want Bwana Rais to promise or swear anything before God – not when he is still around, awaiting his ascent to heaven.

Perhaps Waziri is hopeful that in this season of miracles, the heavens would sneak real fertiliser into sealed bags of fakes as the Kebs mark of quality happened to have done onto the said sacks.

Linturi knows a few things about sneaking into and out of certain spaces, which may or may not include, allegedly, hotel rooms and ‘marriages’.

Before he was picked for the Agriculture Ministry, Waziri had served as Meru Senator and previously as the Mheshimiwa for Igembe South. Bwana Franklin’s most memorable act as MP was sponsoring an impeachment motion against then-Devolution Waziri Anne Waiguru, sneaking out of Bunge when the motion was due for debate.

Over the years, he has proven to have an affinity with the courts and has faced countless accusations, most of which collapsed when freedom came in August 2022.