Nasa leader Raila Odinga once described her as Mekatilili wa Menza-reincarnate.
Fearless, stoic and daring to the core, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa is indeed the quintessential female power espoused by Mekatilili’s exploits.
This week, she was on everyone’s lips after daring her party, ODM, to kick her out of the powerful Parliamentary Service Commission for politically canoodling Deputy President William Ruto.
Ms Jumwa is a woman of many monikers. To the youths, she is “mama mpaka kieleweke” (the one who demands clear explanations to matters).
To others she is the epitome of trouble, fighting to get political solutions and roughing people in the process. Others call her mama domo (loud mouth), one who rolled Ruto’s epithets against Raila back on President Uhuru Kenyatta.
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“Yule jamaa,” (that man) she would say in reference to President Kenyatta.
Those who went to school with her say she is an opportunist who seeks the slightest crack and wiggles in to gain relevance. She knows how the cards work, the ones to place on the table, and when to bare them all, especially in seeking political mileage.
Recently, when she appeared with Ruto at an Iftar dinner, their hands interlocked, Parliament Majority Leader Aden Duale called her ‘mama radar.’ In their new union, he saw a politician who has been ‘making mistakes’ by playing with the Opposition, but has finally seen the light and decided to join ‘winners’.
Ruto grinned at the declaration. The people at the party giggled. Jumwa explained why she was doing a political tango with Ruto, and abandoning the ODM train that led her to power.
“We have to change the formula. We have tried solving our problems in the Opposition, but it is not working. We have decided to work with government. From today, Ruto is not just the front runner, he is the only runner,” she said.
People within ODM were enraged by her declaration.
ODM whip Junet Mohamed is said to have had initiated the move to tame the Malindi MP by writing a cheeky letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly seeking guidance on how to discipline her.
To that, Jumwa brushed it off: “Junet, I am ready for you. Mr Man, you can proceed ... I am ready for you.”
It is not the first time she is putting her feet down. Talk within Kilifi where she was born tells of her messy divorce. She was attending political meetings and yelling herself hoarse over what she termed as injustices at the Coast.
Her husband got jittery with each meeting she attended. He finally told her to stop. Jumwa refused, and when he threatened to divorce her, she told him to go ahead.
“He said if I wanted to continue with my life, I should pay him dowry. We went to the sub-chief, made the decision and I paid back the dowry,” Jumwa said in a media interview a few weeks after she was elected.
The talk is that she whipped the dowry cows herself, all the way to her in-laws.
After the divorce, she went full throttle into politics and was elected Kilifi Woman Representative. During campaigns, she wowed crowds through song, dance, poems, and punchy speeches delivered in flawless Swahili. She knew what the crowd wanted, and she added melodrama to sway them at the ballot box.
When Malindi went to the by-election in 2016, Jumwa delivered victory for ODM and knocked the daylights off the men who wanted to rock her boat.
Her past is said to have predisposed her to relentless fight. Born in a polygamous family with about 30 siblings, Jumwa had a childhood fraught with poverty. She dropped out in Form Two, and admits that she returned to school as an adult after doing manual jobs.