Intense lobbying to save embattled Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has split ODM leader Raila Odinga’s allies.
A day after National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed indicated the Raila-led party was lobbying to save Waiguru from being impeached, ODM chairman John Mbadi dismissed the assertions as personal.
Mbadi told The Standard that the party had not taken a position on the matter. He said Senators would make a decision based on evidence adduced by the Kirinyaga County Assembly, which impeached Waiguru last week.
Yesterday, details of how Waiguru had become a divisive figure in the House emerged, with senators from Kieleweke and Tangatanga factions claiming her survival chances were slim because she “has many enemies.”
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Mbadi, who is also the National Assembly Minority Leader, said it would be a reek of hypocrisy for ODM to blindly defend Waiguru before interrogating evidence of abuse of office and alleged misappropriation of public funds.
He said the fight against corruption was part of the March 9, 2018 pact Raila entered with President Uhuru Kenyatta in their famous handshake.
“ODM has not taken a position. I have the feeling that senators have the ability to serve justice to the MCAs and the governor. They have the ability to look at the law, the accusations and the evidence by the MCAs before taking a decision,” Mbadi said.
The ODM chairman added: “If the MCAs are just playing politics with no strong grounds to impeach the governor, it will come out. It would be hypocritical of us in ODM to say we want to save someone accused of corruption.”
He went on: “ODM is on record that part of the reason for the handshake was to bolster the fight against graft.”
Mbadi also dismissed politicians advancing the narrative that Waiguru was being fought because of her gender, listing governors who had been dragged to the Senate after being impeached by their county assemblies on grounds of alleged corrupt dealings.
On Sunday Junet said ODM would defend Waiguru because the governor was “being bullied simply because she is a woman.”
But when The Standard contacted Junet yesterday, he claimed Mbadi was not privy to the latest discussions in the party. He said the decision was taken at the weekend.
Junet then requested to reach out to Mbadi before he could give a response on the apparent division in the party over Waiguru. When he called back, the Suna East MP indicated that Raila would call Mbadi on the matter.
“I have informed him (Mbadi) about the decision and the party leader will also call him shortly about it,” said Junet.
Minutes later, Mbadi called to withdraw his earlier statement, citing a discussion with the party boss. “I have had a fruitful discussion with the party leader, and it would only be fair to withdraw my earlier remarks,” said Mbadi.
Junet had on Sunday claimed that Waiguru, who has been a vocal proponent of the Building Bridges Initiative, was being bullied politically because of her gender. “There are some people out there who do not believe women can lead, but as ODM, we believe in leadership by women and we want to give them equal opportunity,” said Junet.
“We have witnessed women leading well in the government. They need to be supported,” he added.
At the same time, Raila yesterday dismissed the claims of working to save Waiguru, stating that the Senate was free to work independently.
“Senators should carry out the mandate independently. I don’t need to save anyone. Let someone defend themselves based on the facts presented,” said Raila.
He spoke to journalists at Mbagathi after receiving his Covid-19 negative certificate a day after undergoing the test at the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
The intrigues emerged as Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka indicated his outfit will allow senators to make an independent decision on Waiguru.
Kalonzo said the party could consider having a discussion within its ranks but would largely let the House make an informed decision based on the evidence by the Kirinyaga County Assembly. “The procedure of impeaching a governor is known and we would want to allow the representatives to do their work. If I start saying that we will oppose then I will be disregarding the Senate,” said Kalonzo.
“The matter is currently before the Senate and it will be unfair to start discussing how the House will debate it,” he added. A Jubilee senator who sought anonymity told The Standard the House was divided over the matter and that Waiguru would have a lot to do to survive.
“It will be a tough task to save her. She has many enemies in the Senate because of her tendency to belittle other leaders,” claimed the Senator from Central region.
The Standard has established that senators are split on whether to reverse the decision by the MCAs or send the governor home.
“My compass will be the law. If assembly proves their case against her, I will support the ouster. If they won’t prove it, I will acquit her,” said Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot.
Marsabit Senator Hargura Godana said he was waiting to be furnished with the charges to make an informed decision.
“I don’t have a specific stand. I have not received any instructions from my party (Jubilee) on what to do, but I will make an independent decision based on the documents and evidence adduced,” Godana said.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei argued that Waiguru’s survival “100 per cent” depends on Uhuru and Raila.
“Some of us will oppose, raise issues and grounds for removal from office of governor based on evidence by the MCAs. However, with one cleanup and sanitisation, Waiguru will be as white as cotton,” Cherargei said.
He regretted that though the handshake between Uhuru and Raila was to fight corruption as captured in BBI, it was turning out to be a public relations exercise. “Going by the previous happenings in the Senate, no matter what we do, Waiguru’s fate lies with Uhuru and Raila,” Cherargei claimed.
Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said they were scheduled to meet today to take a position on the matter.
“I believe members will take individual positions. The meeting will decide on the way forward. The House Business Committee has been consistent in proposing for a select committee to consider the matter. However, the decision to go plenary or committee rests with the House,” Kilonzo Jnr said.
In the case of ousted Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, Kilonzo Jnr recalled that the House chose plenary as members differed over the composition of the select committee. “I still support the select committee route because it gives enough time to interrogate the matter as opposed to plenary where it’s more of mob lynching,” he said.
And speaking on local television on Sunday night, Rosemary Odinga, Raila’s daughter, said due process should be followed in the impeachment process. She dismissed those dangling the gender card.
“We have mechanisms to deal with it. Let’s follow due process. We’ve had male governors accused of similar charges but you never heard men defend them. Let’s focus on the forest, not a tree,” said Rosemary.
Some women leaders have publicly come out to defend Waiguru, claiming she is being fought because she is a woman. They include Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs CS Margaret Kobia, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga.
Ugunja MP Opiyo Wanadayi, who is also ODM Secretary of Political Affairs, said the Senate’s decision should be informed by evidence against the former Devolution CS.
“I am sure constitutional mechanisms will deal with the issue of impeachment of Waiguru in the broader interest of the country,” said Wandayi.