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Victim or villain? Wajir governor's long journey in corridors of justice

POLITICS
By Jacob Ngetich | May 15th 2021
Wajir Governor Mohamud Abdi (left) and his Lawyer Paul Nyamodi during the impeachment debate at Senate chambers, parliament buildings, Nairobi.[Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Senate select committee hearing impeachment proceedings against Wajir Governor Abdi Mohamud declined to summon family members after Members of the County Assembly accused them of graft.

Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni-led team had been told by the MCAs through lawyer Ahmednasir Mohamed that the wife and children had some serious explaining to do about skewed payments made by the county government, which the county assembly believes were kickbacks running into millions of shillings.

So weighty are the MCAs' accusations against the Mohamud family that they claimed the county first lady was akin to the “Supreme Leader,” upon whose discretion lay the survival of senior technocrats in the county government.

“It is an open secret in Wajir County and far beyond that Mrs Kheira Omar is the supreme leader and it's always her way or the highway," Elnur-Tulatula MCA Abdullahi Issack told the Senate.

For Mohamud though, it is not just his integrity and career on the line – his family has been dragged into the murky world of politics – with his wife Kheria Omar, son Yusuf Mohammed Abdi and Daughter Ferhiya Mohammed key persons of interest.

As a reprieve, in its ruling on Wednesday, the House team declined to summon the family members but ordered that a fourth witness – businessman Osman Jibale – appear before the committee to shed more light on suspect payments to several of his companies and remittances allegedly made to the Mohamud family.

Jibale was, however, no show on Thursday, and was also unreachable on phone, when the assembly legal team attempted to call him.

Jibale, the MCAs claim is a distant nephew of the first lady – adding to governor Mohamud’s tribulations – as the 11-member team retreated to draft a report this weekend ahead of a likely tabling before the House tomorrow (Sunday).

Mohamud was impeached in a vote backed by 37 MCAs against 10. Among the charges facing the governor is a gross violation of the Constitution, corruption, abuse of office, poor service and gross misconduct.

The 11-member Senate team include Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Mwangi Githiomi (Nyandarua), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Godana Hargura (Marsabit) and Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira).

Others are Mithika Linturi (Meru), Fred Outa (Kisumu), Agnes Muthama (Machakos), Issa Juma (Kwale) and nominated Senators Petronilla Were and Christine Zawadi.

Mohamud has been in and out of court for the last three years having had his election challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.

The tumultuous start of Mohamud’s tenure as governor, would ironically, however, come to define his slightly over three years in power – fighting at the courts, and in the county assembly to remain in power – the climax of which is his current impeachment battle at the Senate.

When Justice Fred Mabeya quashed his election on January 12, 2018, there was a mix of celebration and uproar loaded in the clan and political undertones.

At the time, immediate former Governor Ahmed Abdulahi had petitioned the election on among other grounds electoral malpractice and Mohamud’s then alleged lack of a university degree, a requirement for all gubernatorial aspirants.

The Court of Appeal subsequently affirmed the nullification but at the Supreme Court, Mohamud recouped his seat.

Curiously – like classic echoes from the past, lawyer Ahmednassir Abdulahi was the same man that tormented his legal team up to the Supreme Court, while representing the former governor.

This week, Governor Mohamud told the Senate team: “I believe this impeachment is politically motivated with malice and witch-hunt.”  

Among critical defense witnesses, the governor called to the stand, was Wajir county acting secretary Abdulahi Hassan Maalim, who also accused the assembly of a political witch-hunts.

Maalim told the Senate team that Mohamud had worked extremely hard to improve service delivery in the county and denied claims of vacating his decision-making powers to his wife.

“I am not aware of the first lady being a member of the Executive Committee chairing any meetings. From 2018 to date, there is nowhere we have met the first faddy to discuss substantive matters of the county,” Maalim said.

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