Coronation: One on one with National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi
By Wainaina Ndung'u
| May 22nd 2021
From a magistrate, opposition MP and now Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi says he will join a party or form his own at the right time
Q: Mr Speaker, you have had a 30-year political journey so far and one of your closest political allies is heading to retirement. Many would have expected you to bow out with him but clearly that's not in your mind. Or is it?
I have enjoyed a beautiful career for the last three decades. From a remarkable career in the Judiciary, making a political debut before I was 40 years and failing miserably but living to try again and again. When I look back, I appreciate and count my blessings. My leadership journey has had its ups and downs. And even as the 12th Parliament comes to an end next year, I look forward to assume any other leadership position that may come my way. All my closest allies share the same spirit as we are all looking forward to exiting at the end of our constitutional term limits. That, however, does not mean that we will be heading to retirement or some house of senior citizens. I am energetic enough and intellectually alert to take up any role.
Q: You have been a magistrate, a government-side MP, an opposition MP and now Speaker of National Assembly. What is the biggest political lesson you have learned so far?
My single most cherished lesson remains one of national unity. I have lived through tumultuous times and seen how fragile national unity can be. This hard lesson has driven me to commit to ensuring that I promote national unity in everything I do. I continue to do that in the august House and I am committed to ensuring all Kenyans enjoy the fruits of their labour and that there is fairness, equity and equality. I aspire to ensure the voice of the Pokomo representative is heard as loudly as that of the Kikuyu constituency representative. Equal opportunity is what has seen me ascend to the Speaker’s office, notwithstanding my heritage from the minority Mbeere community. Another lesson is that in politics no one should assume they have seen it all just yet.
Q: You have so far received the support of the Mbeere, Embu and Meru elders and on course to get that of the Kikuyu. But these are just elders when youth constitute majority of voters. What are we missing?
For now, you are missing nothing. I need to contextualise the recent developments. My decoration by the Meru Council of Elders was not solicited but earned. The elders, in their wisdom, reached out through their representatives to confirm that they had silently assessed and unanimously voted to decorate me to that coveted position. Several consultations on the same were also undertaken with Mbeere elders, and I believe I did pass the due diligence test for them to decorate me at the Nchiru shrine. For me, this was an honour beyond my wildest imagination. This weekend, Mt Kenya West elders have also invited me for almost a similar event at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga.
I appreciate every recognition that I receive, and I will proudly don on my hat. For me, these decorations are priceless personal marks of honour, almost like battlefield insignias in the military. They undoubtedly complement my other awards, including my Elder of the Golden Heart decoration by the Head of State. I am truly grateful. Beyond this context, if I elect to pursue electoral office once I retire from the National Assembly next year, you can be sure that I will try to live up to this high expectation placed upon me and reach out to the various voter constituencies in the country.
Q: Are we likely to see you reach out to other elders’ councils outside Mt Kenya?
Several Councils of Elders beyond Mt Kenya have reached out but I would not like to talk about that at this point. All I can say is that I cannot decline invitations by my elders whether in the Coast, Northeastern, Nyanza or even Western. I am delighted that my foundation as an elder has been firmly laid in my home region, which allows me to accept other decorations from far and wide. Indeed, charity has begun at home for me.
Q: On the Mt Kenya kingpin contention, you are surely a late entrant in a crowded field. What is the different thing you are bringing?
As mentioned above, I am not an entrant in any crowded field. I am a serving Speaker of the National Assembly who has been celebrated and accorded the high honour of elder by my community guardians and others. This recognition comes with very personal obligations but I can confirm to you that I am up to the task and will play my rightful role as expected of me by the community at home and beyond.
Q: In our tribalised politics, you come from one of Mt Kenya's smallest vote bloc. How will you convince the whole region to stand behind you?
My conscience is very clear. I have been accorded these honours because of my national leadership skills. My tribal heritage has not been an impediment, and this speaks of political and anthropological maturity.
Q: Bearing in mind that the BBI reforms might just not happen after the High Court jolt, what exactly are you aiming for nationally?
My options are open. However, these options will be heavily dependent on several considerations, including engagements and consultations with several stakeholders. Several proposals have been placed on my laps and I will conscientiously consider them all when that time comes.
Q: You are not strategically placed in any political party for now, at least not directly. How will you navigate that eventually?
Service to Kenyans is my primary and most important focus. The welfare of our people and their unity defines my purpose. The rest follow. The issue of the party is not the most urgent right now. At the end of my National Assembly tour of duty as Speaker, I will join or found a political party that espouses an ideology aligned to my beliefs. Even without running for public office, I have my political inclinations that I hold dear that I would like to champion through a party for national development. The lessons and experience gained as chairman of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy and in the National Assembly deserve to be utilised in party leadership or advisory role.
Q: You are or were close to the two Jubilee principals who most Kenyans believe have fallen out irreconcilably. How do you see this affecting your future political trajectory?
I am still close to the Jubilee principals and that’s not in doubt. I do not believe there has been an irreconcilable fallout. Political unions are just like marriage. They have ups and downs, difficult and joyous moments. After the honeymoon, both parties have to focus on steadying their boats the best way possible.
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