Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu strongly believes that former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka should join Azimio la Umoja because the people of Ukambani want to be in the next government.
She does not see the Wiper Democratic Party getting more than 1.6 million votes if he runs for President on the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) ticket.
And that figure can only be realised if every voter in Ukambani voted for him in the 2022 presidential elections, which is highly unlikely.
She also has no doubt that Deputy President William Ruto will lose the August presidential elections to Raila Odinga because “a majority of Kenyans” do not trust him.
Having been the first presidential candidate from Ukambani in 1997 and got just about 500,000, she argues that a majority of those votes were from the Kamba community.
She further argues that when Kalonzo ran in 2007, he got slightly over 800,000 votes 10 years after her bid because of the population growth factor, which is almost the same percentage she received in 1997.
Having received just 9 per cent of the vote in 2007, Ngilu’s calculation is that because of the increase of that vote since then, Kalonzo will realistically get just over one million votes this time.
“What has changed? Has he engaged other communities? Has he increased the numbers? The answer is No and therefore unless he wishes to remain at that level and get only one million votes then he must join a coalition that is going to help our people,” says Ngilu.
She added: “I can tell you without an iota of doubt our people do not wish at all to be in the opposition and they can see where the government is going to be.”
Although her call to Kalonzo is that he should “join the winning team” she wishes him well if he decides to go it alone because the three governors in Ukambani, Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), and herself have already agreed to work to rally the people into the Azimio Movement.
Ngilu describes Kalonzo as a good leader, just like herself, Kibwana and Mutua, and believes that consensus can be reached among them on positions they can go for in Azimio.
But is there a realistic chance of the three governors and the Wiper leader working together in Azimio?
Her answer is: “It depends on what other people want but I can tell you that I have been in talks with the governors and agreed to tell our people that we have to be in government.”
What about the position Kalonzo should get if he decides to join them? The governor says he should be ready to serve in any capacity with humility just as she is ready to do.
She argues that a good leader can serve in any position be it governor, senator, leader of the majority in parliament, Cabinet Secretary, and Speaker among others.
“Hii kiburi ati (This arrogance that) unless I’m President, Deputy President is not okay. I can still serve as Senator, Woman Rep among others because these are positions of service,” says Ngilu.
She supports consensus in nomination because it is sometimes good for people to sit and agree on what each wants to be especially when a region has a group of strong leaders.
Her argument is that although it is good to have competition, the strength in leadership is for people to agree, Kalonzo included because there are many positions that they can play with.
She does not support Deputy President William Ruto because of what she describes as his poor reform credentials.
“Where was he when we were fighting against the Kanu single-party dictatorship? Was he not deeply rooted in the status quo and fighting to entrench it through the rogue Youth for Kanu 92 group?” asks Ngilu.
She says Ruto does not know what he is talking about when he talks about safeguarding democracy and freedom.
That is because he was nowhere when young people and pro-reform university students were in the streets fighting to free themselves and other Kenyans from bad governance.
“He was working against them and even after he had become MP, he opposed the enactment of the new constitution in 2005 and in 2010, meaning that he does not know what Kenyans were fighting for,” says Ngilu.
She also blames him for opposing the BBI initiative to change the Constitution in 2020 which she argues could have given counties more resources and that from perspective again means he does not know what Kenyans want.
She traces her relationship with Raila to around 1990 when the country was fighting for change and then after she joined parliament in 1992 as the MP for Kitui Central on a Democratic Party (DP) ticket.
She was among five vocal women who were elected to Parliament in that election others being Martha Karua (DP), Agnes Ndetei (DP), Phoebe Asiyo (Ford Kenya), and Mary Wanjiru (Ford Asili).
“We had very strong opposition at that time with the likes of Paul Muite, Karua, James Orengo, and Raila among many others and that is when I became close to the ODM leader,” says Ngilu.
She strongly believes Raila is going to be the next President because his 10 point agenda is about assisting people.
She says the social protection agenda where Raila seeks to empower the poor through the payment of Sh6,000 is a good thing because it is going to reduce poverty levels in the country.
She also supports his policy of job creation, industrialisation, equality among marginalised groups like women, and fair distribution of resources among communities.
She also believes him when he says he will put money where it matters to start manufacturing projects in the counties and also put more resources in rural areas for agriculture and water.
Ngilu argues that Kenya needs more resources to develop people skills so that they work for themselves and create employment and also produce and sell goods both locally, in the region, and on the international market.
She also believes Raila will actualise food security in the country because poverty cannot be eradicated and wealth generated when people are hungry.
Those are some of the issues she will articulate at her National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (Narc) party NDC slated for Nairobi on Friday next week.
We talked to Ngilu about her political journey, the August elections, and why she is backing Raila.
How did you find yourself in politics?
I was not interested in politics because I was a businesswoman in Machakos until Prof Maria Nzomo told me to run for a seat of MP in Kitui Central when I attended one of her meetings at YMCA in Nairobi which I reluctantly agreed.
What should we expect from the narc NDC on Friday, February 18th?
A. We will spell out what is in our party manifesto, a lot more on social democracy, and the issues that we expect the Azimio government to address using available resources to make Kenya a better country.
Tell us a little bit more on key issues that you will address?
I will look at the four factors of production labour, capital, land, and technology and insist that they can only be properly harnessed through sound and accountable leadership because we need a strong CEO to ensure they work for the benefit of the people.
Why are you so passionate about a Raila presidency?
It is because we have said Ukambani people will never, never again be in the opposition. We want to be in a government that understands our needs.
How can that be realized when you have these ongoing competing interests in ukambani politics.
No seat should be reserved for anybody? It is about the people and not the me, I and myself style of politics advanced by other people.
Each of one us has their own space, there is no space that we are competing for.
Governor Kibwana says those joining Azimio now are welcome but they should respect the early birds. Is that also your position?
There is no much choice that we have because it is Azimio and Raila who will be the next president of Kenya and that is what we expect from those coming to support.
Given the high octane campaigns going on the country, what do you expect after august this year?
I can see there is going to be smooth handover because people have appreciated the relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila.
From this toxic relationship between the president and his deputy, do you foresee a smooth handover should Ruto win?
Kenyans will elect a person who respects others. I don’t see Kenyans electing a person who does not respect his boss. They will ask, If I give him my vote as a small person, will he respect me if he cannot respects his boss?
What are some of the issues that should be urgently addressed by the next government?
Ask yourself why government is involved in the school feeding programme. If a mother has six children and only two go to school what are the other four and the family eating.
We should talk about how to ensure that every house hold has enough food so that children can carry to school and not the government making itself the provider and entrenching poverty.
How can women and young people be empowered?
Young people are on the streets selling counterfeits but we need to give them small nice tools so that they can produce these things. Women who are selling bananas the whole day in the sun and throwing most of them away when they go bad should also be empowered to do sustainable business.
What direct interventions can the government make now?
We are buying furniture for the national and counties governments and even in our homes from China and other places, yet in industrial area, Githurai, Dagoreti, the whole of Nairobi, young people are making extremely good furniture. That can be stopped with a stroke of a pen.
What unfinished business will you deal with in Kitui, if you are re-elected as governor?
I have come up with projects that have helped the people make their own money using the resources that we have in Kitui.
We had been coming to buy construction materials like ballast, and building stones here in Nairobi, but we bought our own crusher that has helped us to make our roads and construction.
We have started small industries like making shoes, we make detergents, pharmaceuticals, sanitizers, spirit and formalin all made in Kitui by our own people.
We also have the largest garment manufacturing industry at the Kitui County Textile Centre employing 700 people and we are opening another branch at Mutomo next Saturday.
These are projects we are going to protect and open more because we now have a very good Kitui- Mwingi-Mutomo road that connects us to Upper Eastern and Mombasa road where we can send goods to the sea for export.
How do you think the Mt Kenya factor will impact on the 2022 elections?
In politics, you always say these are our numbers that we are bringing we on the table. And the question therefore is if I put that in the basket what will you give me?
What lessons have you learned in politics?
That teamwork is key because that is what helped us form the Narc government when we began discussing on how to work together because the top seat was only one and arising out of that we agreed to come together in the month of October 2002.
What is the best moment of your political career?
It was when we formed the Narc government because I saw a freer moment for Kenyans. They were relieved because they had been carrying a very heavy load and had put it off their backs. Kenyans truly felt happy indeed.
How did president Kibaki manage to win that election?
President Kibaki also did a lot of work under very difficult circumstances but remember he worked with very experienced people.