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Jimi Wanjigi: From backroom deal maker to politician

Presidential hopeful Jimi Wanjigi when he was installed as a Luo elder at Oyugis in Homa Bay county on February 13, 2022. [James Omoro, Standard]

Before 2017 few people nationally knew what the Safina presidential candidate Mr Jimi Wanjigi aka “James Bond” looked like.

He is a man whose influence in the chess game of power making had only been whispered from the days of President Mwai Kibaki government.

Today, Mr Wanjigi seeks to be cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the first stab at the presidency.

Mr Wanjigi’s journey to being a presidential candidate has not been easy, especially having started off by fighting internal democracy in his former party ODM.

He considers himself a change maker, the only presidential candidate who understands the “forest and the monkeys” enough to “uproot the painful, post-colonial systemic economic shackles that Kenyans have been burdened with for over 50 years of poor fiscal policies, debilitating debt, grand theft, and a lack of care for citizens’ sovereignty.” “That is the Itwika (generation change) message. The forest is bad. The monkeys are bad. This change needs a fearless leader to fight for Kenyans and I am that leader,” Mr Wanjigi has promised. He says this time around voters should play their role of kingmakers.

One of the things that give him sleepless nights, he says, is the state of the economy: “When Kibaki left, we had a debt of Sh1.8 trillion. We have increased this by almost Sh1 trillion every year to Sh8.4 trillion, yet our poverty rate has doubled from 38 per cent to now 63 per cent according to Kippra. How can anyone defend that? Does it make any sense? Is it logical?”

Mr Wanjigi credits his entry into politics to when he worked with his uncle, former Minister Kenneth Matiba. As an alumnus of St Mary’s School, he was friends with the sons of previous presidents who he went with to school. 

He helped negotiate and broker a peace deal between Dr William Ruto and now President Uhuru Kenyatta on behalf of the two main warring communities after the disputed 2008 elections.

This, he says, should have been an Epoch in Kenya’s political history. “Kenya had just come from a very difficult post-election period that put us on the international crimes map. We had also promulgated a new constitution and the baby boomer generation had a chance to take over from their fathers and steer this country through healing and prosperity. It was to be a big turning point for Kenya,” says Mr Wanjigi.

But what did he want in return? He says all he asked for was repentance from the UhuRuto duo and economic prosperity for Kenyans. “They let us down.”

He regrets what he witnessed after a year of Jubilee government: “The illegalities and positioning for wanton looting of Kenya started right away. They even amended the PFM laws to enable them to do this. My conscience would not allow me to stand by and watch silently.”

He backed ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga in the next election cycle and with a few friends blew the whistle on the inflated SGR contract from an initial cost of Sh55 billion (Mombasa to Malaba) to Sh350 billion (Mombasa to Nairobi).

He says he shone the spotlight on a $1 billion Eurobond and was a key party in providing evidence to the Supreme Court Petition in 2017 that led to the cancellation of the presidential election.

Mr Wanjigi was at the swearing-in of Mr Odinga as the Peoples President in pursuit of NASA’s “Canaan” dream. “On this journey to State House, Raila abandoned us with a handshake agreement in which the people of Kenya were left out, but his personal interest was covered,” he says.

“Many people would agree that it is far more rewarding, effective and exciting to be the kingmaker than to try to put yourself on the throne. But the best kings were kingmakers first and will always be kingmakers because these are the ones that better the country they lead,” he says.

One of his promises is to create one job per household (13 million). “We also promise one fee, one license, and one tax for micro and small enterprises as a way of stimulating growth and making easy the way of business at the base,” he notes.

He has also vowed to return the performance tracking and incentivise to bring efficiencies in government. 

Mr Wanjigi has also promised to redefine basic education and emphasise communications and critical thinking at the foundations of education and not at the tertiary level. 

His running mate is 39-year-old lawyer Mr Willis Otieno.