By Protus Onyango
Education minister Mutula Kilonzo believes he is a more effective minister than the late Environment minister John Michuki.
The late Kangema MP was a no-nonsense minister who produced results in whichever ministry he served.
His most memorable accomplishment, however, was to knock sense into and streamline the matatu sector, which before he became Transport minister in 2003 was a byword for chaos and indiscipline.
By the time he died in February, the then Environment minister was widely regarded as the best performing, if controversial, member of the Cabinet.
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Now the equally controversial Mutula Kilonzo is not only out to inherit Mr Michuki’s mantle — he believes he can do even better.
In a candid exclusive interview with The County Weekly, Mr Kilonzo revealed that he recently told off Raila Odinga when the Prime Minister sought to have two senior education officers in Homa Bay County he had sacked over the Asumbi Girls Boarding School fire tragedy reinstated.
According to the Education minister, Mr Odinga wanted the officials reinstated pending investigations to establish the cause of the fire.
“I can’t let the Prime Minister micromanage my ministry. I will stick to my position and let the PM challenge me in court if he feels what I have done is not anchored in law. I know the law very well, having made history as the first East African to get a first class honours degree in law at Dar es Salaam University in 1974,” he boasts.
The Mbooni MP said he is guided by the law in everything he does and does not care what others think of his views.
He also revealed his ambition to run for the presidency at an appropriate time after serving Kenyans in his present capacity.
Asked whether he thinks he is the best performing minister and how he compares himself to Michuki, he said he is even better than the late Kangema MP.
Mr Kilonzo explained that although he admired Michuki, his style of working was different. He is consistent and a firmly believes in what the law says at whatever cost.
While Michuki was cracking the whip in the transport sector, Mr Kilonzo was minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Development.
Wasting tax payers’ money
He promised to make Nairobi River so clean he would take a swim in it. Ironically, the job of cleaning up the river fell on Michuki when he was appointed Environment minister.
Mr Kilonzo was transferred to the Justice ministry where he ruffled many feathers.
He occasionally differed publicly with President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues.
During a debate in Parliament to push for a local tribunal to try post-election violence suspects, Mr Kilonzo sensationally asked Kibaki and Raila to quit for failure to demonstrate leadership and whip MPs allied to their respective parties to support the local process.
Though a number of politicians and legislators do not agree with some of Mr Kilonzo’s positions, they admire his courage in voicing his opinions even when they contradict those of his seniors.
The minister continued to stoke more controversy after the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto to stand trial for the 2007/8 post-election violence.
He was the first to suggest that the two could not run for the presidency until ICC cleared them. He also called for Uhuru to resign as Deputy Prime Minister.
He next focused on his party boss, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka whom he condemned for wasting taxpayers’ money in a shuttle diplomacy aimed at having the Kenya cases at The Hague deferred.
Mr Mutula also lambasted the Vice President for supporting Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto in their presidential bids.
His stand angered Mr Musyoka’s supporters, who held press conferences to disown the minister’s position and called for his firing from the Cabinet.
As Justice Minister, he was adamant the General Election would not be held in August this year and drafted a Bill to legalise his position.
He was vindicated when a High Court ruling confirmed his position. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the General Election will be held on March 4 next year.
At clergy’s cross hairs
When the country was seething with indignation after students at Rwathia Secondary School rioted demanding shorter skirts, he became a subject of debate and ridicule when he publicly supported them.
The clergy had him in their cross hairs as well as teachers’ associations and parents who accused him of encouraging immorality among schoolgirls.
The clergy called on him to resign but he dismissed the calls, arguing that he was only advocating for students to wear uniforms they were comfortable in.
He, however, said that it was ridiculous to make young girls put on skirts reaching the ankles, which makes walking difficult.
Mr Kilonzo recently differed with teachers, parents and other education stakeholders when he outlawed holiday tuition in both public and private schools.
A fire tragedy that killed eight girls in Asumbi Girls Boarding School in Homa Bay County came hot on heels of the ban.
He subsequently ordered an inquiry into the tragedy and fired Homa Bay County Director of Education, Beatrice Asiango and the District Education Officer, William Okumu.