During the Global leadership summit held at CITAM Valley Road last year, an interviewer asked Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana whether he would vie for president in 2022. This is after a documentary had been shown displaying the integrity of the Gubernatorial Administrator. The Professor of Law, who also holds a Master’s in Theology was not sly in his response saying that he would retire to go home and be with his grandchildren.
This did not leave some satisfied as they desired the University of Nairobi Alumni to transmit his integrity and good development track record to the national political stage by via for the top office in the land. Raised in a humble upbringing the governor is truly a story of rags to riches, riches with integrity.
While young he freely admits of the hardships he went through as a person. “Lack of food in my father’s house really worried me. We used to have one meal of dry maize per day. Niliomba Mungu anisaidie niwe nikikula nishibe tumbo (I prayed that I may eat to my fill in future),” Kibwana told students gathered at Makueni Boys High School during a book donation exercise.
He added that his break came when he was admitted to Machakos Boys High School. “There we had a three-course meal. In the morning, we were served tea with buttered bread. I said ‘God, I can see you are answering my prayers!’” said Kibwana who recalled that he even refused to go home during half-term so as not to miss on the sumptuous school meals. “I later joined the University of Nairobi for a degree in law then went abroad for further studies before coming back to teach at the university. Again, food was in plenty,” said the governor whose wife, First Lady Nazi Kibwana spearheaded the donation through her Shina Foundation.
In his most recent stab in elective politics, the governor, in the run up to the 2017 elections dumped his own Muungano Party for Kalonzo Musyoka’s outfit in a move that shut off speculation that Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr, could be going for Kibwana’s seat. The governor, however, clarified that he was decamping to Wiper as an individual and that Muungano remained intact with bona fide officials.
In fact, Mutula Jr, also the Wiper vice chair, threw his weight behind Kibwana, arguing that the move would help Kalonzo consolidate his political backyard and hype stakes in national politics, in view of Kalonzo’s presidential ambition in the National Super Alliance (Nasa). Kalonzo welcomed the governor, saying that, “I need people like Kibwana in my fold,” since “he is a very respected name in this country; within the civil society, progressive forces and those who believe in true democracy. We have a governor who stands very tall.” Kalonzo boss said at Kambu market last Thursday.
Kibwana explained that he joined Wiper to support Kalonzo as “my supporters have given me the go-ahead. There is need to embolden the community to speak with one voice.” Mutula Jr earlier had beef with Kibwana concerning his direct nomination (even though that was part of the ‘negotiated democracy’) because that would have “denied other aspirants the legal right to contest on Wiper.” Others see Kibwana’s flirtations with Wiper as a windfall for a party that has been dogged by rebellion in its Ukambani stronghold, with some of its elected MPs defecting to Jubilee Party.
Kibwana signed a coalition framework which saw him get a direct Wiper nomination to defend his seat. Muungano and Wiper parties also later carried out joint nominations for other county seats with winning candidates getting the support of the losing team. The failure by Kibwana to dissolve Muungano caused jitters though, with Makueni County Assembly Majority Leader Francis Mutuku terming it “a time bomb” and the direct nomination as “suicidal for the Wiper party.”
The leader’s impeccable character was displayed in 2015 when the County Assembly tried to impeach for standing for the people’s needs as against their own greed. Majority Leader Francis Mutuku who led a group of Wiper MCAs in an attempt to impeach Kibwana in 2015. In a week that was dominated by the gripping drama of the ICC proceedings; the attempts to get to a clear understanding of how the Westgate massacre was perpetrated; the internecine struggles within the judiciary; and so much else; the resilience and fortitude of Prof Kibwana in defending the rights of the people was a beautiful glimmer of hope.
Prof Kibwana had threatened to resign – and by some accounts, had actually announced his resignation and was only waiting for the formality of putting it in writing – in the face of the demand by the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) that a large chunk of the county budget be dedicated to their emoluments and allowances. This led to a flurry of consultations, which ended in the MCAs backing down, and Prof Kibwana accepting to remain in office.
This act of leadership, shown in Prof Kibwana’s resolve that money intended for the provision of goods and services to the people of Makueni, should not be devoted to other purposes, is a matter of national significance. From the moment that the new county assemblies were constituted, the county reps have been completely focused on just one thing: how to greatly enhance their salaries and various perks.
In a way this is understandable. Kenya is still a country in which the average voter sees his elected representative, at any level, as a source of payment for school fees, medical bills, church and mosque fund-raisers, and many other incidental expenses. It is out of the pressure to provide for these – as well as to live more comfortable lives – that the MCAs have been agitating for more money.
However, they came into the job well aware of what the salary on offer was. An as it happens, they can only get this money at the expense of the ordinary people of their counties. Prof Kibwana thus far, is the only leader who has shown a willingness to confront the excessive demands of the MCAs. This was an act of exceptional courage which other governors should emulate.