The announcement by President Kibaki that cabinet minister Charity Ngilu had been ‘relieved of her duties’ ostensibly for throwing her weight behind ODM presidential candidate speaks volumes about misuse of executive power by successive Heads of State in Kenya. It reminds Kenyans of the circus that occurred in KANU during the last months of President Moi’s rule where cabinet ministers and vice president were sacked and replaced because they failed to endorse Moi’s choice of successor after his retirement. Moi’s actions then led to the formation of the Rainbow Alliance and eventually the NARC coalition that defeated Uhuru Kenyatta with Mwai Kibaki as its candidate. Could history be repeating itself? It definitely is.
The sacking was relayed to newsrooms from State House Nakuru, about an hour after the huge ODM rally. The statement was silent on the fate of other GNU defectors still serving in Cabinet like Dr. Enoch Kibunguchi and Samuel Moroto – who are both assistant ministers for health and education respectively.
I consider the sacking of Mrs. Ngilu as ill advised and that which may have been instigated by one of those many individuals accompanying the president in Nakuru and arrogating themselves presidential political advisors. Considering Mrs. Ngilu was a major and founder player in the formation of NAK and NARC coalitions and was in cabinet by right, her sacking is bound to be counter productive in this election year because it is in actual sense a heavy slap in the face of the large women constituency, and a big betrayal of the NARC dream that many Kenyans held dear in 2002. The thunderous welcome that Ngilu was accorded at ODM’s rally at Uhuru Park last Saturday and demands for her to address the crown showed that Kenyan’s still consider this lady a major political force nationally. That begs the question: Is the sacking of Mrs. Ngilu bound to add or subtract votes for
If the president was a man who respects democracy and is keen on building his statesman credentials, then he could have simply ignored Mrs. Ngilu who, like all of us, retains the democratic freedom to back the candidate of her choice. In any case, she did clearly explain her reasons for backing Raila with valid points.
With Martha Karua the only woman remaining in cabinet, it is certain that Kibaki will use the vacant health ministry to make an appointment that will be intended to woo a community into his fragile coalition. My hunch is that the President’s choice will be a woman and he may choose to re-appoint Mrs. Linah Kilimo to appease voters in Rift Valley, or promote Dr. Naomi Shabaan – who was subject of controversial remarks against the US Ambassador – to woo voters from the coast. It is unlikely that Beth Mugo, Wangari Maathai or Betty Tett will be considered as replacements for Mrs. Ngilu by the mere fact they are from the Presidents own ethnic community.
As if Ngilu’s support for Raila is not enough headache for PNU, three separate opinion polls commissioned by the Nation media Group this week and relased today show that Raila is increasing his lead over Kibaki and Kalonzo. Word on the street in Nairobi indicate that NSIS, which has too many leakages in recent days, have placed Raila’s lead at between 60% - 64%, while Kibaki is at 29% and Kalonzo at 5%. If these polls are anything to go by, then it seems these general elections will be a matter of formality as far as the presidential seat is concerned and Raila Odinga is already being touted as the fourth president of Kenya.