Juja constituency has interesting social-political dynamics; to begin with, Juja is the most populous constituency in Kiambu and was once the second most populous nation after Embakasi.
Before further demarcation, it bordered Nairobi to the South, Machakos to the East and Murang’a to the North. In essence, it played a delicate custodial role to the Kenyatta family land and business interests as well as being the most commercially vibrant. Hon. Stephen Dichu was the first opposition M.P. of this constituency and it is the same constituency, Hon. William Kabogo used as a launch pad for his gubernatorial bid.
Now, Ndichu has an intriguing political career and it all has to do with how he became MP. The former legislator was a lowly ward aspirant until the day when the face of fortune smiled his way, or so he thought. According to Irungu Thatia is his biography of the current president that carries the title “Hard Tackle”, Hon. Ndichu was a newspaper correspondent who desired to ride on the political wave of the season. It was in the early nineties and the country was going through political renaissance characterized by bloody street protests, exiles, and detentions preceded by mock trials.
The agitations eventually bow fruit and this ushered in a new season of political pluralism. Winds of change were sweeping through the country as new political formations emerged to challenge the incumbent ruling party. One of the front running parties was FORD Asili, a splinter from the original FORD, whose aspirations were captured in the person of the fiery Hon. Ken Matiba, now deceased, its presidential flagbearer and financier in chief.
During its party nominations for the 1992 general elections, Ndichu rode to the venue atop a motorbike as a symbol his proletarian status to present his papers as the nominee for Juja Ward representative. Incidentally, no one had expressed interest in vying for the parliamentary seat on a FORD Asili ticket to take on George Muhoho, a maternal uncle to the current President, running on a DP ticket.
It must have been an oversight on the part of other aspirants who felt Muhoho with a piece of well-oiled campaign machinery, political pedigree, entrenched business interests, and a formidable opposition party ticket was figuratively on a casual walk to parliament. At the very last moment, Ndichu switched from ward rep aspirant to Member of Parliament aspirant and went on to enjoy a landslide win over the more seasoned Muhoho, financial disadvantage notwithstanding.
Unfortunately, the victory party would be short-lived as more experienced and affluent politicians saw their folly and completely annihilated the political greenhorn in future contests. At some point, he ventured into full-time ministry probably to make peace with his maker over his short-lived political fortunes. Perhaps the gods heard his pleas as he recently made it back to public life after being elected as speaker of the Kiambu County Assembly. The current Governor of Kiambu Hon. Ferdinand Waititu has a somewhat similar history and may have had a soft spot for Ndichu having graduated from ward politics himself upon the death of newly elected M.P for Embakasi in early 2008 which prompted a by-election in which Waititu won.
Similarly, in the news recently was the story of a national football team player implicated in a match-fixing scandal. According to the story, Harambee Stars defender George Owino Audi was found culpable in a FIFA initiated the match-fixing investigation. Through association, established from his constant email correspondence with a well-known international match fixer, Owino is alleged to have pocked millions of shillings in bribes to throw away Kenya national team matches. These revelations have caused uproar across the sports fraternity in the country.
Honestly, I understand Owino’s predicament as an aging player in a sport that has had more poor runs than good ones. In Kenyan fashion, when a national team has had a good international run, funfair akin to those of political homecoming receptions complete with traditional dancers with national media in tow are organized at the airport. Sports officials and sometimes politicians are also available to receive the team and sometimes usher them to a government-sponsored reception party. This elaborate circus can be carried on for years until the same team returns not so favorable results, the subsequent love affair fallout is instant as the same players arrive quietly with only family and friends to receive them. Little effort is placed upon establishing the cause of poor results or in developing systems to sustain good performance. Once the limelight shifts, the publicity opportunists shift with it.
This is the world of opportunism and it runs across not just through politics and sports but in business circles as well. The case to have received the most prominence in the recent past was that of Smith and Ouzman Ltd., a British security printing company with major business interests in Africa. In the words of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Smith and Ouzman Ltd. together with its chairman, Christopher Smith and its marketing manager, Nicholas Smith, were convicted of corruptly agreeing to make payments totally nearly half a million pounds. These payments were used to influence the award of business contracts in Kenya and Mauritania.
In the eyes of George Owino and the supporting cast in this high drama, the line between opportunism and opportunity is so thin that’s it very likely that one will cross it unknowingly. In the world of opportunism especially, it is not the best that win and herein lies the real cost. There are numerous stories of great ideas being buried in red tape, intellectual property being stolen and bribes being demanded in exchange for contracts. It seems as if our economy is running on adulterated fuel of vices that have been mainstreamed through systemic complacency.
Long-term costs of using adulterated fuel far outstrip the temporary reprieve of lower running costs. The capital expenditure for replacing a failing national engine is one that we cannot afford to bear. While we kill innovation by condoning counterfeits and rewarding students for regurgitation rather than creation or replacing critical thinkers with sycophants, the rest of the world is taking note. Like the political opponents of Hon. Stephen Ndichu in Juja constituency, the real heavyweights of the enterprise are quietly gathering at our capital, the last few retail chains to have scaled down or closed shop all together have promptly been replaced by multinationals. The devious acts of Smith and Ouzman were rewarded by a fine totaling almost 300 million Kenya Shillings for having given kickbacks worth 65 million Shillings. At this conversion rate when payback time finally comes knocking, only the gods will save us.