The thrusting into political leadership of Mwai Kibaki was an ingenious act that saw the country make monumental strides towards development.
His leadership potential was first noted by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga after he went through a written political strategy document in Uganda in the late 1950s.
History has it that Jaramogi had travelled to the neighbouring country to meet a friend Dr Milton Obote, the politician who led his country to independence and became Prime Minister in 1962 before becoming the first President shortly after.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga hand
It is here that he got a chance to go through Uganda’s People Congress party manifesto that impressed him only to realize that Kibaki, a youthful Kenyan was the brain behind the document upon inquiry from Dr. Obote.
Without much ado, he fetched for him from here, where he was working as an assistant economics lecturer at Makerere University to return home to help build Kenya’s independence party Kenya African National Union (KANU) that was formed in 1960.
Off the long journey to world of politics began, where until the climax of it in 2013 earned himself praises and admiration from some quarters and hatred and vilification in others.
Start of Kibaki’s political career
Tonnes of information have been written about this and are available with a click of a button, but some interesting bits may have escaped the attention of those who, and with much effort have in the past worked to compile.
A former top Security advisor to President Kibaki for two years from 2002 to 2004 Esau Kioni comes in handy to bring to light missing links by offering, among other details, how Kibaki was picked as vice president by President Daniel Moi.
Kioni, who, before rising to this post served as a spy in different ranks under the dreaded but defunct special branch says that Moi, in order to fill the slot was looking for an intelligent person who would, besides helping him to undertake official duties, aide him in spreading his ideology for political influence in Mount Kenya region and it was internally known that he had Dr. Julius Gikonyo Kiano in mind according to Kioni.
Gikonyo vs Kibaki
But tables were to later be turned through an intelligent meeting that was held in one of the top spies residents in Nairobi where it was agreed that Kibaki was the most suitable person, who could over and above all official duties oversee unity in Gikuyu nation and even beyond and a mission was launched to convince Moi.
This is how Kibaki through intense lobbying by men of influence was picked to fill the post of VP, thus slumming the door for elitist Kiano. The rest is history.
The former spy says that this was no mean achievement given that a sizeable number of the top spies in the country then viewed Kibaki as a communist alongside nationalist Jaramogi and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and it was therefore not easy to convince Moi to pick him.
Kibaki the President
As he rose to become President, Kioni remembers Kibaki as a person whose keenness to details is yet to be matched by many in the sense that he was able to keep record of anything and everything he had an interest in.
“We used to hold discussions on various topics both formally and informally in presence of Kibaki and he would on a different forum, even a month later remind you of what you talked of,” he says.
It is a no brainer that he was habitually uncommunicative in character, and this made people confuse this with cowardice and indecisiveness but Kioni says that this was not a personal trait only manifested in public but in guarded forums crucial to matters of national security as well.
He remembers how during one morning breakfast with President Kibaki which was attended by his confidants and the security top brass, a heated topic was introduced by a security personnel on controlling and taming former Prime Minister Raila Odinga whose political activities were viewed as a threat to national security.
He says that the debate continued with a deafening silence from the President who sat through the meeting sipping his tea as he listened. The debate was that Raila ought to be tamed by first barring him from organising and addressing political gatherings around the country and as well curtail his freedom of movement.
But as this continued and at the tail end of the chat and with a conclusive position to be taken, Kibaki dismissed them all by saying in swahili that ‘hakuna kitu kama hio‘ which meant nothing of the sort can be done.
He instructed them to let Raila be by letting him continue with his political activities uninterrupted, adding that this is the only way the state can get to know about what is in his mind and his plans as well. “Mtu asipoongea tutajua anafikiria nini? Si kuna uhuru wa kuongea na kutembea?” Kibaki asked.