After debacle, a chance for Uhuru to reboot Cabinet

By: MURITHI MUTIGA

The legendary American military general Colin Powell is also an eminently quotable management guru.

After leaving office following a distinguished career, he issued a few lessons in leadership, one of which would have served President Uhuru Kenyatta well in the crisis that has consumed his administration.

“Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.”

When news of the scandal at the National Youth Service first broke, it was clear that the claims of misappropriation facing the political leadership of the scheme that has benefited from lavish budgetary allocations under the Jubilee administration were extremely serious.

The loss of close to a billion shillings was evidently something not to be dismissed lightly.

Yet where the wiser path may have been to hold fire and assess the situation, State House chose to come out fighting.

DENY, DENY, DENY

The approach they opted for was simple: deny, deny, deny.

On June 25, the President’s communication team issued a statement with the notorious line that no money had been lost.

The Opposition was the culprit, State House said. “The issue of Sh826 million has been twisted in order to execute a well-choreographed scheme.”

The drip-drip stream of allegations that swiftly followed showed that this position was not tenable.

Evidence of tender rigging on a level of rare crudity came to the surface in a series of media revelations.

The fact that those that had put their snouts in the National Youth Service feeding trough were in panic mode was evident in the duelling briefings they gave to the media to point accusing fingers at fellow top ministry officials, yielding a treasure trove of information.

WAIGURU’S OUSTER

Like a shark scenting blood, the Opposition eagerly sought to take advantage of the crisis with Cord leader Raila Odinga volubly demanding Ms Waiguru’s ouster.

This probably deepened President Kenyatta’s determination to resist the inevitable, although it also meant that he was drawn into the mire.

The President, Mr Odinga said, needed to be listed as a “critical and essential witness” in the suit in which Ms Waiguru had sued the former Prime Minister for slander.

In the end, it was probably not the Opposition pressure to which the President buckled but the simple fact that even his core constituency found his baffling determination to stick by the embattled Cabinet Secretary indefensible.

KICKED OUT FOR PLANTING POTATOES

In the Rift Valley the question arose: how could a minister from the region be ousted for allegedly planting potatoes on government land, yet Ms Waiguru against whom serious claims of loss of funds had been made seemed untouchable?

An even more insistent cry went up among MPs from Mt Kenya, bravely led by Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando, arguing that Ms Waiguru was a liability and was losing the ruling coalition crucial support.

There may be a silver lining to the cloud that hangs over Jubilee.

It is commonly accepted that President Kenyatta, distracted by the case at The Hague and perhaps hobbled by his own inexperience, picked a Cabinet that was exceedingly underwhelming and which requires a significant reboot.

The exit of Ms Waiguru offers a chance to start anew with a fresh, focused and energetic executive leadership team.

If he needs any advice, he could probably turn to General Powell who, while conceding that “command is lonely” and leadership is not easy, had some choice words about the type of people to surround yourself with.

“Look for intelligence and judgment and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done.”

SOURCE: DAILY NATION