As the Governor of Nairobi – Kenya’s most populous and richest county as well as the country’s seat of power – the 57-year old trained pharmacist easily ranks as the first-among-equals in the pecking order of the new breed of political honchos partitioned in powerful compartments curved by the current constitution. Perceived as wealthy, the suave and thoroughly-networked politically speaking – Kidero is today the talk in many homesteads. Right from his native Nyanza region to Kenya’s capital city as well as across the political spectrum in the 47 counties, Kidero is a compelling agendum in most informal conversations.
He holds the enviable position from which he is, as per his word and deed, a bossom friend of Kenya’s top two chief political nemeses – President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and his key challenger in the last March 4 presidential contest, former Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga. That has ruffled feathers quite a bit. Evans Odhiambo Kidero is a man in a catch-22 situation. He is is viewed in his birth place as having embarked on a political oddyssey through which he wants to erect a strong foundation for his future politics. He will one morning host a relaxed President Kenyatta for a cup of tea after the Head of State has just sauntered from his Harambee House office into the Governor’s office at City Hall. Yet on another morning, he will be with Raila, the man whose victory supporters maintain was tilted in favour of Uhuru in last year’s race to State House.
In response to frequent media probity, Kidero has consistently given a familiar line: “We are buddies with Raila” and “as a Governor I must have a working relationship with the national government of the day.” However, pundits read more than meets the eye in his every word and deed. Hitherto best known for his managerial astuteness in the private sector, mumblings and rumblings have not stopped since he won the gubernatorial seat that hosts Kenya’s principal town and 60 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Cut to size The political manoeuvres of the Nairobi Governor have led to speculation: Has he set his eyes on the foremost national chief executive’s position – the presidency – ? Is he a possible Uhuru running-mate in 2018 if, by any streak of imagination, the rapprochement between the president and his Deputy William Ruto, for one reason or another, fizzles out by next elections? Is this the man strategically placed to stop Raila in his tracks in their Nyanza home political base? Will Kidero rise, not only to take over the leadership of ODM from Raila, but also cut to size the dominance of the Jaramogi family in Luo Nyanza politics? Is there an ominous powerful hand lurking behind Kidero’s political strategic positioning? Only time will provide concrete answers to these questions, though political spooks are on the trail noting and analysing each and every step that the Nairobi Governor makes and every word he utters.
That notwithstanding, Kidero has, of late, made frequent forays into Nyanza where, what he himself has described as “development agenda” continue to raise mammoth curiosity. He teams up with Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno – a former powerful minister for industry in the Kanu regime of retired President Daniel arap Moi. Both Kidero and Dalmas have elected to stick to the “development” theme. However, recent remarks attributed to the former minister could explain the attempt to tilt the political scales in Luo Nyanza from the grip of the Jaramogi family, beginning with the carving off of South Nyanza from the stranglehold of Odinga family whose word and deed hold sway in the so-called Central Nyanza.
A fortnight ago, Dalmas was quoted as telling members of the Luo community to climb Ng’iya Hills, which separate the south and central Nyanza folds, and compare the glaring development differences on both sides, meaning that the most southerly part of the former Nyanza province (comprising Homabay, Migori and Kisii counties) has more to write home about in contrast to the central region (Siaya and Kisumu counties), stuck under the militant, if anti-development, political armpit of the Jaramogi family. That Kidero is causing ripples is not in doubt. Last month, when Raila prematurely left a function hosted by Kidero at the City Hall to mark Kenya’s 50 years of independence and at which President Uhuru was present, rumour quickly filtered out through sections of the media that the former premier “walked out” because he felt slighted by the Governor. And the beef was that Kidero had ‘dumped’ him in the commoners’ arena to sit with the hoi polloi while Kidero, Uhuru and other dignitaries occupied the high table. It took the two gentlemen to publicly refute the claims a day after.
But that was not all. Around Christmas, politicians from Luo Nyanza suspicious, if not wary, of Kidero’s style of politics converged at Raila’s rural home in Bondo to discuss Kidero. But the cat is out of the bag. Dalmas and Ndhiwa MP Agostino Neto, say time has come for a paradigm shift in Nyanza politics, a thinly veiled jibe at Raila in particular and the Jaramogi family in general. Today, Kidero is the undisputed political supremo in Luo Nyanza after Raila. He is looking to stand on shifting sands that Raphael Tuju, James Orengo, Shem Ochuodho and Anyang’ Nyong’o have previously failed. Mboya’s footsteps The question is, will he manage? Interestingly, Kidero is married to Dr Susan Mboya, daughter of independence hero Tom Mboya. She is a senior sales executive with Coca-Cola company in charge of Asia and Africa.
Apparently, Kidero is walking in Mboya’s footsteps. Like Mboya and Raila before him, Kidero chose Nairobi as the launching pad for his political career. From that vintage point, he is, again like Mboya and Raila, erecting a firm political base back home while successfully portraying himself as a cosmopolitan figure devoid of tribal inhibitions. While questions abound as to whether Kidero is really meeting the targets he set in he is campaign manifesto, amid rising heaps of garbage, sewerage filth and myriad other issues ranging from his alleged slapping of Nairobi Women’s representative Rachel Shebesh, he is a key player in Kenya’s political arena.
Those who know the immediate former Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) managing director describe him as a vastly knowledgeable personality who thinks on his feet, and is sociable, intelligent, highly flexible, disciplined, easily accessible and down-to-earth. From teaching at the University of Nairobi and marketing pharmaceutical products to publishing, sports administration and now politics, Kidero has achieved what many in his generation can only dream of. Editor’s note: We sought a one-on-one conversation with the media-savvy Kidero so he could shed more light on these and many other matters. Last Wednesday, the governor agreed to an interview on Friday. We sent a questionnaire to his office giving the framework of the composition of the intended interview. However, we did not get a response from the governor. We were not able to reach him as of the time of going to press.