In Summary
  • He is being assessed on development programmes and a leadership style that make his county a case study for success in devolution.
  • If he is the leader who can pull Kenya from the morass of dangerous ethnic competition , he has my vote.
  • But he has to ask for it. And he has to show that he is more than a Facebook candidate.

The social media campaign that seeks to draft Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana as a presidential candidate for 2022 seems to be picking up quite some traction. The #ApendeAsipendeMovement vows to install the popular governor as the fifth President of Kenya — whether he likes it or not.

If social media chatter is anything to go by, many voters see Prof Kibwana as a refreshing candidate. He stands as the polar opposite to the stultifying do-or-die corrupt political competition of ethnic brinkmanship associated with the likes of President Uhuru Kenyatta or the leading candidates in the premature and already divisive 2022 campaign, Opposition chief Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.

HIGHER CALLING

The self-effacing scholar also seems cut from a different cloth from the other prospective candidates for the opposition mantle — notably Mr Odinga’s co-principals in the fractured Nasa coalition, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Musalia Mudavadi.

Prof Kibwana has disowned the campaign, saying he does not want to be dragged into presidential succession politics and that his focus is on his promise to the Makueni people till the last day of his final term in the Governor’s Mansion. But that is not an explicit ‘No’. Being busy with Makueni ‘in the meantime’ does not mean there may not be cause in the future to look to higher calling.

JUST SOCIETY

Prof Kibwana may well have nothing to do with driving the social media push but it is apparent that key figures include the then-youthful activists he worked with in the 1990s civil society campaigns for democratisation, human rights and a new constitutional order.

At that time, when it became apparent that future Prime Minister Odinga, future President Mwai Kibaki and other leaders of the then-political opposition were becoming complacent with the new multi-party status quo, it fell on the likes of Prof Kibwana to take up the reins and drive the struggle for a just society.

MARCH OF HISTORY

It was the sterling efforts of the Citizens Coalition for Constitutional Change — CCCC, the 4Cs — and allies in other civil society groups, academia, the professions and religious groups that, towards 1997, threatened to launch a sovereign people’s convention and thereby forced panicked politicians to accept a minimal reforms package or be swept aside by the march of history.

The same loose coalition was instrumental in the final push for a new Constitution, which was finally attained in 2010 after two decades of blood, sweat and tears.

In the interim, Prof Kibwana and his team — including his fellow former University of Nairobi Law School lecturer and future Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court, Dr Willy Mutunga — had played critical roles behind the scenes, crafting the united opposition effort that in 2002 propelled President Kibaki to State House after two attempts.

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