Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru sat down for a candid interview with the Sunday Nation at her home in Nairobi on October 8, 2021.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
How is your family?
Family is good. It is the best part of life, actually. By ‘family’ I am assuming you mean the first unit and children. You know family can be quite extensive.
You said recently in an interview that marriage is a sweet thing. How sweet is it?
You can tell from my face. I have been well. I have gained a few kilos, maybe 12. perhaps I will lose them during the campaigns, but so far marriage is great. Kamotho (the husband, Kamotho Waiganjo) is a great guy. Many of you do not know that we have been together for over 11 years now, you guys just know the marriage part.
For the public, counting must has started when you made the union public. What took you so long to do so?
We were never in hiding, actually; you just chose not to see us. We have been together for a very long time, so it is not really a new thing. The only new thing is that we formalised it, mostly because of politics, in the sense that, you know, people like to misconstrue something that is not formalised. They can start coming up with funny stories. Otherwise, there is really nothing that has changed. We have an interesting life.
You have a busy schedule. How do you balance work and family life?
It can be strenuous but I have always been very deliberate in all my years about a work-life balance. I do not take politics as a matter of life and death like other people. So I am very clear; I work very much like a technocrat, from Monday to Friday. I do not do politics on weekends, unless I have something really important that I have to do. On Sundays we go to church here in Nairobi. I hardly do church upcountry, and I hardly do politics in church as a matter of principle.
You are not the governor in the house?
No, I am not! And not just in the house; the moment I’m out of the county I cease to be one. My friends call me Anne. They do not call me Your Excellency. And Kamotho’s friends call me Mumbi, not even Waiguru! Children call me Mum… his children call me Anne. We have a blended family. Even here at home, the house helps just know I am a governor by virtue of the newspapers.
On Saturdays we usually have a family breakfast here because our family is large and the children have moved out of home. This house is very empty. We still run two homes by the way in Nairobi, because Kamotho still has his home in Runda. The children live in their own houses. We do not have small children. Two of our children are married and we meet on Saturday mornings for breakfast at times. That is why I am always around every Saturday morning. We catch up, play cards, some of us go to play golf, others go to watch a movie in the afternoon.
Sundays are exclusively mine and Kamotho’s. Even the children know that. Saturdays are for the whole family, but Sundays are ours.
Parents have this emptiness when they get older. Sometimes back we used to drive around. It is only now that I have stopped doing it because I have become too public and people recognise me. We used to just drive out, reach the gate and ask; left or right? If we say left, we would drive left and when we reach a junction ask whether left or right and drive the direction we decide again. You would find us in Ukambani in some place called Ndalas (laughs). But nowadays we hardly do that. There was a time we actually packed our bags and kept asking ‘left or right’ and we went all the way to Uganda. We had no fixed destination, we just went.
Do you miss that life?
Yes, I do. Oh God I do.
How does it feel being in this big house, this big compound, with no kids and mostly alone?
It is sad. Really sad. I am clingy, yesterday I was following my son to his house. I am sure he was wondering what was wrong as he kept asking me if I was okay. I said I was okay. I had carried left-overs from Kirinyaga for them and they were like: “Mum, you know we cook here.”
It is sad in the respect that kids are leaving. Kids grow and you eventually have to release them. They are now living in various parts of the country. I have heard some have ambitions of living abroad.
It is quite sad in the sense that you can actually be alone for some time. For example, right now there is nobody I can talk to, unless I go and disturb the househelps in the kitchen. It is a good thing for children to grow up, for you to see them on their feet. It is a good thing seeing them running their own lives with their wives, but it is a sad thing that they have gone.
I mean, you are no longer their priority. They have spouses, their wives are number one, not you. Before it was Mum, now there is a sweetheart, a darling. Now you call them and they say they are not available and ask if you can reschedule for later. You are being scheduled yet you are their mother! But you see, they have a life.
Do you think that having two homes makes it even worse?
Actually, the reason we run two homes is the logistics of combining. Every time we start, it is too much work. Think about it, you choose the furniture, let’s start with the living room: whose stays and whose goes? I am attached to silly things and he is attached to his stuff. Then choose a house. You know this can’t be his house as according to Kikuyu culture, to African culture, he cannot move to my house. But if you think about my political life, this place is very secure. Even when he travels he feels safer when I am here than when I am in Runda. Those logistics of politics, security and safety are the main reason we haven’t moved in together.
Do you feel somehow that your marriage sort of steadied the political boat?
Not really. You know, Kamotho has always been there. He has always been my pillar. He has always been there for the past 12 or so years. What I think, though, because this country is patriarchal, is that I gained more respect from men. When you are a woman in politics, there is always this view by your male peers, this way they look at you, that indicates they do not take you very seriously.
They give you those tags and allocate you to someone because they feel you must be allocated. That is how I was allocated. They feel they cannot deal with you on your own. I was happy to get rid of that, even though I am not the kind of person who thinks that I should wear my private life up my sleeve for you to respect me.
That is why Kamotho and I had never made that announcement for a long time. It is not about you, it is about us. What you think is not that important in my personal life, so I cannot say marriage steadied me, but I can say that men are a bit more respectful.
I think because it happened when I was old also mattered (laughs). I do not have a problem with my age. Some people do not love ageing but I embrace it. I love being 50. I announced it to the whole world and I wrote about my views about life.
We were planning to ask you whether you have plans for another baby, but…
(Laughs hard) I don’t even think I can cope! Even the grandchildren, they move around here a little bit and you already feel it is enough work.
But assuming biology would allow…
(Interjecting) No, the biology has no problem at all! It is more about the energy and the focus. Do you know how much work it takes to raise children? I have older children and I am still baby-ing them. I am a very present mother. When my children were growing up I stayed at home. I resigned from my job and I worked from home. I was present. At this age I already did my bit.
Now to politics. The indications are that you are joining, or have joined, Ruto’s UDA. Where are you in terms of political inclinations?
As I said some time back, I am listening (to the ground). All politics is local. You can be very involved in national politics and become very irrelevant, because you actually get yourself off your seat. The first rule in politics, in my view, is that you first secure your seat because that is what gives you an audience. Then you ask yourself, how do you do that?
Our political parties are not really based on different ideologies. What will determine which side you will go in 2022 is the people. The Wanjikus this time around want to be the ones who decide the direction that politicians go. Where I come from, the Wanjikus are tending to be on the UDA side. Now, I can make a choice and go against the grain and I could probably win, but I would have to spend a lot more because it is going against the grain.
And then I would not have a very good time governing after that because it is very possible that county assembly members would go the Wanjiku way. Why would I want to run on a party that is not popular where I come from? Why would I want to end up being a governor but the county assembly members belong to a different party?
The other thing is that I am pushing the women’s agenda. On that, we have no party. We really would like to see, across all sides, women being given their rightful positions. So, on my political leanings right now, the ground is significantly UDA in Kirinyaga and in Central Kenya.
So you are abandoning the President and going the Ruto way.
No, I have not abandoned the President. The President is not abandonable. But he is not running, he is now exiting. He has made it very clear to all of us about that. In fact I was one of those who at some point thought the BBI would allow him to come back as Prime Minister, and he told me to my face: “I am not coming back. I am finishing my term and I do not want to hear that conversation from you.” The second is that he is a politician par excellence. Look at his track record, he understands what I am doing completely, because what use am I to Uhuru if I am out?
Have you had any conversation with the President regarding what the ground is saying?
No comment on that. But if you remember, there was a time Uhuru was with Raila in the Orange-Banana divide. They had both been fired from the Cabinet in 2005 by the then President. But in the 2007 elections he jumped ship and left Raila. His own words to me, because I was the one carrying the files in 2012, were that he had told Raila: “Back home, I will lose my seat in Gatundu South if I continue staying with you. Wacha nitafute kiti yangu kwanza tukutane Bunge.” So he understands, and he expects that of me. That, as a politician, I will first secure my seat.
You must be aware of the original founders of UDA and their political associates in Kirinyaga, including the current Woman Representative Wangui Ngirici. Wouldn’t they look at you as a johnny-come-lately? Do you think you even stand a chance?
Let me say this about politics and parties. First of all, there is no such a thing as a johnny-coming-lately to a party. You know from the Bible about those workers who were hired to go and dig and there were those who came at six in the morning, some at 10 and others in the afternoon but were all paid the same amount in the evening? Or the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to forgive him at the last minute before he died and went to the same heaven with the ones who had been Christians from Day One? That is how politics is run.
Secondly, I am not coming to be given a favour, I am coming with a following. I have a following in Kirinyaga and across the country. I have influence. If you are looking to be president you need all the votes you can get. They cannot say we have this one’s votes and therefore this one cannot come. How will you make it to State House? It is in their interests to have my supporters, Ngirici’s supporters and Martha (Karua’s) supporters. On whether I would get the UDA party ticket in a free and fair process, I will beat them all square and fair, hands-down.
Does that mean you will deliver Kirinyaga to William Ruto for the presidential vote?
I said I am not going to be given a token. I have not yet announced whether I am going to UDA or not. I have told you that my view of the ground right now is that of UDA. Our biggest challenge in Mt Kenya right now is that we do not have a presidential candidate. All these candidates who have emerged, no one is following them.
How do you explain that?
Nobody is bothered! It is phenomenal. No one is talking about them. Even the people who are planning it are at a loss. They say, let us try Kagwe (Mutahi, the Health CS)… it is not going to go anywhere. They have tried Martha (Karua), nobody is focused there. (Jimi) Wanjigi even left Mt Kenya and went to look for votes in Luoland and the Coast. They made very serious assumptions, the main one being that Kikuyus would always galvanise around a Kikuyu. They were wrong.
Those who are planning succession think that if they get somebody from Mt Kenya they will carry the votes to either Raila or Ruto. They are wrong. People are no longer beholden to tribes. The young generation has upset that arithmetic. Young people are telling us that this time round they will be the ones to tell us where to go.
It is very intriguing, because they also feel that they are owed. You see, the reason Ruto is very popular in Mt Kenya is that he connects with the youth. They even say with emotion, with passion. Anatufeel, they say. Why? Because he has been present. In the last four years when those guys were going around the country selling BBI and the Handshake, Ruto camped there and was present. He connected with them. They also think he has played a very huge part in President Uhuru being in office for two terms
At some point your name featured as a possible running mate. Were there formal discussions with the presidential contenders?
Yes, there have been such conversations, but you can have talks and sense there are other external people with all manner of interests who are also trying to plan who does what. None of the presidential candidates has made a final decision on a running mate. If Raila chooses Martha Karua, then Ruto will have to sit and think about who will be his best running mate to ensure that Mt Kenya does not run away with Martha. If Raila chooses Musalia, and he says that Western would go that way because that is where the Deputy President is, Ruto then will say, I better hang onto Mt Kenya so that I get a candidate from there who can help me have a national outlook and still take a significant portion of Mt Kenya so that it bolsters my chances. It is not as easy as some think.
What did you say when you were approached?
I said I would consider it if I thought we would win.
Are you suggesting that the people who approached you didn’t appear or sound as if they would win?
Governments are formed in different ways. I can decide, which I haven’t, that I only want to be in the main two-horse race, and that if I am not approached by either then I would not. I can also decide to be in the third and fourth slots because those are the ones who will decide who becomes king and then negotiate for seats. That is how politics is. There are many roles I can play but right now my focus is consolidating my ground to run for Governor of Kirinyaga County.
You must really persuade me to consider something else because I really want to be in government. I do not want to be out, I do not want to be in opposition and I do not just want to be sitting idly. If I do, I will get out completely because I do not have the energy to be running around without an office.
My husband will tell you I am a lousy loser. If I lose, I am not good. I do not get to a race that I know I am going to lose. If I thought I was going to lose the governorship I would not even have bothered.