Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, who is currently in court challenging his loss in the Homa Bay governor race, spoke in an interview with Sunday Nation about his support for President Ruto, Nyanza succession politics and more.
Below are some interview excerpts.
What informed your decision to switch from Nairobi to Homa Bay County?
I decided to go to Homa Bay because I had interest in ensuring it develops. For the last 10 years, Homa Bay had not seen development.
We had an eight-point agenda: health and water; education; infrastructure; investments and industry; trading; and putting money into people’s pockets.
We had a proper agenda that we were going to ensure we put in place. When the elections came, people know what happened.
We have a petition in court, which I don’t want to talk about here. We have every belief that the election will be overturned.
The President came to Homa Bay on his first visit to Luo Nyanza. Has he reached out to you to work with him?
He is our President. He got Kenya’s mandate. This was challenged and it was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
I support the President and I will work with him in whatever form, in whatever way and in whatever capacity to help bring development that we need to bring to this country.
How would you describe your relationship with President Ruto? How often do you engage?
I have known the President for a long time. You remember when I was in the sugar industry, the President was the Agriculture minister and that is the time when we had the highest sugar production in this country.
The total sugar requirement then was 800,000 metric tonnes, and that is when we broke the record for two straight years.
We were producing up to 600,000 metric tonnes. Now the requirement is slightly above 1,000,000 metric tonnes but production has dropped to about 400,000.
It was because of the good cooperation and him being sensitive to the requirements of the industry. Between the years when he was in the ministry, we made such great achievements.
Would you consider taking any appointments by the President?
So long as it is going to add value and bring a difference to the people of Kenya, I will work with the government of the day.
There has been talk about elected leaders from Homa Bay failing to welcome the President when he visited recently, including Governor Gladys Wanga. What is your view on that?
I am not aware where the governor was but I think it was rather sad that the governor was not there. President Ruto is our leader and every other leader has to work with him to deliver on his mandate.
We have national and county governments that have to work in consultation.
What should Nyanza and its leadership do to ensure the region benefits from projects by the national government?
What I would urge leaders, particularly leaders from Luo Nyanza is: let’s join hands and work with the President.
I mean, it is not a strange thing. After the 2017 elections didn’t Jakom (Raila Odinga) shake hands with (President) Uhuru Kenyatta and work with him until his term ended?
Now Ruto is our President and he is very passionate about this country and he’s got the energy. And his vision is very clear.
He wants to improve the standards of living for our people. Let’s all work with him so that we can have development.
We were supporting Raila Odinga. Unfortunately, he did not win. William Ruto and Rigathi Gachagua are now the President and Deputy President.
Nyanza has been out of government for successive regimes, including the current administration. Why is this so?
Let’s go back to history: if it wasn’t for people from Luo Nyanza, probably (Jomo) Kenyatta would not have been President.
From 1969, we have operated more or less outside the government. I think this is the time because Ruto has extended a hand of welcome despite having run against Raila and everybody (from the region) voted Raila to the last man and woman in the region.
He has come to Nyanza and has extended an olive branch. Let’s grab it and let’s work with him so that we can develop. He talked about roads in the area and said they will be done. We have been talking about having fish as our primary source of income, yet our people don’t benefit.
Is the region’s long stay in the opposition due to the kind of leadership it has?
No, I don’t think so. That is history that we are not going to go back to. Eighty percent of the current voters were born after 1990.
There could be historical factors but they don’t have a relationship with some of those historical factors.
What I must say is that Jakom has played a major role. Our democratisation process would not have been what it is if it was not for him and he has earned himself a place in history. He must be respected and will always be respected. But we must move forward with the rest of the Kenyans.
What do you mean by moving forward? Is it having a new leadership for the region?
Absolutely. New thinking and new investments. In education, Tom Mboya (University) got a charter just a few weeks before the President retired. Tom Mboya has only 2,000 students. We want to see it expanding because that is going to be the centre of the blue economy. We want to see it having 15,000 students with campuses in Sindo, Mbita, Oyugis, Asumbi, Rangwe.
Where there are students it will spur development in real estate and in the food industry and education. We want to see our children in primary school learn in good setups so that they can compete.
Would you say it is time for Raila to exit the political scene?
I think Jakom has played his role and will continue playing his role because he is an elder statesman. President Ruto said he will be engaging him and President Kenyatta in a special way so that they can continue playing their role as elder statesmen. But we must move forward so that we join the rest of the country in developing our country.
What kind of leadership does Nyanza need? Are you ready to take the mantle?
We are looking for non-discriminative leadership. We are looking for democratic leadership and we are looking for forward-looking leadership.
We do not want to be in a situation where we keep on complaining. Let bygones be bygones. Let’s move forward.
You were denied an ODM ticket in the run-up to the August 9 polls. Why do you think you were not the party’s favourite?
There were never primaries in ODM. People were appointed and given direct tickets. Neither were we called. You saw what President Ruto did. UDA had nominations and for those who did not succeed, he called all of them together and had a discussion with them. We expected, as ODM people, that that is what we should have done. We expected to have a discussion but that never happened.
People were appointed, people protested, wananchi protested but as part of moving on we moved on from there. I am no longer in ODM. I ran as an independent candidate and going forward I will be looking for a new home where I and the rest of the people not accommodated in ODM can be.
Is Democratic Congress the new home you are talking about?
We will let our people know in due course because where you are is where the people want to be. We will ask our people where they want us to be.
Do you have certain leaders in mind you are planning to work with in the new party?
We are consulting widely. We are talking widely but what is important is that we have to move forward. People in Nyanza have to join the rest of the other counties.
Some would argue that you shouldn’t be crying foul for being denied an ODM ticket because in 2017 you were also a beneficiary of a direct ticket.
I was not given a direct ticket because there was nobody who stood. Was there anybody who stood against me in 2017? None. In 2013 also, I was not given a direct ticket; Margaret Wanjiru stood but did not have the academic qualifications. She was disqualified because she did not have papers.
What do you think made Raila lose? What went wrong with your campaigns and who is to blame?
I supported him, I campaigned for him, and I know the people talked about six-piece. They said they did not need non-party people to support Raila. I remember in my billboard, I had a Raila image and I have letters from lawyers threatening to take me to court because being an independent I should not associate with Raila. I think that was a mistake. To a large extent, our problem – or the problem of ODM – was about nomination. Some 700,000 people did not vote in Luo Nyanza because they felt disenfranchised. If those 700,000 people voted, we would be talking about a different story.
How has life been after exiting the Nairobi governor’s seat?
I have had a fairly successful career. Right now, I am a normal Kenyan citizen leading a normal life but very concerned about the country.
I first ran in 2013, was governor for five years and during my tenure in Nairobi realised some of the biggest projects like housing and infrastructure.
In 2017, a new governor came in and when I handed over power, I said Nairobi is not a walk in the park.
For sure, it happened that it was not a walk in the park and Nairobi had to be divided to be run partly by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
Finally, the governor (Mike Sonko) got impeached.
Now we have Governor Johnson Sakaja, and wish him well and I have confidence that Nairobi is in good hands.