I am an honest political broker, says Jimi Wanjigi
After many years of pulling the strings behind the scenes, Jimi Wanjigi has emerged from the shadows, sending tongues wagging, particularly because of his presidential ambitions.
Often considered in media and political circles as a “political sponsor” and a “wheeler-dealer” who wields power like the Russian oligarchs, Wanjigi has gone against tradition by declaring he intends to run for president in next year’s election.
Mostly, oligarchs do not run themselves but decide who becomes president, or any other powerful position, using their deep pockets to control the direction of politics and outcome of elections.
Until October 2017 when police raided his home, many people would not identify Wanjigi in a group of ten people because of his smooth behind-the-curtains modus operandi, something that he had perfected.
But on Sunday evening, Jimi as he is popularly known by his peers, hosted a crew from Citizen
TV for his first-ever in-depth media interview at his Nairobi home. Besides the question-and-answer session, the interview gave Kenyans a sneak peek into his affluent lifestyle.
His mansion sits on a five-acre land in Muthaiga, one of Kenya’s exclusive neighbourhoods.
Asked to comment on a newspaper report which described him as a man of opulence with properties spread across the globe, including flats in London, homes in Zurich and properties in Dubai, thanks to shady deals, he laughed it off.
“Jimi is a humble family man… simple family man, a husband and father of two lovely children. I’m a catholic, that is my faith,” he said, adding that he, indeed, grew up well.
“I have parents and siblings who are very much around,” he said.
The soft spoken businessman is the son of the former Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi.
Saying he studied business and economics, Wanjigi fought off claims that he is the biggest beneficiary of official corruption in Kenya.
He described himself as a genuine businessman.
“I don’t believe that there are oligarchs in Kenya. Kenya has businessmen. I am a businessman, a strong businessman and a legitimate businessman, one who follows the rule of law and chases business far and wide, even beyond the borders of this country,” he said.
Defending his behind-the-scenes role in presidential contests, particularly in the last two elections – first in the UhuRuto camp in 2013 before shifting to Raila Odinga Nasa side in 2017 – he said business people have an important role to play in politics.
He admitted that he played a key role in Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto political union and that he was in charge of the parallel electronic tallying centre in the March 4, 2013 election.
Wanjigi said he played the same role in the National Super Alliance (Nasa) where he shifted to after his fallout with Jubilee in 2015 or thereabouts.
“Businessmen are about solving problems, we find solutions to problems. We had a very big problem in 2007, we had never seen the kind of violence visited on a populace because of an election,” he said.
Wanjigi said he was invited by Uhuru and his allies to “find a solution and unification of two warring communities playing out in the ICC.”
“I was solving problems, I was bringing unification because business doesn’t thrive where there is conflict… I helped unify two parties and I believe we successfully did that,” he stated, fending off suggestions he was doing it for monetary gain.
Fallout with Jubilee
According to some reports, Wanjigi was the force behind the many mega projects during President Mwai Kibaki’s tenure.
They include the Thika super highway, the Southern bypass and the passports and security contracts that turned into the Anglo Leasing scandal. He is also linked to some deals in Uhuru’s first term.
Although he conceded that he was behind the Thika super highway, a project he describes a masterstroke, Wanjigi denied that he had a hand in the Anglo Leasing scandal in which billions of shillings in public funds was lost.
He said he differed with the Jubilee administration because of “a big difference of policy”.
But Wanjigi claimed credit for one of the administration’s biggest projects, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
He, however, said he was shocked to learn that the government had changed its funding from the Public Private Partnership (PPP) that they had envisaged to a fully-fledged government project funded by expensive loans.
He claimed the project had been hugely exaggerated leading to loss of public funds.
“Initially, it was supposed to be a private rail, nothing to do with government. In fact, the government was only supposed to provide the land which we were prepared to
lease,” he said.
“What I recall is that the project was to cost Sh55 billion from Mombasa all the way to Kisumu and Malaba.”
It became a project that was now not worth Sh55 billion to Malaba but Sh300 billion just from
Mombasa to Nairobi,” he said.
“I said that does not makes sense to me and that’s where we differed,” he said.
“It is not only about money but government doing it. The intention was not to take the taxpayers’ money in this project,” said Wanjigi, who says he started as pioneer garbage collector in Nairobi.
“My intention and the intention of the China Roads and Bridges Corporations was that we were going to do a private public partnership,” he said.
Explaining why he has decided to run for president, Wanjigi said the state of affairs in the country had jolted him into action.
The economy, he said, was doing badly and poverty levels had grown by huge margins.
“Poverty level was around 36 per cent when Jubilee Party took over and it is now about 56 per cent,” he stated, saying he was offering a breath of fresh air since his competitors “have been around for decades and have done nothing.”
He said it was time for Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Ruto to retire and pave the way for a new crop of leaders.
“Some like Kalonzo have been around since 1983 and they have done nothing for Kenyans,” he said.
On his relationship with controversial businessman Jacob Juma who was killed in May 2016, Wanjigi said he was a good friend.
“He was my friend. He was the Eurobond whistle blower and it is unfortunate that he died,” he said, adding that he was the one who gave him (Juma) the documents that exposed alleged loss of funds.
He also denied that he threatened activist John Githongo, who is considered as the Anglo Leasing scandal whistleblower.