Lusaka in the hot saddle as politics reaches fever-pitch
As party politics in the country reaches fever-pitch, Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka has found himself in an intricate position which he is required to wade through sophisticated high-stake games played by the political elite.
His position is turning out to be precarious as he has to juggle between fulfilling constitutional requirements on one hand, and meeting the expectations of political gurus exerting pressure on his office externally, a path on which he is bound, if not already has, to step on the toes of forces with strong influence that pose a threat to his own tenure, if not lose friendships that have been nurtured over many years.
Currently, Lusaka is presiding over the highly charged impeachment motion against Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.
The Senate has formed an 11-member special committee to probe the allegations of graft and abuse of office levelled against her by the County Assembly.
Speaking to the People Daily yesterday, Lusaka vehemently denied having been approached by an influential party leader to assist in bending the House rules to allow the vote on Waiguru take a particular route.
“That is not true. That is a big joke. That is not just possible. You all watched what took place in the House.
This was purely a matter for the senators to decide which way they wanted to handle it.
I had no role and I cannot have one. There is no way a Speaker can play such monkey business because they will simply boomerang on his or her face,” he said.
Waiguru’s impeachment matter will be determined by a team of 11 senators and not the whole House after senators on Tuesday voted in favour of the committee.
Lusaka also presided over the impeachment of former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and the ouster from House leadership last month of Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Tharaka Nithi’s Kithure Kindiki and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika. Murkomen was stripped of his Majority Leader post, Kithure (Deputy Speaker) and Kihika (Chief Whip).
Indications are that even with two years to the end of the tenure of the 12th Parliament, Lusaka’s hitherto cozy and warm seat has become not only hotter but an eye of the storm too.
Murkomen has the Speaker is being arm-twisted to make decisions favourable to certain powerful political forces.
During the debate of the Waiguru motion on Tuesday, the senator challenged the Speaker to explain why he has yet to read the suspended ruling he promised to make on the day he and Kihika were dethroned from their House seats.
“The Speaker is making very ridiculous rulings nowadays,” he said later at an evening TV interview.
Unlike Waititu, governor Waiguru is an arguably polarising figure both at gubernatorial and national fronts, an attribute that left senators hurling brickbats at one another on the floor of the House, an indication that whichever way Lusaka rules regarding her impeachment, his verdict is bound to rub a huge chunk of the political class the wrong way.
Waiguru is no stranger to controversy. During her tenure as Devolution Cabinet Secretary, a multi-billion-shilling scam hit the National Youth Service (NYS) that fell under her docket at the time. She resigned and eventually vied for the governor seat.
Waiguru is a visible forceful player in the politics of Central Kenya, the home turf of President Uhuru Kenyatta who is serving his second and last term in office.
She is considered a long-time ally of the Head of State and therefore her word and deed are understood to carry more weight than her gubernatorial colleagues.
Waiguru has also established a close working relationship with ODM leader Raila Odinga, previously her a political nemesis, and the secretary-general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Francis Atwoli.
Through that relationship, she has established herself as the face of Mt Kenya region in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that pushes for a change of the Constitution through a referendum to, among other things, expand the Executive.
Raila and his ODM party were reported as pushing for rescue of the governor, a claim the former premier refuted, while Atwoli is on record as appealing to the Senate to save Waiguru for the sake of BBI.
Waiguru, who has repeatedly attributed her woes to Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, has frosty relations with Deputy President William Ruto whose rapport with his boss has reportedly been turning icier each coming day.
Lusaka has previously survived two low-key attempts by ODM senators to oust him. Similarly, he has seeped his way into Raila’s good books.
Last Tuesday, the Senate voted to have the motion of Waiguru’s motion debated at committee level as opposed to plenary like was the case in the Waititu impeachment.
However, the Speaker maintains that his work is actually easy as it is strictly guided by the rule of law and not any other consideration, arguing that, in fact, neither he nor House rules, are awake to differences that could exist among individuals who are not members of the senate.
“I have no say in such matters. I go by the rules in the book. I am guided by the law, not innuendo or any individuals outside the House. It is Members who will make a verdict on that matter and mine will only be to announce the outcome. Let me reiterate that our rules are very clear and no amount of pressure or trickery can cause the circumvention of the same. The law and Standing Orders are the ones in charge, not the Speaker. I only execute them,” he stated.
And there’s no let-up for Lusaka as after Waiguru, five more governors face ouster after falling out with their assemblies.