Guest blog post
The setting is Murang’a Cooperative Creameries, Maragua
Disembarking from an old Model Prado SUV is a medium height, slim and bespectacled man. I note the group of young lads welcoming him. They seem like the best of buddies. He greets. By a handshake for each. They exchange pleasantries for like five minutes or so. Laughing, high fiving and patting. Then they start moving. They stop at a huge tank which is under construction. I note that everyone now seems ultra attentive to every detail and move the Wa Iria makes. A transfiguration of sorts. From the jovial buddies mood to office toughness mood. He does a thorough inspection. He seems to comprehend the details to look at. Then starts questioning. Someone mumbles incoherently. Wa Iria admonishes. Quickly asks another question. They take notes. He prods more. They nod. Take notes. It’s a serious encounter. Then the jovial mood returns just as fast as it had disappeared. But two metres on, the seriousness is back. Same scenario. This oscillation from once joking buddies and next moment seriousness throws me off. Then I tap a guy and ask; what’s going on? He whispers; ” This is the real Wa Iria. In action. Untamed. Unedited. See, he is the most friendly being around. One you can joke along with. Until you reach “his” project. You don’t cross his intentions, objectives, plans, projects. You don’t. Because as he puts it, that is a gross
Wa Iria, as he is known nationally, was among the Governors who rose to prominence courtesy of their history, experience and exploits from within the private sector. Just as his name denotes, he was quite an instrumental figure in Kenya Cooperative Creameries turnaround. But his stripes from the private sector are wide and varied. Each with a feather. The object of this article though is on the political exploits of a man who is feared, loathed and loved in equal measure. Wa Iria is certainly a political brand unto himself. That is without a shadow of doubt. And with a catchy slogan “No Wira Tu” to trade and trend his brand. That he defeated, by a huge margin, a challenger alleged to be a member of State House’s kitchen circle depicts a man who does his politics scientifically; research and apply the results as a lethal persuasion weapon. The man is unapologetic, doesn’t entertain public praise or worship, doesn’t suffer fools kindly, isn’t afraid to get confrontational to get his point through, isn’t a believer of perfection as an end but as a means to continous evolution of the perfect, is fiercely independent, scales Mt. Kenya twice a year, doesn’t worship the powers that be to get mileage or favours, is his own man and creation, appreciates and applies knowledge driven politics, is a straight shooter par excellence whose missives come without apologies and most importantly is Wanjiku’s interests foremost defender.
But perhaps what explains Wa Iria’s philosophy better is his policies, projects and programmes during the years he has been at the helm. His ideological leaning seems more of a social democrat than a capitalistic zealot. His is a grassroot revolution bent on “putting money in the pockets of Wanjiku” than building “monuments” of visible development whilst Wanjiku is still broke, hapless and hopeless. From the Saccos to the Dairy farming revolution to the avocado revolution to supplying free planting seeds and fertilizer to free nursery School feeding programme amongst others project a leader who is well aware of social safety nets as the first step towards civilisation prosperity and rule of Law. Some have questioned his approach but to the many beneficiaries, he is God sent. A people always need a launching pad for an economic takeoff. The basis is food security and catering of basics. Once you sort that, then your populace is better equipped to leap to the next phase of growth which is in investing beyond the basics and saving a dime. Failure to address these core basics will often drag you back however great monuments you erect. You must first have the clientele to utilize the monuments optimally. The idea is to reach the dreams of the majority rather than impeach them before they even teeth.
Often, his straight talking, unwavering and no holds barred confidence has being misinterpreted as arrogance. This is what majorly makes him; his ability to deflect missiles head on. Word is, Wa Iria having been born in poverty remained aware of how both poverty and wealth can intimidate one into subjugation and submission. He knew and still knows how these two econometric levers can kill ideologies, dreams, visions and plans if you let them dictate your mindset and instruct your actions. As such he chose stubborn, fact laden defiance as a methodology to chart his own path. It has worked so far in helping him win, craft ideas and challenge status quo on some very pertinent issues such as Water, Street vending amongst other radical shifts. His clinching of the Vice Chair of Council of Governor’s seat was unexpected. A strategy to be always illegible. Of late, many say he has changed his political mien albeit strategically from combative/confrontational to a more conciliatory and ideation led approach. Sources inform that his ideas within the CoG and other national foras are held in high regard as they mostly offer the kind of critical refactoring urgently needed at this juncture in our nation’s history.
All in all, Wa Iria is the man to watch.