From scribe Mutua to military man Oguna – A reflection on the system’s mouthpieces

One of the most noticeable adjustments which came with the Mwai Kibaki led NARC wave, which swept Daniel Arap Moi out of power in 2002, is the introduction of an official Government Spokesman.

Since independence, and before the unbwogable tsunami ejected Moi from the helm of Kenyan politics, where he had been for 24 years, the concept of an official government spokesman had remained alien; and if one existed, then it was just on paper. 

Founding Father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta never had a clearly known government spokesman; the nation was left to speculate on who among his Cabinet Ministers, was speaking for the government of the day, depending on the political dynamics of the time.

The situation became even more complicated when Moi took over. 

For his entire stint in power, the once barefooted, goat-herding son of a peasant from Sacho, who had risen from rags to become the President of Kenya, used to be President and Government Spokesman at the same time. Moi spoke for himself. Not even his long serving Press Secretary Lee Njiru could authoritatively claim to speak for the government. Lee only excelled when executing his duties as Head of the Presidential Press Service, PPS.

But when Mzee Kibaki ascended to power, he chose a different route. Perhaps already tired with political sideshows after being around since 1960s, and keen on concentrating on his clearly set agenda as boss, not mentioning the health issues arising from his 2002 accident which almost scuttled his presidential ambitions last minute, Kibaki opted to have a government spokesman.

To fill the position, Mzee went scouting for the best talent for the job, eventually bringing home Dr. Alfred Nganga Mutua, a little known, Kibra~raised son of Ukambani, then based in Australia.

And Dr. Alfred Mutua never disappointed. 

He was not just the ‘first’ but also the most efficient government spokesman independent Kenya has seen so far. 

Mutua’s youthfulness, eloquence, mastery of the Queen’s dialect and unmatched grasp of issues instantly propelled him to stardom. His newly introduced Thursday media briefings were always something to look forward to. 

Dr. Alfred Mutua is a man who weaved his narratives so well so that, even an obviously abrasive approach to an issue easily went unpunished. At some point, Mutua even referred to Barack Obama, then Illinois Senator, as an inexperienced young man who could not teach Kenya how to manage its affairs.

Truth be told, Mutua had his weaknesses but, the job of government spokesman is one he did with unrivaled expertise until he eventually resigned to go pursue political ambitions 2012.

Folks, in a nutshell, since Mutua left that job, there has never been another ‘real’ government spokesman until recently.

Yes, Muthui Kariuki came after Mutua and tried but everything just refused to work for him.

Eric Kiraithe too made some effort when President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration decided to experiment with the skills he had earned as Police Spokesman, his previous work station, when he got appointed in 2016, but he appeared too much of a system guy to be able to deliver the desired outcomes.

Then, in comes Colonel (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna in May 2019.

The military man, who became a darling of Kenyans during Operation Linda Nchi, was tasked with reviving the almost dead government communications.

At first, Col Oguna had a hard start but that did not last for long. The Likoni Ferry tragedy of October 2019 came just at the right time for the retired soldier.

With his eloquent Swahili and equally straight English, coupled with his military~shaped precision, Col. Oguna shined big time with the Likoni thing. He never let a good chance pass by.

And Col. Oguna has seemingly appeared to shine even more as time passes by.

Today, one can confidently say that, for the first time since Mutua left, we have a government spokesman.

Col. Oguna is literally the second government spokesman after Mutua. 

Yes, as at now, Col. Oguna appears to be getting it right where most of his predecessors failed though, several journalists have raised concerns over his alleged high handedness, an issue he should perhaps look into.

Whether Col. Oguna will successfully cement his place as Kenya’s second serious government spokesman, only time will tell.