Lessons of life: How Kabogo bad-mouthed himself out of Kenya Kwanza table
Of the major Kenya Kwanza alliance principals, only William Kabogo of the Tujibebe Wakenya Party is missing from the VIP list of the high table as President-elect William Ruto prepares to be sworn in.
Not because he was shortchanged by anyone, only that he kicked himself out of glory by his own mouth.
Some of his fellow principals who exercised discipline, loyalty and civility were allocated their share of the cake as he waits like an ordinary voter to see Dr Ruto take office.
Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula was sworn in as National Assembly Speaker, whereas Amason Kingi of the Pamoja African Alliance party is the Senate boss. Moses Kuria of Chama Cha Kazi and the Democratic Party’s Justin Muturi are waiting for their share, while The Service Party’s Mwangi Kiunjuri is Laikipia East MP waiting to lead a prestigious parliamentary committee.
But Mr Kabogo is getting the lessons of life, having lost the Kiambu governor’s race and his fast and furious tongue edging him out of the Kenya Kwanza dining table.
Daniel 5:20 (New King James version) talks about Mr Kabogo, sorry, Nebuchadnezzar, who “when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him”.
Mr Kabogo is a man of no small means – a self-proclaimed multibillionaire – and by his own confession, he mostly drops from the skies like Jesus and rain, because his most favoured mode of transport is air.
If only someone had dared to educate Mr Kabogo on how to say it nicely without ruffling so many feathers, he would by now be a very accomplished politician. Only that his spoken word mostly comes out crude and boisterous and when the bug of pride decides to bite him, it does so with a passion.
He has been hauled to court on suspicions of hate speech more than once.
Born three days after April Fool’s Day in 1961 in Komothai, Kiambu County, even money has never been sympathetic to his wallet, for it appears to overload it from all manner of sources, and he can afford to display raw spendthrift and flamboyance all over the social scene.
He denies any involvement in those dealings he is rumoured to be in, daring those with information to the contrary to invite Americans and their allies to come and arrest him like they do with those on their lists, citing the Akashas as an example.
Those who have competed with him speak of a man who, to prove he is the boss, can buy what costs, say, a shilling, for a million bob. And should you escalate it to other levels, woe unto you.
After all, his name Kabogo in the Gikuyu language is the smaller version of mbogo, which means buffalo. A head butt from a buffalo has been the trademark of Mr Kabogo’s politics, sometimes working in his favour, other times posting sorry results.
Mr Kabogo attended St George’s Ruiru Primary School and Thika Technical School between 1975 and 1978 before joining Punjab University, India, for a bachelor of commerce degree. He briefly worked as a government auditor before he struck out to invest in real estate, transport, stocks and brokerage deals, as he says.
In the August 9 elections, Mr Kabogo beautifully pitched his ambition for the Kiambu governor’s seat under Kenya Kwanza that had Dr Ruto as its presidential flag-bearer.
Joining the alliance with his Tujibebe Wakenya Party, by the strength of a pre-election pact he had made with Dr Ruto, he enjoyed the status of a principal. He had dropped his presidential ambitions to support Dr Ruto.
But courtesy of his penchant for being full of himself, it was not long before he started disrupting the harmony in the alliance by taking head-on Dr Ruto’s running mate, Mr Rigathi Gachagua.
In the minds of political pundits, Mr Kabogo could not believe that a one-term MP from a ‘remote village’ like Mathira could rise so rapidly and overtake him.
Mr Kabogo had been MP in Juja, governor in Kiambu (2013-2017), an owner of a political party, wealthy and flamboyant. It was only normal that he felt the temptation to wonder how Mr Gachagua could be headed for Mt Kenya kingpin and second most powerful person in the republic.
He contested the Juja parliamentary seat in 2002 and won on a Kanu ticket. In 2007, he defended the seat and lost to George Thuo. He challenged the win and it was overturned, and he went ahead to win in the 2010 by-election.
“Many are saying that Mr Uhuru Kenyatta is the king of Mt Kenya politics. I can as well be the one. I am also a kingpin,” Mr Kabogo had mused in 2012.
That was when Mt Kenya was searching for its head as the retirement of President Mwai Kibaki loomed.
Mr Kabogo could also be remembered for his December 2007 dismissal of internal security minister John Michuki. The no-nonsense minister had linked Mr Kabogo to organised crime and had ordered his arrest. Mr Kabogo went underground, despite his insistence that Michuki did not scare him and that if others could survive jail, he too could overcome.
In his hideout, Mr Kabogo could not imagine that media reports claiming that he was hiding from Michuki were about him.
He organised a media conference in a Juja-area expansive bush where he landed in a chopper. After denying that he had been hiding, he posed: “Look at me and look at Michuki and tell me who resembles Mungiki.”
He then hastily left the scene and a week later, his parked motorcade outside a joint on Thika Road was fired at. He was not present.
Even after spending his political life since 2017 behaving like a chameleon, sometimes indicating he supported Dr Ruto, other times President Kenyatta and the handshake – including supporting the defunct Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) – Mr Kabogo finally threw in his lot with Dr Ruto, but his effect was not immediately felt.
When you do not feel Mr Kabogo in normal circumstances, he creates his own abnormal situations to force an effect.
June 15, 2022 was the day Mr Kabogo had chosen. Mr Gachagua was leading a UDA caravan through Kiambu County. The UDA had its gubernatorial candidate in the name of Kimani Wamatangi. Mr Gachagua told voters to vote six-piece (for only UDA candidates from ward rep to President).
This did not go down well with Mr Kabogo, who considered himself an equal to Dr Ruto on account of being an alliance principal. In his mind, Mr Gachagua and who else down the line were his juniors.
He created a public scene when he unleashed his powerful public address system to counter that of Mr Gachagua. He and Mr Wamatangi exchanged some nasty words, threatening each other to a physical duel.
From that meeting, Mr Kabogo wrote a complaint letter to the Kenya Kwanza secretariat, demanding an explanation on his status in the power matrix.
If you want to irk bullies, just ignore them and that is what the secretariat did. Mr Kabogo struck out on his own, promising fire and brimstone against Mr Gachagua, Mr Wamatangi and Kenya Kwanza. He even suggested that George Wajackoyah looked more promising than Dr Ruto.
But you don’t ignore Mr Kabogo and he fails to draw you out to react.
He escalated his war to TV stations, and on KTN, he declared that he was daring Dr Ruto to explain how he had picked Mr Gachagua as his running mate.
“Kenya Kwanza has turned into a marriage that is one-sided. We are all in it but our joint presidential candidate is campaigning for his UDA candidates in the same meetings that we have attended. I decided to call it a day but make the necessary noise,” he said.
In an apparent attack on Dr Ruto, Mr Kabogo said that “people talk of political conmanship. What do you call this? But you know, nyani haoni kundule (a monkey never acknowledges its scratched behind; I am shocked but not surprised).
He added that the law of filling the presidency in times of impeachment, natural attrition or resignation should be changed to bar the deputy from automatically assuming office, a task he promised to sponsor.
He said the appointment of Martha Karua as Raila Odinga’s running mate had eroded at least four percent of support from Dr Ruto in Mt Kenya because she was a better pick. His distaste for Mr Gachagua was simply radical.
Dr Ruto could not stomach it anymore and he publicly defended his choice of Mr Gachagua “and those fighting him are only jealous”.
Mr Muturi dismissed Mr Kabogo as a crybaby.
A Mt Kenya political ground that was heavily leaning to Dr Ruto and UDA took the cue and started demonising Mr Kabogo on social media, on radio call-in shows and at public rallies, and he faded from being anywhere near a favourite to recapture the Kiambu governor seat.
When the vote was called, Mr Wamatangi had 348,371 votes against Mr Kabogo’s 106,980. Patrick Wainaina had 273,361.
This humbled Mr Kabogo to silence. He is doing well giving his name and stature some peace away from controversies he creates against himself by his spoken word.
He was to emerge on August 15 when Dr Ruto was announced President-elect by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati to say that “may our Lord Jesus guide you in this very huge task entrusted to you by the people. Congratulations”.
He also congratulated Dr Ruto when the Supreme Court on September 1 upheld his win that the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party had challenged.
“The 5th President of the Republic of Kenya… God bless Kenya. Nothing happens without God’s approval. It’s therefore WSR the 5th,” he said.
On September 8, he was back in circulation congratulating Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Kingi.
A man who had been admitted into the kitchen to prepare the cake that is now being shared, he has reduced himself to a TV fan to witness his fellow principals reap from their loyalty, discipline and patience. The cake is being shared out per their pacts, but Mr Kabogo’s chair at the dining table is absent because he mouthed it away.
He is married to Philomena Kabogo and they have two children. At 61 now, his next normal-circumstances opportunity to reinvent himself will be in 2027, when he will be 66. Well-wishers hope that he will have found a long-lasting solution to the enemy within him – his mouth.
By Mwangi Muiruri
Lessons of life: How Kabogo bad-mouthed himself out of Kenya Kwanza table