The major bone of contention has to do with the giant multinational Tata Chemicals, where the governor has waged a sustained campaign for the company to be compelled to pay taxes that run into billions of shillings
By Jonathan Teikan
Kajiado County Assembly Deputy Speaker Joseph Masiaya is a man under siege. From the look of things, Governor Joseph ole Lenku has declared an all-out war on him.
Early this month, Lenku went to Oldoinyo Onyokie, in Magadi Ward, to hand over a title deed to the community, where Masiaya is the MCA. Speaking in Maasai, Lenku announced that Masiaya will henceforth be sidelined from all development activities initiated by the county government.
To start with, the County Government of Kajiado would disburse bursary funds worth Sh400,000 to needy students in Magadi Ward to the exclusion of Masiaya. Similarly, the 50 free NHIF cards per ward to be issued to residents who do not have goats would be done without consulting the MCA.
Lenku also hinted at isolating Masiaya by working with other leaders who hail from Magadi Ward and who would in effect undermine him. He named the leaders as current CECM for Health Esther Somoire, County Public Service Board Chairman George Letema and Kajiado Central Revenue Director Janet Sereu.
To cap it all, Lenku accused Masiaya of being a “traitor to the community”.
It can be said that the governor literally took the battle to Masiaya’s doorstep. “I was present throughout the meeting and suffered through the whole humiliation episode,” Masiaya told Kajiado Star in his office. “I felt anger well up inside me but then I decided not to allow such blatant provocation to get to me. I was elected to serve the people of Magadi and that is exactly what I will endeavour to do.”
What personal differences might be there with the governor, we ask. “None at all,” he says. “I only have ideological differences with him; we differ on some major issues that touch on Magadi Ward.”
The major bone of contention has to do with the giant multinational Tata Chemicals, where the governor has waged a sustained campaign for the company to be compelled to pay taxes that run into billions of shillings.
“While I acknowledge that there are a number of issues that require to be addressed with Tata, I differ with the approach taken by the governor,” explains Masiaya. “I am for dialogue but he decided to go the way of demos and anarchy. I would not be party to that.”
The Deputy Speaker was referring to an incident, early last year, where Lenku organised a protest demonstration at the Tata Chemicals plant in Magadi. “I was deliberately kept in the dark regarding how the demonstration would be carried out. However, when the governor incited the people to destroy company premises and equipment, I put my foot down. There was no way I was going to be party to that mess. I even made myself clear to the media,” adds Masiaya.
“I also took great exception to Lenku’s decision to sabotage the water network in Magadi; how do you even contemplate cutting off water supply to schools and livestock in the area? That is not what I was elected to do,” he says, adding that if his tribulations are as a result of the decisions he makes on behalf of his people, then he has no regrets.
Tata Chemicals, he reckons, can do better on some issues. “There are issues like employment of locals, the signing of a new Mining Act, as well as the Community Development Agreement. However, these issues cannot be agreed upon in the current poisoned atmosphere; we need dialogue,” adds Masiaya.
He equates Tata Chemicals’ presence in Magadi to a fruit-producing tree. “You do not cut it down; you shake it to enjoy the fruits that will fall to the ground,” he says philosophically.
He is however quick to clarify that he does not speak on behalf of Tata. “I only speak for the people who elected me,” he says.
On accusations that he has sold out the community to Tata, Masiaya had this to say: “I am a born again Christian and a pastor; I cannot be bribed.”
He reckons that it is at that point that he became a marked man in the books of Lenku. “The governor put together a line-up of politicians from my backyard to undermine me,” he says.
Just as the governor had alluded in his Oldonyo Onyokie address, Masiaya alleged that Health CEC Esther Somoire is being used by the governor to fight him in his Magadi backyard.
“Somoire hails from Magadi and like the governor, I have nothing against her,” he explains. “It is only she was not my choice, when it became clear that a CEC would be appointed from Iloodokilani. Besides she belonged to the ODM party.”
Somoire had contested the Kajiado Woman Rep position on an ODM ticket during the 2017 elections and came second to the Jubilee candidate Janet Teiyaa. “It should be remembered that at that time Magadi was an ODM zone. We fought really hard as Jubilee to edge out ODM and in the process gathered substantial votes for Lenku,” adds Masiaya.
With such a background in mind, Masiaya approached Lenku to inform him why he was opposed to Somoire’s nomination. “The governor however prevailed upon us to support his choice and it is on record that we approved her nomination in the County Assembly. That is what I mean when I say that I have nothing personal against her.”
He now accuses Lenku of betrayal, saying that he used confidential information he expressed to him about Somoire’s suitability to turn against him.
Regarding discrimination when it comes to county bursary allocations, Masiaya traces his tribulations to the moment he joined a number of MCAs to oppose the impeachment motion against Speaker Johnson Osoi. “The governor has withheld bursary cheques for MCAs who supported the Speaker,” says Masiaya. “This is a contravention of bursary regulations that govern the disbursement of bursaries.”
“We have a bursary committee in place and which has developed a list of beneficiaries but we have not been asked to submit them. The governor has instead bypassed us and is using chiefs and his political cronies to issue bursary cheques,” says Masiaya.
On Friday, January 17, at a funeral in Oloorsirkon Sholinke, area MCA Francis Kaesha complained that he too had been denied bursary funds by Lenku’s government. He is one of the MCAs who backed the Speaker during the impeachment storm.
The Deputy Speaker claims that he has initiated reconciliation talks with the governor three times, “but the governor keeps postponing it; he then comes to undermine me in my ward.”
Is he worried? “Far from it,” he says. “I have the support of my people; that is what matters most to me. I might not be elected unopposed but what I know is that 2022 will be easier for me than 2017.”