Ntaati: A story of power and unrivalled influence

Close allies, some of whom served with him as Councillor in the defunct Olkejuado County Council, describe James Lesere as an indomitable influencer in  the county’s  corridors of power

By Jonathan Teikan

Dalalekutuk Ward representative James Lesere is said to have no formal education, yet his development track record remains remarkably unmatched.

Lesere, 50, who is commonly referred as Ntaati, indisputably commands much respect from his colleagues. A majority of these are youthful and learned MCAs, who fondly refer to him as Oltasat (elder), thanks to his wise counsel and composed demeanour.

At a glance, one will take him for a common man; He is slender and often soft-spoken. Moreover, by and large, he dresses casually.

However, his close allies, some of whom served with him as councillor in the defunct Olkejuado County Council, describe him as an indomitable influencer in the county’s corridors of power.

He is believed to have unrivalled influence, not only in key government appointments, but also in the award of contracts.

It is alleged that Ntaati, reportedly a close confidant of Governor Joseph ole Lenku, has influenced the appointment of a top county official and a score of chief officers, among other employees.

In an exclusive interview,  Lesere  confirmed the allegations, noting that his bromance with the governor began way back, when Lenku was Interior Cabinet Secretary.

At the time, he narrated, chiefs were being appointed, and out of a political rivalry with the then area MP Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery, he approached the  CS to assist his political allies secure the positions.

Thanks to his move, which to an extent has attributed to his long-standing political survival, one of the allies was appointed a chief while another was appointed an assistant chief.

However,  the  aftermath  of  the  appointment, he says, led to a scuffle between the CS and  the  MP,  with  the  latter  claiming  that  the  CS was undermining him through the chiefs.

“He helped me when it was not apparent that he will require a pay-back someday. I found a true friend in him, and our friendship has blossomed since,” he revealed.

He further claimed that before Ole Lenku could declare his interest for the gubernatorial seat, he called a clique of his inner-circle friends to consult with, and “I was privileged to be among them.”

On appointments, he said, “The governor has known me to be a selfless  person  who  values fairness and equity. I sometimes advise him to do things that do not necessarily benefit my ward members.”

The MCA, whom others bash for not doing any tangible development despite his influence in the county government, said, “My pride is not for me to be the richest, but to make others rich through service and empowerment.”

He claimed that whenever he goes to other sub-counties and notices matters that the people want the governor to address, he promptly advises the governor accordingly.

“All that the governor wants is someone who can give him reliable information, and one who is not obsessed with his personal interest. He has also appreciated that when things are not going well, I can frankly tell him and he corrects,” he said.

Nevertheless, there are moments when he could entreat the governor to assist but he fails to grant his request. In such a case, he said, “I don’t get angry and go about expressing my disappointment to everyone and anyone.”

Against a backdrop of claims by incumbent area MP Memusi Kanchory that there are no development initiatives that the county government is undertaking in wards in Kajiado  Central,  except  only  in  Ildamat,  he said his ward is among the leading in terms of development, if not the first.

In a video clip that went viral on social media, the MP had said, “I congratulate Samuel Teum (Ildamat), because in all the five wards in Kajiado Central, it’s only in Ildamat Ward that I see two or three projects that are being carried out.”

He added: “Whenever I traverse the wards launching projects, I don’t see projects initiated by the county government. Lenku has only been expending public funds to buy parcels of land.” Lesere rubbished the claims, noting that, “the county has done much, and himself little, if any.”

Teum  himself,  he  said,  “being  a  House committee  leader  and  a  member  in  several others, is therefore a witness that there are development  projects  taking  place  across the county — not just in Kajiado Central” he said.

He  cited  the  Olkejuado  High  School  dining hall, which the county government is currently constructing, noting that it should otherwise be funded using  the Community Development Fund kitty.

“When we went to the school, the cry was colossal, with more than 1,000 students without a dining hall; the governor was moved to commit himself to save the  situation.  Interestingly, when we began to undertake the project, instead of him coming to explain why he did not do it, he questioned why we did it.”

In his two terms, he said, he has given particular focus on improving road infrastructure, healthcare facilities, education, and access to clean water.

He prioritized the building of an efficient road system, as a number of his ward residents depend on trade for their livelihoods.

A section of the residents, he said, needed good infrastructure to transport their merchandise to towns along the Nairobi-Namanga road.

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He added: “Those who undertake agroeconomy along Ol-Keriai River also needed to be facilitated to transport their produce, in time, to the various towns within and without the ward.”

Whereas some wards had  experienced  intermittent political temperatures, which has allegedly distracted service delivery, Dalalekutuk ward has enjoyed relative political  stability, a matter that the MCA attributes to the residents’ “contentment” with his leadership.

“People in my ward have come to appreciate that I am treating them all equally, regardless of whether they supported me or not… we are definitely not meeting all their needs, but they are content that we are doing our level best,” he claimed.

His erstwhile political opponents, whom he described  as an  “epitome  of mature  politicians,” have  resorted  to  give  him  ample  time  to deliver or fail to.

Their take, he said, is not necessarily because they agree with everything he is doing, but out of  the  consideration  that  incessant  politicking will be detrimental to development.

It remains to be seen whether he will be defending his seat in the next general election.

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