This chauvinistic patronage of women leaders must cease

By NBM WRITER Just two days before the historical arrival of the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on May 7 2014, the then cabinet secretary Devolution Anne Waiguru visited the National Youth Service headquarters at Ruaraka. On standby to receive her was then director-general of the institution, Japhther Kiplimo Rugut. The CS made several announcements. However, two among them stood out; the Chinese Premier would visit the institution’s headquarters on May 11. The second was a warning that those who did not measure up to her blueprint would be moved to either the Sports ministry or to the counties. Indeed, on the big day, Mr Rugut received a text message from the CS asking him not to attend the event. Effectively, Mr Rugut had been shown the door. He was transferred to the Sports ministry. No amount of crying foul would make Ms Waiguru, who was becoming increasingly powerful, rescind her decision. The Chinese Premier was coming along with goodies to the institution. But it was not just that; the institution had been earmarked by the new administration as the cash cow through which political war chests for the next General Election would be built. As such, the path had to be cleared to pave way for yes-administrators, or at least those who could look away where they did not agree with the machinations of the powers that be to swindle the institution. In the following financial year, in June 2015, exactly a year after the unceremonious disengagement of Mr Rugut from the National Youth Service,  Jubilee Coalition members of the National Assembly braved all manner of resistance on the floor of the House to allocate NYS a whooping Sh25 billion, a 117% increase from Sh11.5 billion given in the previous year. The drama that ensued in the sharing of the spoils, characterised by the trendy affidavit swearing, is still unfolding, sucking in the who’s who in the political landscape and threatening to rip the ruling coalition right in the middle.Bottom line, when it was convenient to edge out Rugut to pave the way for them to loot, nothing could stand in their way. As far as corporate boardroom wrangles go, especially in Kenya’s government and quasi-government institutions, National Oil Corporation of Kenya (Nock) chief executive, Ms Summaya Athmani should be a very worried woman. For her, the die is cast. Nock, just like NYS then, has had everything going for it in terms of revenue accumulation in recent times. Last year, the national oil marketer won a lucrative tender to supply fuel lubricants and bitumen to government ministries and agencies in an exclusive deal that locked out private oil marketers, locking them out the Sh300 billion, 10, 000km annuity road construction project. The directive giving supply rights to Nock was issued through a letter by chief of staff and head of the public service Joseph Kinyua. It is also instructive that her suspension happened within the first days in office of the new CS Energy, Charles Keter. Ms Summaya was sent on compulsory leave in early February by a board only constituted May last year, in demand of a full audit of the corporation’s operations in the background of a Sh270 million loss posted for the half year period of the current FY, never mind that KPMG had recently concluded an audit into the operations of Nock for the period under review. She has, in just four years, more than doubled total assets of the oil marketer from Sh5.8 billion in 2010/2011 to Sh12 billion in 2-14/2015 and expanded fixed assets from Sh2.2 billion to Sh6.5 billion and increased the turnover from Sh15 billion to Sh24 billion with a forecast of Sh32 billion for 2015/2016. More worrying to Summaya, however, should be her informal reinstatement by Deputy President (DP), William Ruto. The DP made the announcement mid February at a meeting with the Muslim community at the Red Cross Hall in Malindi while drumming up support for a Jubilee Party candidate in the March 7 by election for Malindi Constituency. The reinstatement is more dubious than the suspension. Clearly, it was out of horse-trading, the DP was held by the horns and given terms to fulfill for the much-needed votes. It should keep poor Summaya more worried because she now serves at the whims of a section of the political establishment. Two, she is back in the board with members who suspended her and are yet to clear her of the accusations for which they suspended her. What is the relationship going to be like knowing that her return is purely political? For a person whose record in management speaks for itself, this political patronage only comes as baggage. The suspension reeks of malice if not an NYS-like maneuver to loot dry the national oil marketer. While it is highly unlikely that the malicious, intended audit would have exonerated her allowing her back in office, it is equally unlikely that the political reinstatement will hold long for her – the perfect between-a-rock-and-hard-place scenario. While no one is saying that Ms Summaya should be given preferential treatment, however, when she has proven herself in such heights, there should be some level of respect and support, not sabotage. Administrative actions such as her suspension should not be arbitral but warranted. And where they suffice, the reinstatement should be only after due process so that one comes back with full backing of the law to be able to carry out their mandate without fear or favour. This chauvinistic patronage of women leaders, to fire and rehire at a whim should stop.

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