Swoops at Jimi Wanjigi’s homes add twist to his political story

When police raided city billionaire Jimi Wanjigi’s homes in Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi on Monday, it was a sign of how far the wheeler-dealer has fallen from the top echelons of power into the center of a political storm.

The Muthaiga, in Nairobi, raid came hours after police ransacked a villa in Malindi and confiscated five AK-47 rifles and 93 rounds of ammunition.

While some of the arrested workers alleged they were employees of Mr Wanjigi — an allegation we could not independently verify — police said the house on Ngowa Road at Mtangani, belongs to two Italians: Mr Franco Fantani and Mr Giovanni Ferliga.

NASA
Mr Wanjigi, a tenderpreneur of presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, and the early years of the Uhuru regimes, is credited with being a key financier of Mr Raila Odinga’s Nasa and having played a key role in its campaigns as the funds mobiliser.

The raid came on a day Nasa leaders announced that they would start a nationwide series of rallies starting Tuesday, to mobilise their supporters not to participate in the October 26 presidential election.

It also came as Nasa accelerated its push to stop the poll unless there are electoral reforms.

JUBILEE
A well-known Mr Fix-it, Mr Wanjigi was once untouchable, thanks to his past links to the security apparatus and senior politicians, including the late former Vice President George Saitoti.

He is also believed to have brokered the deal between Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (TNA) and Mr William Ruto (URP) and the formation of the Jubilee administration.

He later fell out with both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto — over what his friends say was the standard gauge railway tender, which the government decided to give to the Chinese Government and not to the companies lined up by Mr Wanjigi’s Tyl Limited.

A man who lives like a king at his 44 Muthaiga Road house, which is lined with splendid palm trees, signs of opulence and modern security system, Mr Wanjigi has of late been living under fear after he became the subject of attack by Jubilee politicians annoyed with his dalliance with the opposition.

SECURITY
So frightened is the billionaire that on September 10, he drove to Gigiri Police Station and reported that his life was in danger.

He later wrote to the Inspector-General asking police to provide him with security at his own cost.

His father, former Moi Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi was seen entering his son’s home, where journalists were kept out.

Others who went in were former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, and Nasa lawmakers James Orengo and Junet Mohammed, a sign that this raid is going to take a political angle.

Police sources also said they intended to raid another house in Nyali, Mombasa.

FUTURE
For years, Mr Wanjigi was the most feared businessman, with a reputation to rival that of legendary barons.

His hold on multi-billion government contracts and cutting deals with Chinese infrastructure companies was well known and was highlighted in a recent investigative series by the Nation.

The question that many political observers are asking is what next for the billionaire who is Nasa’s Mr Moneybags and whose closeness to Mr Odinga is now well known.

During the campaigns, Mr Wanjigi was a regular guest at Mr Odinga’s Karen home.

CORRUPTION

He sat with family members during the presidential debate, and was present during the launch of the Nasa manifesto.

He also hosted a small party secretariat at his up-market Caramel Restaurant at ABC Westlands, where he had hoped that the victory party would be held.

Why Mr Odinga embraced a man who was going to injure the anti-corruption agenda of his fourth bid on the presidency might not be known soon — but Nasa insiders admit that Mr Wanjigi’s wad of notes did the magic.

During the campaigns, Nasa dared Jubilee to arrest Mr Wanjigi if indeed he had committed any crime.

ANGLO-LEASING
A man who made his billions through government supply and as a wheeler-dealer, getting a 10 per cent cut from the multi-billion tenders that he fronted for various Chinese companies, Mr Wanjigi opened his vault to the party, hoping to have a say in the Nasa government in case of an Odinga victory.

Jubilee mandarins took advantage of Mr Wanjigi’s presence in Nasa and dismissed its campaign as being funded by “corruption cartels” — a reference to Mr Wanjigi who prominently featured in the Anglo-Leasing scandals during the Mwai Kibaki presidency, though was never convicted of any crime.

Whether the raid on Mr Wanjigi’s house is related to this past politics is not clear – and the guns found in the Malindi villa adds another twist to the political story.

That Mr Wanjigi was the other principal in the Nasa line-up was known by the strings that he pulled within the outfit.

TALLYING CENTRE

He was alleged to have his own manifesto, which had created tension within the Secretariat, and which Mr Odinga was at pains to defend after one of his advisers, David Ndii, dismissed it as the work of tenderpreneurs.

Mr Wanjigi’s story is that of a rich man who plays Kenyan politicians like pawns in a chess game and who was the super-glue that maintained the rapport between Uhuru and Ruto and later on between Mr Odinga, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, and former Cabinet ministers Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi.

An IT man, Mr Wanjigi was the brain behind the setting up of the Nasa tallying centre in Nairobi’s Westlands’ suburb and which was brought down by hooded gunmen – Nasa says by police – before the voting commenced leaving the party without any place to coordinate the tallying of the numbers from the constituencies.

EXPERTS
Although Siaya Senator James Orengo had said that this was one of its smaller tallying centres, details later emerged that the same gunmen raided two other secret locations and carted away more computers.

The tallying centres were to be manned by an American John Phillips, chief executive of political consultancy Aristotle, and Canadian Andreas Katsouris, a senior executive at the firm.

They were to be joined by two Ghanaians among them Mr Peter Mac Manu, touted as one of the best brains when it comes to election results tabulation and his research assistant and activist, Evans Nimako – a man who had taken Ghana’s electoral commission to court demanding that it cleans-up voters register while acting on behalf of the now President Nana Akufo-Addo, but then an opposition politician.

RIGGING

During Ghana’s election, it was Mac Manu – who was President Akifo-Addo’s campaign manager –who declared results in his favour even before the Electoral Commission did the same and was the man who had set up a parallel vote tabulation system Ghana.

He had hoped to replicate the same tallying in Kenya and train the Nasa coalition personnel on the parallel collation of results to avoid rigging as then opposition NPP in Ghana did to thwart the rigging ploy of National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Whether the raid on Mr Wanjigi’s house is related to this past politics is not clear – and the guns found in the Malindi villa adds another twist to the political story.

Mr Wanjigi is a key financier and strategist for Nasa.

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