When former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru announced that she would vie for the Nairobi governor’s seat in February last year, social media went ablaze.
Would she survive the rumble and tumble of city politics yet she had quit Cabinet for lighter duties?
But a few weeks later, she changed her mind and eyed the Kirinyaga governor’s seat.
Even then, Kirinyaga politicians and residents were unmoved by her declaration as she had never campaigned in the region let alone expressed interest for the seat.
The closest she came to holding public events was her homecoming which was attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
But political tongues started wagging when Ms Waiguru teamed up with Ms Wangui Ngirichi, an aggressive woman Representative aspirant known for flamboyant campaigns in choppers and well-branded vehicles and who was on Tuesday poised to win the Jubilee nominations race.
Ms Waiguru was from Gichugu and had the name recognition and the gravitas. Mrs Ngirichi, a Mwea resident but married in Kirinyaga Central, brought the resources and political network.
They then incorporated current Jubilee chairman John Mithamo ‘Wasusanna’, a tea director used to the rough Ndia politics. It is a tag-team that has taken Kirinyaga by storm.
“I will transform the lives of Kirinyaga people and win fair and square in the elections. When I put my mind in something, I give it my all. My 100 per cent,” she told Nation in an exclusive interview last year.
Indeed Ms Waiguru’s life has been one of grit, setting the pace and a controversial past that is both an asset and a liability.
FIGHT ON GRAFT
The mother of three sons has an Economics degree from Egerton and a Masters from the University of Nairobi.
She started her career as an intern at Transparency International (TI), an NGO known for spearheading the fight against corruption, before joining yet another organisation, the Kenya Leadership Institute.
She was involved in coming up with the Kenya Bribery Index, a survey that ranks the most corrupt institution and how much was paid to officials in such organisations.
Later on, she moved to the World Bank as the Eastern African regional representative for the parliamentary network. She was charged with coordinating members of parliament monitoring World Bank projects covering eight countries.
But her first stint in the Kenyan civil service was when the World Bank seconded her to the Cabinet office as a technical advisor on issues of governance, leadership and reforms in the public sector.
She was later to replace John Githongo as head of governance after the former PS fled the country after accusing ex-president Mwai Kibaki’s ministers of graft.
But it was during the Grand Coalition government that Ms Waiguru’s real mettle in public service was first felt.
She was tasked with implementing the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and as the head of governance, was supposed to ensure that the Sh22 billion programme goes to the intended recipients in all constituencies.
She later oversaw implementation of integrated financial management system (Ifmis), the government pay IT system that has been blamed for loss of billions in taxpayers’ money.
And when Mr Kenyatta won the presidency in 2013, she was nominated as the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning, one of the most powerful dockets in the Jubilee administration.
“I had applied for a Principal Secretary’s job. I was very shocked when I was called for a Cabinet Secretary CS interview,” she said.
From then, she tumbled from one high to another low; a mixture of delivery and controversy that keeps her in the constant eye of the storm.
But the deal breaker was the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal where taxpayers lost billions of shillings.
But in both scandals, she has consistently said she is a whistle-blower and never knew what officials in her ministry were doing.
“Now I can talk freely as a former technocrat.
“I saved the government cash. To be precise I saved taxpayers Sh800 million and when the Auditor General’s report on the issue is released, I will be proved right,” said Ms Waiguru.
On whether she had any connection with Ms Josephine Kabura, who is among those charged in court over the Sh791 million scandal, Ms Waiguru said time will prove her right.
“She was sent by those forces to tarnish my name. I never took any shilling from NYS and I do not owe anybody any money,” she maintains.
Ms Kabura and eight others have been charged over the loss of Sh791 million and the ex-minister insists that she was a whistle-blower.
As she prepares to battle former Justie Minister Martha Karua in August, her past, as well as her plans for Kirinyaga, will be a defining factor.