Shivers at State House over Ndingi Successor

It seems that Kenyans will have to wait for a while to see the white smoke from the chimney signalling the successor to Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki, a matter now said to be sending cold shivers down the spine of State House operatives ahead of the 2007 general elections. A letter from the Vatican is eagerly awaited on this matter.

Ndingi who attained the mandatory retirement age last year has been in good books with President Kibaki's administration which he openly supported during 2005 constitutional referendum and the big question is whether there a new occupant will be loyal to the government.

Sources close to State House divulged that President Kibaki's strategists are quietly expressing hope that the Pope rejects Ndingi's resignation so the diminutive soft-spoken priest remains at the helm of the country's largest church to offer the much needed support from the clergy during the electioneering period.

By putting the religious and political demography into account, state house power-brokers know quite well what is at stake hence the urgent need to get a government-friendly replacement of Ndingi.

Both Ndingi and Kibaki have in the past enjoyed cordial relationship way back during Kibaki's days when he was in The Democratic Party (DP) as an opposition leader. It was during this time that Kibaki marshalled resources among elite faithfuls in DP and bought for Ndingi a brand new Mercedes Benz to the chagrin of Moi's government.

To show how close Kibaki and Ndingi have been, during Ndingi's tenure as Nakuru bishop, he was more popular with Kikuyu members in the Rift Valley than the then PC Zachary Ogongo something Moi did not like because the local community by then was in the opposition and this explains why Ndingi has continued to enjoy support from the Kikuyu community across the country.

Although it's the Pope's prerogative to appoint whoever he wants to replace Ndingi, State House sources are wishing that he picks on a Mt. kenya cleric. According to rumour mills within the Cathlic Church hierarchy, four names are being mentioned as possible successor.

Topping the list of who would be the possible successor is that of Archbishop Nicodemus Kirima of Nyeri Archdiocese. Kirima is said to have been enjoying good relationship with the Kibaki family and state house power brokers.

Second in line is Coadjutor Archbishop of Nyeri diocese John Njue, who is said to be close to Ndingi. Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mombasa is also being considered a front-runner although he is said to have been anti0establishment. Lele is a close former retired president Daniel Moi ally. Others are Kisumu Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth who is being considered an ODM-K sympathizer and Archbishop John Njenga.

Those who know Ndingi so well say he is an underground political power broker who has been a reliable member of the Kibaki kitchen cabinet. When Kibaki was involved in a tragic road accident during the run-up to the 2002 general elections, he was one of the many Kenyans who visited him at Nairobi hospital.

Again when he was flown back from London, Ndingi was part of the clergy that led prayers at Uhuru park Nairobi. Sources say, since Kibaki took over power from Kanu, he has been a regular visitor at State House for both spiritual and political consultation with the first family.

We have gathered that when the Narc activist Mary Wambui's saga was threatening to bring down the first family, Ndingi was consulted and was probably behind the scheme that made the president to hurriedly do an unsigned press release that denounced Wambui.

Keen watchers must have noticed that of late Kibaki has formed a tradition of not skipping Sunday Church services at the Holy Family Basilica. It is claimed it was Ndingi who advised him so he can be seen as a God fearing head of state and improve his public image. Unlike retired president Moi, who would got to any church despite being a staunch African Inland church devotee, Kibaki has maintained going to Catholic church.

Archbishop Raphael S' Ndingi was Mwana'a Nzeki was born in Mwala on 25th December 1931. he was ordained as priest of Nairobi on 31st January 1961. He served as Bishop of Machakos Diocese between 1969-1971. He then moved to Nakuru as bishop where he served between 1972-1996. He then moved to serve as Archbishop Coadjutor Nairobi Archdiocese in June 1996. On 21st April 1997, he succeeded Archbishop of Nairobi as post he held until December last year when he officially sent his retirement letter to the pope after attaining the mandatory retirement age.

Ndingi whose roots are in Kitui and is widely believed to be a member of Kibaki's kitchen cabinet was considered to be opposed to so called independent or evangelical churches and largely disagreed with their mode of worship. he is said to frown at activities such as miracle crusades evangelicals like that of Archbishop Gilbert Deya who claims to pray for barren mothers until they give birth to miracle babies.

The matter has become a subject of public controversy and court litigation with many challenging Deya over exactly how miracle babies are conceived and delivered. So far about 19 children said to have been born through miracle conception are at Nairobi's Deya home.

Ndingi is said to have been prevailing on internal security minister John Michuki to get to the root of the miracle baby saga saying eve Jesus was conceived in the womb and born like a normal child.

But scientists in the UK have given various scientific opinions on the matter that remains to be heard and determined by courts. Ndingi's ally in the evangelical churches seems to be Bishop Arthur Kitonga who for years was believed to be in Moi's kitchen cabinet. The cleric said to have persuaded Kamlesh Pattni to convert to Christianity and get saved has also of late become close to Kibaki as the president has been spotted attending Sunday Services.

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