Rev. Mutava Musyimi: Is he eyeing State House?

When Rev. Mutava Musyimi announced his sudden resignation as the secretary general of the influential National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), many were quick to ask: What is he up to? Analysts were quick to speculate that the churchman was headed for a political career and that he would be vying for the Gachoka parliamentary seat in Mbeere district currently held by ODM-K’s presidential aspirant Joseph Nyagah.

Yet to many others a mere parliamentary seat would not be enough attraction to make one want to leave the more significant and much respected perch of NCCK top executive and hence the proximate guess: Is this man of the cloth eyeing State House?

The speculative guess is not without basis. In the last election and just before the Kibaki Tosha declaration, Musyimi’s name was variously floated as a possible compromise candidate of the joint opposition then coalescing under the umbrella of the National Alliance party of Kenya (NAK).

The equation only changed when Raila Odinga led a rebellion in Kanu and walked away with a splinter called the Rainbow Alliance which teamed with NAK to form the NARC coalition.

In an interview at the time, Musyimi admitted nursing presidential ambitions but said the “opportune time has never beckoned.” However, he admitted that had the opposition approached him at the time, he would have given the offer a “very serious consideration.”

If that be the case, the former NCCK boss who is a staunch supporter of President Kibaki, is training his ambition on 2012 when the incumbent retires, supposing that he is re-elected for a second term this year, or beyond. However, a stab at a parliamentary seat in 2007 election would give the man of the collar the much needed exposure in electoral politics.

But in an interview last month, Musyimi could not confirm or deny he was plunging into politics, less so admit he was eyeing the presidency.

Insisting that he had several options to toe with, Musyimi said he either could go back to mainstream church work or venture into business, among a couple of other options.

A source close to him however confided that Musyimi was definitely decided on joining politics.

“I guess he does not want to declare yet because technically he is still the NCCK secretary general until September but he is definitely headed for politics.”

The source told us that Musyimi had personally told him of his future plans way back in July last year. “He has his eyes on Gachoka but just as a stepping stone for bigger things”, said the source.

Musyimi whose term was to expire in December next year has been chief executive of the giant church body since 1993, when he took over from Samuel Kobia.

If he decides to join politics, Musyimi would certainly make use of many useful contacts made in his long tenure as NCCK secretary general and as senior Anglican clergy. For many years he was the priest in charge of the Nairobi Baptist Church on the secondment from the influential Anglican Church.

The senior position in the church network most likely has also earned Musyimi useful contacts abroad. This may come in handy should he embark on fund-raising to enhance his political adventures. He would also use the countrywide church network to woo voters.

Musyimi leaves NCCK on the positive side of the ledger having helped the council invest a total of Kshs 700 million in various commercial projects countrywide. They include the construction of a state-of-the-art headquarters for the church body, the Jumuiya place, along the city’s Lenana Road.

Away from NCCK, Musyimi is also chair of the National Anti-Corruption Steering Committee. He is also the chairman of a media outfit, the Distance broadcasting Limited, which runs a vernacular radio station, Mwaitu.

Sources say the clergyman would not immediately announce his intention to vie for the Gachoka seat as this could impact negatively on the process of recruiting his successor.

It could also antagonize some members of the council who would wish to have nothing to do with “partisan politics,” say sources.

Musyimi’s confidants say he would be joining politics on any party associated with his friend, president Kibaki.

He was appointed NCCK chief executive at the beginning of the crucial 1990s decade when the church and other religious groups played decisive roles in moments of crisis. They included agitation for the restoration of multi party democracy which invited ruthless clampdown from the then authoritarian Kanu government.

As the secretary general of NCCK and later chairman of the Ufungamano Review Initiative, the pries became and important player on the politics of change.

For long he was a leading player in the constitution making process. He was the chair pf the Ufungamano Constitution Review Initiative which merged with the Parliamentary Review Commission in late 2000 to avert a possible constitutional crisis.

Later he became a delegate at the Bomas Constitutional Conference but withdrew after three months reasoning that the parley had generated into an acrimonious House of Babel.

Of late he has been quoted as opposing the minimum reforms fronted by ODM-K and a section of the civil society. “There is nothing minimum about them. What is minimum to you maybe maximum to me,” he has been quoted sating.

Rev. Musyimi retires as the boss of NCCK at the age of 55. He has two grown children. His first daughter Mweni Nyokabi is a law graduate of University of Cardiff currently pursuing a masters degree at the Trinity Divinity School in Chicago while his younger son, Syano Musyimi, is completing his first year at the University of Southampton. His wife Nyambura is the principal partner at the law form Musyimi and Company Advocates.

When he openly plunges into Gachoka parliamentary politics, Musyimi will have to contend with clan politics but for a man of his sophistication he will most likely ignore this, market an alternative leadership, campaign on the platform of issues and let the electorate decide.

Like in 2002 when he maintained studious silence in the face of speculation that he had presidential ambitions he has again been evasive but his intentions fro Gachoka have been an open secret for months.

In 2002 he may not have been ready but Nyagah, the incumbent may have planted the seeds of his own political destruction by going against local convention wisdom. Silence or no silence, the man of the cloth appears set for the August house.

Musyimi has been involved in matters of public interest for most of the time he has served as the NCCK secretary general but it is his role in the constitutional review process that made his profile much higher than that of many ordinary clergymen.

His deft maneuvering in the process cast him as level headed, principled and unblemished middle-of-the roader who could be trusted across the ethnic divide. It is this profile that marked him as a possible compromise presidential candidate in 2002, and could again make it easier for him to remove the son of his father’s lifelong friend, Jeremiah Nyagah.

In a 2002 interview Musyimi hinted that he would probably have considered the idea of becoming a compromise opposition presidential candidate but insisted it was up to the then opposition parties to make that decision.

“I like the opportunity I have to be a secretary general of NCCK. It is a very privileged position and it would take a lot more fro me to resign from the job. I would have to be convinced that what I am going into has added value and that there are things I could do through that position that I cannot do here”, he said noncommittally.

He added rather tellingly that his wife and he had been praying about the idea of becoming the country’s president for five years following multiple requests to vie for the post from people from all walks of life, “but I do not think I have harboured presidential ambitions”.

That may now have changed
Rev Musyimi, is an ethnic Mkamba by birth, but he grew up in Mwea after his grandparents moved from Machakos to the then lower parts of Nyeri district (now Kirinyaga) in 1928 when his father was a small boy.

It was on the rice growing fields of Mwea at Riakanau that Musyimi’s grandparents became first generation Christians in the area in 1946 and renewed their marriage vows in church.

His parents also joined the church with his father becoming a lay leader of the Anglican Church. He later ventured in to politics becoming a councilor in the 1950s, a position he held for 25 years. The older man who was murdered in 1977, was a close friend of former minister and father of two sitting MPs, Jeremiah Nyagah.

Because of his father’s privileged position, the Musyimi family of eight children would annually attend what was then the Royal Show in Nairobi and one of the things that fascinated the young man were the military bands “because of the sense of order and majesty.” Possibly the priest will one day inspect a military guard of honour.

The language of instruction during the priest’s early learning was Kikuyu and his native Kikamba was not allowed which made Musyimi the fluent Kikuyu speaker he is today.

Musyimi sat his ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels at Kangaru School in Embu and did a Bachelor of Education degree course at the Kenyatta University.

“It was at Kenyatta in 1973 that I felt the call to the Christian ministry and after college I did quite a bit of volunteer work with the Baptist Church despite the fact that my background was Anglican,” the priest said in an interview five years ago.

He was later to serve the Nairobi Baptist Church for 14 years before joining the NCCK. Through the Baptist Church he did a Bachelor of Divinity course in London and later a master of Theology at the Trinity Divinity School, in Illinois, USA.

In the earlier interview, Musyimi was quoted as saying that he stopped being a ‘simple preacher’ and started tackling ‘social issues’ on coming back to Nairobi after the masters course and the controversial streak in him emerged in 1988, when he was one of those who vehemently opposed the government of former President Moi when it sought to remove the security of tenure of judges and the attorney general.

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5 Responses to Rev. Mutava Musyimi: Is he eyeing State House?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....keep up the good job siRKen.

Mutava Musyimi, could he be the real leader Kenya has been waiting for...interesting!!!!

Anonymous said...

Quite an impressive profile. I'd gladly vote for the man. I'm surprised you did not touch on his relationship with Kalonzo.

Anonymous said...

This Musyimi is going up against the man who was voted Best MP 2006...perhaps you should look into that one, py the people.
And Southampton is not all that as a University.
He also if you dig deeply into his past BITES the Hand that feed him. Great Leadership materail....hmmm

Anonymous said...

A leader is God chosen.He could be the one............

Anonymous said...

Mutava is an honest man he transformed NCCK he is transforming Gachoka he is the leader that Kenya is looking for...