Dominic Odipo: What is the secret to Wako’s long stint as AG?

There is something in this country which has remained stubbornly fixed over most of the last two decades. Through the good and the bad times; through high profile scandals and background rumblings, it has remained the same.

In four general elections and numerous Cabinet appointments and dismissals, this thing has remained unchanged. Through the worst political crisis this country has ever known; through the bloodletting and the mayhem that gripped the country after last year’s presidential elections, this thing has stayed the same,

What is it? As you may already have guessed, it is the name on the door of the office of the Attorney-General (AG). And that name, as everybody knows, is Mr Amos Wako.

Longest serving

If the Grand Coalition Cabinet stays in office for the next five years and Wako holds on to his job, by the time of the next General Election in 2012, Wako, already the longest serving AG, will have served continuously in that office for an incredible 22 years.

He will have served in one post longer than any other Kenyan Cabinet minister. He will have served in Cabinet longer than any other man or woman from his native Western Province.

And, if recent history is any guide, Wako could very well be named AG once more in the Cabinet that will take office after 2012. After all, who ever dreamt that Wako would be reappointed after the reform-minded Narc coalition took power in 2003?

As matters now appear, Wako could serve as AG longer than all the former holders of that office combined. Already, almost every school-going child was born after Wako became Attorney-General. To millions of these children, Wako and the office seem to be synonymous.

Discerning historians of the Kenyan experience through the end of the last century and the beginning of the new will probably call this period ‘The Wako Era’.

If there is a man in the highest ranks of the political class who has raw, unbridled and no-nonsense staying power, that man must surely be Wako. Consider just some of the raw facts: When Wako was appointed AG in 1990, Kenya was just moving away from a one-party dictatorship to its second multi-party era.

Wako served through the transition; through the crisis that followed the brutal murder of former Foreign Minister, Dr Robert Ouko; through at least part of the Goldenberg financial scandal; through almost all the major tribal clashes of the last two decades; through the Anglo-Leasing financial scam and through last year’s hotly disputed presidential elections.

Knows all hidden skeletons

Should there be one person who knows much of what has been going on in the last 17 years, that man must be Wako. Because he has occupied continuously such a sensitive and strategic office, the man knows who has done what and who has not done the other. He knows who has danced around the law and who has flouted or broken it. In a word, the AG knows where all our biggest and ugliest skeletons have been hidden.

What is the secret of Wako’s apparently inexhaustible staying power? Among those who know the AG well, four possible answers emerge:

The first is that the man is so genial that it becomes extremely difficult for anyone to annoy him, let alone fire him. The second is that the man knows so much about so many top people that anyone who threatens him may never survive the encounter.

The third is that the man serves the powers that be, whoever they be, with absolute dedication and loyalty, a trait which tends to endear him to all political leaders.

And the fourth is that the man has such a sharp practical and legal mind that he can run intellectual rings around virtually any opponent.

His admirers often say that the AG has such a sharp legal mind that perhaps only two or three lawyers in this country can take him on.

This extraordinary ability apparently enables him to see treacherous pitfalls long before his antagonists.

Whatever it may be that makes Wako tick, there can be little doubt that, behind the effervescent smile, there lurks, not only a first-class brain, but also a set of iron teeth. And then there is also something else very rare about this permanent Attorney-General.

No mud ever seems to stick to him. Might this be the famous ‘Teflon Effect’ that helped to propel the late Ronald Reagan to the American Presidency?

The writer is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi

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