When Martha Karua announced in late 2007 that she would be one of the debutantes for the 2012 presidential polls, most of us ignored her.Enter 2008, she has repeatedly reiterated this and proceeded to underpin it with concrete political action. She is now interim chair of NARC-K, the PNU partner boasting the highest number of members in the tenth Parliament. When she therefore asserts that she is no longer interested in PNU unity and wishes to strengthen her party in preparation for 2012, only non-serious political strategists can afford to take her lightly.
Ms Karua is the embodiment of political suave. No one quite understands how she appeared on the political scene. She stands on no historical political legacy akin to Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Musalia Mudavadi or Mr Raila Odinga, nor was she chaperoned into politics by any national or regional kingpins as was Mr Kalonzo Musyoka. Neither was she born into financial plenty to help her “buy” her way into parliament as many others have had to. And, in the many years she has served from the backbench of parliament and later the front bench as cabinet minister, she has not been embroiled in financial improprieties.
Her tenure as cabinet minister has also been colourful. Those in the Water ministry will tell you that she left a legacy that endures. She is credited with a reform model that has now become a benchmark for reforms in other sectors. And, she was strong and no-nonsense when she served there. Those in the Justice ministry will have stories to tell about her tireless style. She works indefatigably. That’s good for policy formulation and driving.
Her raw courage amazes. Recall when she stoically walked out in broad daylight, cameras zooming, on former president Moi in Kerugoya stadium, that she had been denied a chance to address her people?
Why then would anyone be surprised that she, today, can easily stand her ground against President Kibaki on this small matter of PNU unity? That’s Martha for us.That’s why I think it would be political folly to disregard her current drive for presidential office. Here’s a Kenyan with an unblemished record of public service, occupies a key cabinet office, is leader of a growing political party, has courage and a doubtless clarity of mind.Clearly, she has come from afar to occupy ground earlier reserved for only the likes of Mr Uhuru and Mr Saitoti in taking the mantle from President Kibaki.