Panic and confusion have engulfed the University of Nairobi in the wake of controversies in recent appointments to the varsity’s top management.
For now, eyes are on new Education CS George Magoha as he takes over the education portfolio.
Although he may not be able to handle the controversy surrounding appointments of new VCs being the legal aspect, fear within Vice Chancellor Peter Mbithi’s camp is that using his political connection, Magoha will likely block Mbithi renewal of his second term as VC.
When Magoha left the plum VC seat to Mbithi and returned to the lecture hall, Mbithi started frustrating him and at one time, cut the allowances Magoha was enjoying. It was then Education CS Fred Matiang’i who rescued Magoha and appointed him as chairman, Kenya National Examination Council that saved the silent war between Mbithi and Magoha at UoN. In private, Magoha dismisses Mbithi as a mere professor of veterinary dealing with livestock related issues and cannot match his credentials as an accomplished surgeon well respected in saving human life.
Mbithi has been blaming ODM leader Raila Odinga for fighting him within the corridors of power by virtue of his support of deputy president William Ruto seen as his political godfather.
Another matter boils down to immediate former Education cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed’s earlier appointments that did not go down well with the top leadership of the university, a situation attributable to the university council’s fixed mindedness.
Prof Mbithi is said to have manipulated the council members as he went on influencing the council to dance to his tune in significant appointments of four deputy vice chancellors.
CS Amina appointed three DVCs that appear to have run counter with the university council’s predispositions.
At a meeting of a top university organ towards the end of January to either implement or reject Amina’s appointments, the council protested the CS’s decision to ignore candidates who had topped in interviews, culminating into potential legal battles of monumental proportions. In fact Weekly Citizen has information that those said to have topped during the interviews performed poorly but were rewarded due to bootlicking.
It was then that the council petitioned Attorney-General Paul Kihara, seeking an advisory on Amina’s alleged violation of the law. Whereas the UoN management insisted the CS’s action was unlawful, university lecturers under the auspices of the University Academic Staff Union tendered unflinching backing for Amina.
In her defence, Amina offered that the appointment of Julius Ogeng’o as DVC Academic Affairs was based on performance and regional balance. If anything, Prof Ogeng’o had scored 82.4pc during the interview while his closest challenger Maurice Amutavi scored 54.7pc.
Arising from the goings-on, the council had earmarked Isaac Mbeche for the all-powerful position of DVC Finance, Planning and Development against a backdrop of CS Amina’s preferred appointment of Mohamud Jama, who the CS maintained was the best pick as he hailed from the marginalised Marsabit county.
Prof Mbeche, a known sidekick of the vice chancellor, is serving his second and final term as DVC Student Affairs all through to 2021 and has been the acting DVC, Finance and Administration. Mbithi finds Mbeche an easy man to manipulate compared to Prof Njoroge who was booted out of the position.
Also winning the lecturers’ backing is Amina’s appointment of Lydia Njenga as DVC Research, Production and Extension, whose appointment the CS attributed to gender balance, leaving Prof Madara Ogot as the collateral damage.
A letter dated January 24 2019 to the AG by council chair Julia Ojiambo dismissing the CS’s picks for the four DVCs raised eyebrows at the institution. Amina in a letter to Solicitor General Ken Ogeto dated January 28 seeking an advisory opinion on the powers, roles and functions of the CS and university council in the recruitment of staff at the UoN argued she had exercised powers legally bestowed on her
The council rejection of Amina’s appointees and the CS’s bypassing of the of the council’s predetermined names culminated into long-drawn leadership wrangles that delayed ratification of the DVC appointments.
On their part, lecturers contend the CS neither broke the law nor contravened policy in her appointments and was perfectly in order to exact the new appointments.
It is imperative to note that Jubilee-leaning politician Julia Ojiambo’s appointment last year as chair of UoN council was brokered by Ruto, whose close working relationship dates back to the Kanu days. Ruto was at KICC as YK92 director of youth and worked under Ojiambo. Ojiambo was Kanu’s director of youth and women.
Incidentally, it is during Ojiambo’s reign at the UoN council that the DP attained his doctorate degree after years of academic labouring.
As the controversy was ranging, Consumer Federation of Kenya moved to court questioning the legitimacy of appointing the DVCs.
According to Cofek, the move to create new positions was a brainchild of Mbithi allies and was forced on the compromised council. This was tantamount to whittling down the office of the DVCs as well as creating parallel centres of power with Mbithi office remaining powerful as he perfected the art of divide and rule. For now, the question is who is behind Cofek current case in court blocking the new faces taking over.