Kenya’s premier learning institution University of Nairobi (UoN) is engulfed in a leadership wrangle as President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are currently locked in a war through proxies to control who assumes its leadership.
While DP William Ruto is still interested in having control over the businesses at the university, President Uhuru believes that his deputy is trying to control UoN as it will be key in putting pressure on the government right before and after 2022 elections.
On Friday, Education CS Prof George Magoha overturned the appointment of Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama as the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, days to his installation.
Magoha in a letter “revoked the appointment of Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama as the University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor until the ongoing consultative process of appointing the substantive vice-chancellor is completed” as well as dissolved the varsity’s council led by Prof Julia Ojiambo.
Other council members include; Flora Mtuweta, Mghulo Mghanga, Dr Jocelyn Maria Rariega, Hassan Abdi Mohamed, Isaac Kiprop, Samuel Kiru and Dr Kevit Desai representing the ministry.
Sources privy to the details say that while Kiama did not make it on the list of the three best candidates interviewed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on December 18, 2019.
Kahawa Tungu understands that the university council chairperson Prof Ojiambo doctored the list of candidates to include Prof Kiama, who will continue to dispense his mandate as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Human Resource and Administration at the university.
The law dictates that the PSC hands to the ministry of education a list of three candidates and with its guidance, the president picks the best-qualified candidate. In this case, this was not done.
The ministry kept mum on the issue until Friday when Magoha made their stance known.
The name of DP Ruto has been mentioned in the dealings at the university during the reign of the outgoing VC, Prof Peter Mulwa Mbithi.
It is said that it was during Prof Mbithi’s time at the institution, Ruto owned firms like Amaco Insurance and Lavington Security bagged major lucrative tenders in their sectors.
For example, UoN was in 2019 on the spot for awarding Lavington Security a Ksh1 billion security tender.
Protective Security Industry Association protested to the university’s procurement manager over the tendering process, accusing the department of raising mandatory requirements that favoured Lavington Security.
The then acting VC Prof Isaac Mbeche defended the tender noting that it was on the up and up.
“We were looking for a company with a sound financial position and which can pay its guards even before receiving payments from the university. We are facing serious cash flow challenges,” Mbeche is quoted as having said.
Prof Kiama’s appointment, KahawaTungu further understands was influenced by Prof Mbithi who just like Prof Ojiambo is said to be close to DP Ruto. Prof Ojiambo is reported to have been bribed with millions and a new car to endorse DP Ruto’s preferred candidate.
Funnily, Prof Kiama kept off this morning’s UoN Senate meeting which was chaired by acting Vice-Chancellor Prof Mbeche. Members of the senate thought that there would be a showdown this morning with both turning up to chair the meeting.
We have also learnt that the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Nairobi chapter is split down the middle over Prof Kiama’s controversial appointment.
Long-serving UASU Secretary-General George Omondi issued a statement supporting the contentious appointment.
A UASU insider did intimate that Omondi has long been implicated in the loss of funds at the chapter. He has also been influenced by the management to frustrate better terms for workers.
His statement was a sign of solidarity with Prof Mbithi proteges who are celebrating Kiama’s appointment.
Kiama, a source further divulged, will help cover up the dirty dealings that took place during Mbithi’s tenure as well as his own as the Principal at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Despite the revoked appointment by Education CS Prof. Magoha, Prof Kiama in a letter dated 18 January 2020, asked the UoN community to stay calm and assured supporters that he is still at the helm.
In the letter, Kiama indicates that he will continue to serve as the VC because he was “lawfully and validly” appointed.
Prof Kiama in yet another letter has warned stakeholders and collaborators against entering into contracts with other persons apart from himself. Deals entered with others, he said, will not be viable.
In a “confidential” letter signed by PSC Chairman Stephen Kirogo, showing the performance of the top candidates from the interview, Prof Kiama is indicated as the winner with an average score of 80.44.
Coming in second, in what the embattled scholar claims to be the official results was Prof Madara Ogot with a 79.31 score while was Prof Patricia Mbote scoring 78.44, followed by acting VC Prof Mbeche with 77.94 points.
In fifth place was Prof Elijah Omwenga (76.13), Prof Solomon Shibairo in sixth with 70.56 and in seventh place was Prof Bernard Njoroge with a score of 70.13 points.
In what may be termed as conflicting information, Prof Mbeche in his first act as acting Vice-Chancellor has shut down the university’s advancement office.
Officers working here have been advised to await redeployment letters.
Those in the know say that Prof Njoroge was President Kenyatta’s pick. He was the man supposed to clean up the mess that is the institution of higher learning.
Mbithi’s tenure, for example, was marred with corruption, nepotism and poor management.
Last year, it was reported that Mbithi purchased office furniture worth a whooping Ksh20 million without following procurement procedures.
The Auditor-General also reported that the institution had been running on bank overdrafts to an extent of failing to remit statutory deductions including loans.
The institution of higher learning failed to remit PAYE of Sh283 million, National Social Security Fund deductions of Ksh3.4 million, National Hospital Insurance Fund deductions of Ksh10.8 million, Sh1.5 billion, SACCO deductions of Ksh204 million and HELB deductions of Ksh 828,387.
Following Kiama’s “ouster”, sources have intimated that there was a five-hour closed-door meeting in the VC’s office.
It was between Prof Mbithi, Prof Kiama and a Mr Ng’eno from DP Ruto’s office. Details of the meeting are yet to be revealed