Chiloba’s long walk of shame
Ezra Chiloba is a man who believes in systems. He has a near obsessive affinity for order and processes. Which makes the goings on at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, an institution to which he has served as the chief executive officer even more puzzling.
Since the annulment of the presidential vote, the commission has been in turmoil, reeling from the sudden realisation that the cracks between the commissioners and the secretariat cannot be peppered over any more. Now, everyone, including Chiloba is holding on for dear life at a time when they should be solid as a rock, ready and willing to take Kenyans through a time of healing and introspection.
His was never an easy task, accepting his appointment to the post in January 2015, he indicated to the country that he was ready and willing to steer the commission from a tumultuous past. In fact, while taking up the job, he sounded almost full of himself, which at the time rubbed off as the confidence of a young man already too willing to risk it all for a proper election.
One of the key functions of the 38- year-old when he took over was to restore waning public confidence in the electoral body, which had taken a severe beating since the 2013 general elections.
His predecessor was dismissed and charged in court for alleged underhand procurement deals with British printing firm Smith and Ouzman. From where he sat, Chiloba clearly believed he has what it takes to succeed where James Oswago had fallen, to soar to previously uncharted heights and to deliver a credible and successful elections for Kenya.
On August 7th , 2017, a large section of the country believed that they IEBC could actually deliver their end of the bargain. Everything went well until the announcement of the results on August 11th. Then the opposition started asking questions of his baby, the elections, which had failed to show any signs of life after delivery. No amount of slaps on the infant’s bottom would make it cry. And on September 1st, after the Supreme Court declared it a stillbirth, Chiloba’s well cut, well-fitting suits seemed to be the only thing in place in an election that was termed a near fraud by the country’s highest court.
His friends say his is abrasive. His foes say he is arrogant to a fault. Some say he is a control freak. While others still say he is a perfectionist. In a topsy-turvy world where allegiances are pledged and paid in full, it was a matter of time before his character clashed with his boss’s and he realised that the ground on which IEBC had set its foundation was shaky. Soon, the house of cards he had painstakingly sought to construct around him not only crumbled, but caught fire and was reduced to unsalvageable ash.
Like his boss Wafula Chebukati, his feigning of ignorance to the goings on at the commission is not a credible defence. He has been the subject of many memos and statement over the past week. Some pledging support to him, others, like Chebukati’s infamous 12- point memo appearing to finger him for the failings that characterised the bungled election.
Chiloba is also known to be irritatingly ambitious, and there are some who are of the opinion that he has been the one running the show at the polls body with the backing of state operatives. His alleged fatal attraction to the centre of power has been pointed out by his critics. On several occasions it has been insinuated that Chiloba is a friend of the ruling party and that he was put in the commission to do their bidding.
“I had never met Jomo Gecaga (President’s Kenyatta’s personal assistant) until December 8 last year when he brought the President’s papers here. And I was like, so you are the guy? Up to this point, I can’t pick out the President’s brother, Muhoho Kenyatta from the crowd. I hear he was in Bomas but I didn’t see him,” he said in a recent interview with one of the country’s dailies.
Undercurrents though, allude to some sort of connection between him and the power brokers of the day. Hours after an being sent on suspension by his bosses he,it is believed, engineered a palace coup during which three friendly commissioners opted to walk the plank and abandon Chairman Chebukati. Their main concern was that Chebukati had failed in leading them. The real reason though, was to catch the chair in the headlights, in in that moment of temporary blindness, take him out with unrivaled swiftness.
The believability jury is still out on the man who is now battling perceptions of his perceived preference of one side of the political divide and allegations of benefitting from the firms multibillion tenders. Him being in the news came with its perks too. For a few days, he was a trending topic on social media for reasons not related to the pertinent issues of the elections.
Almost overnight, he graduated to the perfect pinup for ladies across the country who swooned themselves silly over the man’s apparent good looks with the moniker Chilobae occupying discussions on the social media. But, just like most online fads, Chilobae faded faster that you could say ‘transmission’ as rifts within the commission continue to lay bare the commission’s dirty laundry.
Inevitably, Chilobae moved on swiftly to be replaced by Chilobye.
The moderately religious man shares a name with an individual in the Bible who found himself in similar uncomfortable position.
The Biblical Ezra was a man living in Babylon when the king sent him to Jerusalem to teach the laws of God to any who did not know them. Ezra led a large body of exiles back to Jerusalem, where he discovered that Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women.
He tore his garments in despair and confessed the sins of Israel before God, then braved the opposition of some of his own countrymen to purify the community by enforcing the dissolution of the sinful marriages.
Once this task was completed Ezra read the Law of Moses to the assembled Israelites, and the people and priests entered into a covenant to keep the law and separate themselves from all other peoples.
Perhaps in this case, Babylon is where the IEBC was pre Chiloba, and he is now braving the resistance of his own countrymen (commissioners) to purify the community (IEBC) by enforcing the dissolution of sinful marriages (tender cartels, politicians and all that is bad with Kenya’s electoral process).
Or maybe he is just a man, who failed to heed his chairman’s call of fighting temptation and chose a path whose final destination was not the most ideal for the country. His fate, it seems, is intimately intertwined with those who came before him. The eventual end is a footnote in Kenya’s history listing names of members of a cabal who put self before country.