Mary Wambui: A constant thorn in Lucy Kibaki’s side
Throughout her public life, Lucy Kibaki had one consistent nemesis — Othaya MP Mary Wambui, who claims to be former President Mwai Kibaki’s second wife.
Both Mama Lucy and the President have however denied this.
The hostility between the two women was so serious that, in March 2009, President Kibaki had to call a press conference at State House to announce that he had one wife: Lucy.
This unprecedented move created shock-waves among the patriarchal generation the former president grew up with, which believed in polygamy.
However, a day after the announcement, Ms Wambui went shopping escorted by bodyguards and the media in tow, rubbing salt into a presidential wound that was threatening to become a national malaise.
Though the special status Ms Wambui occupies in the former president’s life was common gossip in Othaya for decades, it became a national obsession when Mr Kibaki, a former Democratic Party (DP) leader and long-time Othaya MP, became Head of State in 2003.
Immediately Mr Kibaki assumed power, Ms Wambui, who the media said was a Narc activist, was assigned bodyguards, chase cars and other trappings of a presidential spouse.
And she was not afraid to flaunt her power both in Nairobi and in Othaya. She attended harambees, dishing out millions of shillings, went to State events with ministers and acted as the de facto Othaya MP as the President concentrated on national matters.
Mr Kibaki and Ms Wambui reportedly met when she was working in the Kanu office in Othaya in 1974.
He had just moved his power base from then Bahati Constituency in Nairobi to his rural home in Nyeri.
Back then, he had the gift of the gab and an education pedigree to boot while she had local knowledge of the area and was an excellent organiser. It was a political union made in Heaven.
Ms Wambui was later to become something of an aide to Mr Kibaki. In 1978, when he was appointed Vice-President, Mr Kibaki hired her as manager of his Rware Farm in Naromoru. From that point, her former colleagues said, fortune seemed to smile on Ms Wambui and she was never the same again.
She started driving a Peugeot 504 pick-up belonging to Rware Farm. She also moved from Mumbi Estate to Ring Road Estate, where the affluent live.
It is after becoming a manager at Rware Farm that people in Nyeri stopped calling her Wambui wa Kanu. She often introduced herself as Wambui wa Mwai during meetings.
And when Mr Kibaki won the 2002 presidential elections, she moved to Nairobi’s Lavington Estate after buying a house from a former South African diplomat.
Both her houses were guarded and flagposts that resembled communication masts were put up.
Ms Wambui’s rivalry with Lucy, which had before 2003 remained a village affair, became national. And State officials paid a price for crossing one or both of them.
Former Vice-President Moody Awori referred to Mama Lucy as “Second Lady” at a national event in 2004, prompting the First Lady to walk out. The VP had to apologise profusely, saying it was a slip of the tongue.
And during a Jamhuri Day luncheon at State House in 2007, a State House official was slapped for mistakenly introducing Mama Lucy as Mary Wambui. Press cameras were confiscated and footage of the incident erased.
But Mama Lucy had her moment when Ms Wambui was linked to the mercenary Artur brothers. Reports indicated the two Armenians were hosted by her daughter Winnie Mwai, allegations Winnie did not deny.
The brothers were later deported after they were linked to a security scare at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport weeks after being linked to a raid on the Standard Group media offices.
2013 OTHAYA ELECTIONS
But the rivalry between the two women came to a head in the 2013 elections when the Kibaki family pulled all the stops to ensure that she did not win the Othaya parliamentary seat.
While Mr Kibaki’s son Jimmy had hinted he would go for the seat, he stepped down at the last minute and threw his weight behind Mr Gichuki Mugambi.
On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Ms Wambui was locked out of events presided over by the President in the constituency to ensure she did not reap any political mileage. That did not stop her from campaigning for the TNA ticket, which she won after a bitterly fought nomination.
But the party of Uhuru Kenyatta denied her the ticket, causing an uproar in Othaya and nationally. TNA backed down and nominated her and she went on to win the Othaya seat after beating Mr Peter King’ara with a narrow margin.
Lately, however, Mr Kibaki and Ms Wambui seem to have buried the hatchet. In November last year, Mr Kibaki attended the funeral of her sister, at which the MP declared that he was part of her family.