Kenya: Vihiga Governor Ottichilo Tells His Deputy to Quit in Row Over Nurses' Strike

24 February 2021

Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo has asked his deputy, Dr Patrick Saisi, to resign, following a fresh falling-out triggered by a stalemate in resolving the ongoing nurses' strike.

Dr Ottichilo was angered after Dr Saisi said he is not a team player and that the county's administration has failed in negotiating with the striking health workers.

Governor Ottichilo said he is the one who gave Dr Saisi the job and, thus, he should either walk out or keep quiet.

But Dr Saisi vowed to remain put until the next general election and asked his boss not to consider him as his 2022 running mate because their leadership styles are incompatible.

The deputy governor said resigning now would be tantamount to "slapping the people of Vihiga on the face".

Return to work deal

Last week, Dr Ottichilo overruled the agreement reached with striking nurses to return to work. The return to work agreement had been brokered by Dr Saisi.

Dr Ottichilo wondered wy Dr Saisi is interested in the issue of the nurses, insisting that he is only hiding behind it in a secret plan to chat his own way politically.

The governor said nurses should return to work without any agreement as their plight is discussed.

The deal with the local Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) to end the strike was to be signed in Dr Saisi's Mbale office on Thursday last week but the governor is reported to have dismissed the plan.

A press briefing that had been called at Dr Saisi's office to announce the deal was called off at the last minute and journalists who were kept waiting for five hours were asked to leave without being addressed.

'Wants attention'

"My deputy wants attention. His issue is not about nurses. He wants to chat his own way (politically). Let him deal with me because I am the one who employed him," said Dr Ottichilo.

He went on: "He is saying the government has failed. He is part of the same government. It is the same case as (Deputy President William) Ruto who is saying Jubilee has failed yet he is part of it."

"If he cannot resign, let him keep mum. His utterances (on 2022) are an eye opener to me that we cannot work together again. It is me who was elected by the people and I am the one who will defend the seat," added Dr Ottichilo.

Not governor's employee

Dr Saisi dismissed Dr Ottichilo's call to resign, saying he is not an employee of the governor.

"It is the people who gave me the job. We negotiated about this job and he knew what I was bringing on the table," said Dr Saisi.

"We sat in Kisumu hotel (in 2017) and agreed to fight for this seat. He gave jobs to county ministers and not me."

The deputy governor said his boss is unhappy with his closeness to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga and is just hiding behind the issue of nurses to drive his agenda.

He further said Dr Ottichilo is unhappy that senior ODM officials are meeting him and not the governor.

Early this month, ODM National Elections Board Chairperson Catherine Mumma met Dr Saisi to plan the party's revival plan in the home turf of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.

In 2018, the two leaders had a bitter falling-out after Dr Saisi complained of being sidelined and being frustrated by junior officers. Elders intervened and a truce was reached which saw the governor and his deputy working together again.

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