Dr. Ezekiel Mutua: My Lowest moment in life was a six-month interdiction
One of my lowest moments in my career was in August 2011. I was interdicted from service for six months on trumped up charges. It was a tragic turn of events that would change me in ways that words cannot describe. I had just been promoted from Director of Information and Public Communications to the highest cadre of Government Information officers – Secretary of Information in the Ministry of ICT on permanent and pensionable terms. This was followed in quick succession by a Presidential Award – the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS). I had just graduated with my MA in Communication Studies from the University of Nairobi and enrolled for a PhD in Moi University.
I was in my early 40s and my star was shining brightly. I was in cloud nine. Then suddenly the celebrations were brought to an abrupt end. I was interdicted in the most public and embarrassing manner. My office locks at my then Jogoo House were changed at Noon in the full glare of the staff, secretaries transferred to the Headquarter and the place sealed like a crime scene. As that was happening I was at the Kenya School of Government where I had just enrolled for SLDP course and had been elected the President of the class. I had left the office in the morning in official GK car, but without notice the car was withdrawn and the driver ordered to report back to office at once, leaving me stranded. The suspension letter was sent to me at the school and another served on the KSG management suspending my course. It was a dark day. One of my deputies was put in charge of the Department and given the keys to my office.
I politely called to ask for him to allow someone to pick my personal stuff. I had some family photos on my desk and some personal check book in my drawer, plus a few other items. I requested if he could allow someone to pack them in a carton for me and have them dropped to my house. To my shock my hitherto deputy and friend was so hostile that I disconnected the phone and called again to confirm if I was talking to the right person. My mistake was that I had called him by his baptismal name, which I fondly used when I was his boss. He cautioned me to refer to him “formally.” I knew there was more to the suspension than meets the eye. I never got my personal stuff to date.
What followed were six months of agony, apprehension, and pain, as investigation against investigation were launched against me. Friends turned foes. My phone stopped ringing and my social life changed for good. Thank God, He gave me the courage to continue my PhD studies, something that kept me busy and diverted my attention, at least momentarily, to something useful. I had tried to hide the suspension from my kids and aged parents. Only my wife and my lawyer had the details. But one day a blogger called Bosire Bogonko published a very nasty story painting me as a thief and almost writing my obituary.
But what hurt me most was a story published in one of the main dailies by a journalist I considered a friend and professional person. When he called about the matter I pleaded with him not to publish the story because I feared it would affect one of my sons who was a candidate. I explained my plight and fears to my journalist friend and pleaded with him to hold the story till after my son’s exams, just in case he got to hear about my suspension and it affected his performance. To my shock the guy went ahead and ran a sensational story on a Sunday paper. The day the story ran I was speaking at Deliverance Church Kasarani and after the sermon my friend and Bishop Jimmy Kimani had invited me to his office for a cup of tea. I had not read the paper.
I had also kept the matter top secret even from church members. Suddenly the good Bishop started “consoling” me. “Pole sana. I didn’t know that they suspended you. Pole. God will be with you. That word you have preached to us will see you through this trial. The church stands with you. . . .” I pretended that I had no clue what he was talking about. Then he pulled the newspaper and opened the page with my story. It was a sensational headline with photos. You would think I had committed murder. The writer ended the story thus: “As I write this story Mutua is at home licking his wounds. What a tragic end to a promising public service career. . .”
Well, that was his view. God had other ideas. After six long months I was reinstated with a brief letter that didn’t even state what the findings of the investigations were. “You are required to report to your office at. . . .on. . . .Your salary arrears for the last six months will be paid with this month’s salary.”
Now the journalist who published the suspension story despite my pleas was later sacked by the newspaper. Recently, he called me to ask for help in securing a job we had advertised. I told him to apply. . .
That experience of 2011 changed my perspective of life for ever. I have no pleasure in unnecessary social gatherings or job related parties. I am kind of a home to office, office to home guy. My cell phone is permanently on silent mode. I call whoever I want whenever I want and I never worry about missed calls except from my family members.
I don’t keep any personal items in the office and I no longer rely on people’s accolades for my inner joy or fulfillment. I serve with only one desire – to be true to my conscience and to do what’s right before God. There’s no university in the world that could teach me the lessons I learnt during that period in 2011. If it were not for God’s grace, the support from my dear wife, the church and a few friends who stood by me, I would have lost my mind. That’s why I no longer care about people’s opinions. I no longer live to please people. I have no godfather, but God the Father. I care not about men’s approval or opinions no matter how senior. And I live ready to leave office every day, any day. My enemies always try to bring me down through lies and character assassination. I have been through hell and high waters, but God has always been on my side. I am the one they spoke about when they said “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but God delivers him from them all. . .”!