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Patrick Osero: The man who volunteers to take flak for Ruto

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JUSTUS WANGA

By JUSTUS WANGA
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It is not in doubt that Patrick Kibagendi Osero, the former Agricultural Finance Corporation chairman, and Deputy President William Ruto enjoy special friendship.

He does not work at DP’s Harambee House Annex offices. You will, however, see him, occasionally, walk into a boardroom where the second in command is leading a meeting with a bunch of papers in his hand; his host will swiftly excuse himself.

They consult briefly before he reaches for the door. It is a sort of a tacit immunity that DP’s own handlers and security know. They have partnered in a number of business ventures.

When Ruto was dragged to court on charges of grabbing someone’s land in the Kibaki regime, Mr Osero stood surety worth Sh6 million for him.

On Friday, he was quoted as saying that DP Ruto will not challenge the government’s move to reclaim the vast Ruai land despite holding ownership papers.

It was the first time an associate of Dr Ruto was directly linking him to the 1,600 acre-land initially meant for sewerage expansion that had ended up in private hands.

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One on one, Mr Osero comes across as a silver tongue devil. Tall, dark and very confident, Mr Osero will give you an ear as he figures out the best way to get you to buy into the words he will utter afterwards.

He is very well-known to the people who make things happen at the Lands ministry and the Companies’ Registry, an acumen that has earned him the moniker lands commissioner.

Those who have benefited from his wide knowledge of land matters say, at the mere mention land registration number, ‘the commissioner’ will tell you in which part of the country the parcel is found.

He’ll give you even finer details if the land is in Nairobi, including whether there is a caveat or dispute.

Some of his close friends say how outspoken he is about his shady land deals that rake in millions at a time, but still describes himself as a “small street con man” that only benefits from table scraps.

“He is an outgoing jovial character. When he is not working, you’ll find him entertaining friends in Nairobi West,” a close friend of his said.

While he is one of Dr Ruto’s most loyal allies, Mr Osero appears to be in the dark about some of the DP’s most lucrative private businesses.

He has on occasion been left out of big contracts and business deals midway and without communication, but still pledges his loyalty to his former teammates in Youth for Kanu ’92 (YK 92), founded to counter the struggle for multiparty democracy and ensure President Daniel Arap Moi regime continued.

“We met during YK92, and he has been my very good friend and business partner since then,” Mr Osero freely said of his association with the DP in a previous interview.

He was the chief executive officer and head of secretariat of notorious YK92, the same outfit that inducted DP Ruto into national politics.

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They worked under the patronage of Cyrus Jirongo, who today does not see eye to eye with the DP.

Jirongo is also accused of annexing huge tracks of land in Ruai. A few of Mr Osero’s friends told us how the businessman has cut a niche in exploiting undeveloped and forgotten prime lands, especially in Nairobi, but takes for the hills when the risk of getting caught with his hands in the cookie jar becomes too high.

In one of the land dealings that came up, Mr Osero had through a company tried to take ownership of a land parcel in Westlands by changing its registration details.

He had given the land a registration number already allocated to the same parcel that currently hosts Weston Hotel.

When the owner sued, Mr Osero’s company filed a defence but abandoned the case when Ministry of Lands and City Hall officials disowned his side of the story. And that is how Southfork Investments escaped Mr Osero’s claws.

When Weston Hotel first hit the news headlines over the dispute with Lang’ata Road Primary School, Dr Ruto denied any interest in the hotel, this time, Mr Osero was the voluntary fall guy.

The businessman stuck his neck out for the boss. He came out to say he was the owner. In the process, taking all the flak.

He said Dr Ruto would only visit the place as his friend and customer. Dr Ruto’s daughter Sharleen, he said, frequented the gym at the hotel.

He claimed that he had acquired the 1.7 acres of land where the hotel sits in 1998 from Priority Limited Company and built it.

The DP would later, after the storm had subsided, own up that indeed the prime hotel is his. The hotel has also been the subject of queries by the Office of the Auditor-General.

In the report for the year ending June 31, 2012, the Auditor-General questioned the manner in which land belonging to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) was transferred to the hotel’s owners.

For his consultancies, Mr Osero, 55, operates from the third floor office of Old Mutual building in Nairobi’s central business district.

He has twice, albeit unsuccessfully, run for Borabu Member of Parliament seat. Vying on ODM ticket, he emerged second, narrowly losing to Mr Ben Momanyi of Wiper party.

He made another stab in 2013, this time on Jubilee Party. Joseph Osero, his late father, represented West Mugirango from 1966 to 1969.

He has been engaged in numerous tussles with individuals and state over land ownership.

In 2011 – and together with Nairobi businessman Kenneth Boit – another YK92 stalwart – the courts awarded them Sh1.5 billion as compensation from the Department of Defence (DoD).





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