Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga addressing the leadership of Farmers' Cooperative Societies (FCSs) during a meeting at FK Resort in Nyeri, April 20, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Aspirants in the Nyeri governor race are setting the stage for what is promising to be a bruising battle, with choice of running mate being taken seriously

Last week, some of the aspirants named their running mates, revealing careful selection of deputies.

Many went for deputies who will not overshadow them, but who can marshal votes and step into their shoes should the need arise.

Nyeri has had a tragic history with regard to the governor seat. Since the inception of devolution in 2013, it has had four governors- the highest for any county.

The incumbent, Mutahi Kahiga, is Nyeri’s fourth county boss. He took office when his boss Governor Wahome Gakuru died in a road accident in November 2017, barely a month after Gakuru was sworn into office.

In the 2017 elections, Gakuru beat Governor Samuel Wamathai, a deputy governor who had risen to the position after the death of Nyeri’s first Governor Nderitu Gachagua.

These tragedies and the thrusting of deputy governors into the top seat have impacted the selection of running mates.

Aspirants are keen to pick running mates who they can get along with and individuals who won’t overshadow them.

The strained relationship between current governor Kahiga and his deputy Caroline Karugu has left many candidates weary of picking outspoken and vibrant running mates.

When Kahiga announced that he had picked David Kinaniri as his running mate, he admitted he had learnt his lesson with his previous choice.

“I learnt a lesson from my rushed decision in selecting a deputy governor,” he said.

The governor said he had engaged UDA in picking Kinaniri, and had confidence he could work with him and his team.

“I reached out to various people who have worked with Kinaniri to confirm that his character and demeanor are compatible with the position of deputy governor,” he said.

Kinaniri is a man of few words as depicted by his acceptance speech.

“Thank you so much for seeing it fit to nominate me, as your running mate,” Kinaniri said.

Kinaniri vied for the Mukurwe-ini parliamentary seat in 2007 and 2017 but lost in both elections.

Out of the five aspirants for the Nyeri governor race only one has selected a woman as his running mate.

The New Democrats party leader Thuo Mathenge has picked Wanjiru Maina

Chama cha Kazi Peter Munyiri has picked Kamamia Murichu, and independent candidate Gachara Kamangu has Kenneth King’ori, while Jubilee Party aspirant Senator Ephraim Maina is yet to publicly announce his running mate.

Selected professionals

However, sources privy to his campaign stated that Maina has picked a teacher, Charles Mwangi Ndururi from Nyeri Town.

Some of the aspirants have selected professionals and academics who have no experience in elective politics and are relatively unknown to voters.

Wanjiru while accepting her nomination pledged to compliment the governor if they are elected to office, vowing never to upstage the governor in a bid to replace him.

“It’s an honour for the nomination and I assure him that I will not compete with him but compliment his efforts to serve the great people of Nyeri,” pleaded Wanjiru.

Munyiri made it clear he picked Murichu because he would complement his effort to improve the health sector.

“My running mate is a pharmacist and we get along well on a professional level, he will assist me to improve the health care system and create a framework for medical tourism,” he said.

“Munyiri said he was also keen on Murichu’s competency, as it is key to running the government affairs should he need to take over,” he stated.

Another factor influencing the Nyeri gubernatorial race and its deputies is the balancing act of consolidating the voters in populous constituencies.

Each candidate needs to get enough votes from the populous constituencies of Mathira, Kieni and Nyeri Town Constituencies and enough support from the smaller areas o, Othaya, Tetu and Mukurweini.

Kieni has over 100,000 voters while Mathira has about 99,000 voters and Nyeri Town has 82,860 voters, according to the IEBC 2017 records.

While Kahiga hails from the populous Kieni, his running mate Kinaniri comes from Mukurweini.

In the case of TND’s Mathenge, he has consolidated support from Othaya and parts of Kieni while his running mate comes from Mathira constituency.

Munyiri and Kamanga hail from Mathira and have picked candidates from Tetu and Nyeri Town respectively.

The focus for Nyeri governor race will be on who can gain enough momentum to unseat Kahiga, who is banking on his track record to win a second term.

Maina has been a critic of Kahiga after the two fell out after the death of Gakuru.

The senator has been touted as a strong contender for the post, however, Mathenge, has been gaining popularity having contested for the position twice in 2013 and 2017.