Crisis as pressure builds on Nyeri Deputy Governor to resign

Nyeri Deputy Governor Mutahi Kahiga

?Pressure is building on Nyeri Deputy Governor Mutahi Kahiga to resign from his position and effectively pave way for a fresh gubernatorial election following the tragic death of his boss Wahome Gakuru.

The matter has been subject of night meetings involving leaders from Nyeri County in Nairobi and Nyeri with sections of residents drawn largely from the teaching fraternity issuing protest ultimatums if Mr Kahiga is not sworn in.

Although the law is clear that the deputy governor takes over as governor in case his boss dies, sections of Nyeri leaders insist Kahiga should forfeit his job and allow residents to vote again in an election where he would be a candidate.

“We are aware what the law provides, but let Mr Kahiga allow people to vote again in an election where he is also a candidate so that whoever wins can have full mandate of the people,” said one of the leaders who did not want to be named.

But as this discussion ensues, clearer signs that Kahiga would not cede ground emerged Friday when he announced that he will be sworn in on Monday after a cleansing ceremony at the County Government offices. Plans for the ceremony were set for Thursday but were put off at the last minute on Wednesday.   

“We are going to have a cleansing ceremony carried out by the clergy at the county government offices on Monday morning and then I am going to be sworn into office in the afternoon,” the Deputy Governor told journalists Friday at Green Hills Hotel where he was attending prayers for his deceased boss.

The postponement had opened the door for speculation of attempts to block Kahiga from assuming office following the death of Dr Gakuru. At the time, the county explained that not everyone involved in the ceremony would be available where other indications suggested Kahiga himself was uncomfortable to take over office too soon after Gakuru’s death.

“We had a meeting this morning and he was of the view that we wait until the governor is buried but we told him that will not be possible because we need a county that is functional. We are not doing this because we like it,” the county government’s legal advisor David Mugo said.

Upon the demise of the first governor Nderitu Gachagua, his deputy Samuel Wamathai was sworn into office three days later. The new governor told The Saturday Standard Friday that he was under no pressure from any quarters but had made his mind to honour Gakuru. “There has been no attempt to undercut me and I am not under any pressure, it was purely my choice. I needed to give my brother a decent burial,” he said.

“The legal advice that I am getting is that I need to get this out of the way and the inauguration will happen on Monday,” he said.

Kahiga’s assertion was contradicted by the head of the county’s legal department Mr Mugo.

County Speaker

He was resolute that no swearing-in would happen before Gakuru is laid to rest on November 18. This position effectively paints a picture of a government operating at cross-purposes.

There has indeed been several clandestine meetings attended by some prominent personalities in the county, some Jubilee leaders and top of the agenda were efforts to have Kahiga cede leadership of the county.

Should Kahiga bow to pressure and resign, the County Speaker John Kaguchia would act as governor until a by-election is held within 60 days.

The scheming and boardroom wars attracted the attention of teachers in Nyeri who expressed their concerns over what they labelled political interference to push Kahiga out.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Nyeri Chairman Patrick Karinga and acting Executive Secretary Mathenge Wanjau gave an ultimatum that has since passed for the swearing in of Kahiga. “There is political interference in that matter because if you remember the last time, Wamathai was sworn in immediately. The Council of Governors cannot give us a convincing statement about delaying this particular issue,” Wanjau said.

Their misgivings are with some so called power brokers whom they accused of scheming to rob Kahiga of the opportunity to fill the power vacuum.

“A day in politics is like a whole year, so much can change within that period,” Karinga told The Saturday Standard.

Although the constitution spells out Kahiga’s ascension to the county chief job in black and white, there are questions over his ability to handle the pressure and responsibility that comes with the role.

“So they are saying that because he is a teacher then he cannot be a governor,” he said.

Kahiga assurances that he asked for more time before the swearing in seems to have partly settled their doubts.

“The Deputy Governor called us Friday and requested us to be calm. He told us to wait until the burial is done then he will take his vows,” said Karinga.

The county executive officers are assured of their jobs.

The deputy governor has insisted on numerous occasions that the executive was his and Gakuru’s undertaking and he would not have a reason to make any changes.

Before Gakuru picked him as running mate, Kahiga was the county’s Jubilee Party chairman.

He has been a teacher for close to three decades and has served in various positions in academia and sports in the county. On Sunday, clergy from Nyeri County will hold prayers for the county government at the Kamukunji grounds.

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