Leaders scramble to replace Nyachae as Gusii spokesman

Deputy President William Ruto (right) and Kitutu South MP Richard Onyonka when Gusii MPs paid a courtesy call on the DP at his Karen office in Nairobi. [DPPS]

The search for the next Abagusii spokesperson is gaining momentum as leaders position themselves to take the title once claimed by former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae. 

During his hey day, Mr Nyachae, was the undisputed Abagusii political king pin.

He wielded power because of his immense wealth and connections in government and often determined the political path for the community.

Nyachae used his Ford People Party ticket to unsuccessfully contest for the presidency in 2002. The party is still popular in the region long after the former Cabinet minister retired from politics. His absence from the political scene for ten years has created a vacuum that seemingly no leader has mastered the charisma to fill.

Political pundits argue that Nyachae’s efforts to unite the community were short-lived. Through his party Ford People, he led the community for close to 20 years attracting friend and foe in equal measure. 

Last week, a bid to claim Nyachae’s place became apparent during a series of rallies by leaders from Nyamira and Kisii counties. Key Abagusii leaders are jostling to be installed as community elders and spokesperson. The Sunday Standard has learnt that the clamour for the position has been informed by 2022 politics and leaders’ desire to play role in anointing who becomes the next president. There are talks to form a new political party to cater for the community’s interest.

During the 2017 General Election Jubilee and National Super Alliance (NASA) battled to lock the regions votes. The debate about an indisputable Abagusii leader was triggered last month after Dagoreti North MP Simba Arati declared interest in the position. A section of the community feels his bravery and commitment to opposition politics has earned him admiration from the electorate.

Nipped in the bud

Although he was installed as Abagusii elder, Arati’s quest to be the community spokesman was nipped in the bud by leaders who felt he did not deserve the post owing to his age. Furthermore, his detractors argue he is an MP in Nairobi.

Former Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire says talks to unite the community should be genuine. “We need sincere leaders who should not be importing interests from outside.”

A section of leaders argue that for a long time, Nyachae controlled politics in the region and nationally. “He tried once to contest for presidency and earned respect across the board,” said Nyaribari Chache MP, Richard Tongi.

The powerful Interior and Coordination Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has further complicated the matrix as he silently pulls strings on the political happenings in the region.

Interestingly, Governors John Nyagarama (Nyamira) and James Ongwae (Kisii) who are serving their second and final terms in office seem not interested in the community leadership. A section of leaders want the community spokesman to be a veteran politician and public figure with some proposing Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri to take over the position.

During rallies in Kisii and Nyamira last week, some MPs referred to Prof Ongeri as ‘our leader’ and asked him to unite the community.

But despite opposition, the Dagoreti North MP maintains that he is playing his role as the community spokesman.

“I only fight high profile wars. I believe I can even go for the presidency because I have what it takes,” says Arati.

Those supporting the MP are calling for a generational change in leadership. However, some MCAs have dismissed Arati’s endorsement as the Abagusii spokesman saying he should focus on serving his Dagoretti North constituents.

Led by Kiogoro MCA Samuel Apoko, the politicians argue that senior leaders such as the Kisii Senator, Governor Ongwae and his Nyamira counterpart deserve the position. Ongeri told Arati to go slow on his move saying the community was busy with the development agenda has no time for sideshows. The Senator however told leaders to embrace peace and harmony saying this was key to uniting the community. “It is not wrong to have political ambitions but it is prudent we have a keen look at the political happenings in this country.”

Roads Chief Administrative Secretary and former Kisii Senator Chris Obure has also been on the cards as the community’s spokesman.

However, failure to oust Governor Ongwae in the last General Elections could have diminished his standing in the community’s political hierarchy.

Dr Matiangi cuts across the Nyamira and Kisii counties and enjoys huge support from the elderly. Having served as Nyachae’s Personal Assistant, Matiangi enjoys the backing of politicians and professionals from the region who percieve him as the link between the community and the National Government. MP Tongi and his Kitutu Chache North counterpart Jimmy Angwenyi believe the CS commands respect from the community for his role in development. “The debate on community spokesperson lacks a moral standing but we must look closely on the individuals who want such a position. Matiangi is the senior most leader from Kisii and must be respected,” says Angwenyi.

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi who is also interested in the 2022 gubernatorial seat was installed as the community elder three years ago.

Political analysts say the quest to unite the community and pick a spokesman was doomed to fail if leaders pursue a similar approach that bore no fruits. “The talk of Omogusii unity is tired. We hear about unity after elections or before elections then everything vanishes. The community needs development and not rhetoric,” lawyer Edward Begi says.