From lone ranger to regional leader with loyalists, the evolution of Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during a trek along Mawingu Trail on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. [DPCS]

It was a great year for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua as he entrenched his leadership as the country's second in command.

Earlier known as a lone ranger and a one-man army, Gachagua has changed strategy and has gradually started molding loyalists in his political circles.

In the initial stages of the Kenya Kwanza administration, the DP could grace church occasions alone or with a handful of elected leaders. He had no one to drive his political agenda.

Gachagua seemed to have navigated the murky political waters and established his political lieutenants, who have come out to to defend him.

The leaders, even without Gachagua’s public stand, have also taken issue with the ruling UDA constitution clause that they believe seeks to undermine the DP.

Three centres of power

The proposal of having three deputy party leaders irked his loyalists, especially in his home county of Nyeri, who feel it seeks to create several centres of power within the party and ultimately in the Kenya Kwanza administration.

The Deputy President’s battalion includes Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, Senator Wahome Wamatinga and MP John Kaguchia, who want the clause deleted to allow ‘their son’ to single-handedly exercise all the powers of the position.

Others are MPs Mary Wamaua (Maragua), Jane Kihara (Naivasha) and Bettie Maina (Muranga).

According to the UDA constitution, the deputy party leaders will be in charge of policy and strategy, operations and programmes.

“We will not stand any effort to water down the position of the deputy party leader, and we maintain that the party constitution must conform to the constitution of the republic of Kenya,” said Kahiga.

Political analysts have interpreted the move by Gachagua to assemble loyalists as "a political step in the right direction", saying the lieutenants' tasks include fighting political battles on his behalf.

According to Charles Njoroge, the move was long overdue. He argues that Gachagua was portrayed as a lone ranger whenever he fought his battles.

“It’s a political strategy not to seem so much engaged in political wars. It has happened in Western where MPs allied to Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi hit on his behalf, but when he wakes up to address congregants he wears a conciliatory tone,” says Njoroge.

Nyeri County Assembly Speaker James Gichuhi, another loyalist, notes that the move was also geared toward uniting the Mt Kenya region, saying a few of the leaders who are yet to come to terms with the fact that Gachagua was the community leader needed to smell the coffee.

“We must not be self-seekers. We must coalesce around the Deputy President who is consolidating the region into the President’s basket for 2027, and to have a bigger bargaining say in the national negotiations table. We must have one voice representing us, and that is Gachagua,” he says.

The DP also started exercising delegation, where he had trusted his allies to attend events on his behalf.

In many the events where he was scheduled to attend, he has picked the National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wa as his preferred representative.

Ichung'wa has represented Gachagua in about six events, the latest being Presbyterian Church of East Africa Nyamasaki in Nyeri on November 12.

At the event, the MP hailed the Deputy President for his contributions to the coffee sub-sector reforms, which he said have started bearing fruit, and told the congregants that Gachagua was ably representing President William Ruto whenever he was out of the country.

“The recent visits to Belgium and Germany have seen a giant company, Java, agree to buy our coffee worth 70,000 metric tons, proving Gachagua is a warrior for development,” he said.

“He is doing an exemplary job of representing the President when he is away looking for goodies for the country."

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua joins some leaders and golfers in a jig during Mt Kenya Golf Festival tournament at Nyeri Golf Club on October 21, 2023. [DPCS]

Other leaders present included MPs Duncan Mathenge (Nyeri Town), John Kaguchia (Mukurweini), Paul Biego (Chesumei), Kiragu Chege (Limuru), Richard Yegon (Bomet East) and Wamatinga.

Ichung'wa, and over 50 other elected leaders, also joined Gachagua at the ACK St James Cathedral, Kiambu, on November 5 for a thanksgiving and fundraiser.

Earlier last month, the Kikuyu MP represented Gachagua at the requiem mass for the East African Legislative Assembly Maina Karobia’s father.

In a meeting with Kiambu leaders a month ago, Gachagua asked the leaders to respect Ichung'wa through his position as the Majority Leader, affirming that he and the President had faith in his leadership.

Bipartisan talks

Ichung'wa was also co-chairing the National Dialogue Committee talks alongside Azimio co-principle Kalonzo Musyoka.

“I have faith that in Ichung'wa, who is brilliant and smart, he can’t be cornered by the opposition team to sneak the power-sharing deal as part of the agenda in the talks,” said the DP.

While asked whether there was more than meets the eye in his camaraderie with Gachagua, Ichung'wa downplayed the issue, saying he was working in the "spirit of teamwork", and that "nobody should read too much into people in the same team working together as is expected."

“The DP represented the President in other functions delegated to him, and he (Gachagua) is at liberty to also delegate to any one of us some of his (functions) just as the President delegates to him when unavailable,” he said.

In a recent interview, Gachagua maintained that he was determined to spearhead the unity of purpose in the region saying he was not interested in revenge against his aggressors but was focusing on uniting them.
“I have continued reaching out to our political rivals because I would never want us to go to the 2027 general election. We are better off united and divided,” he said.
He defended the Kenya Kwanza regime over the debate on the high cost of living saying they had reduced the cost of fertilizer and unga saying the current prices are way below compared to how they were before their election.
“A price of a kilo of unga was 240 before we took over but as of now it stands at Sh138 which is a difference of Sh102 we are taking back the country to its feet having found empty coffers,” he said.