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What next for the first gentlemen of Central Counties

 Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza and her husband, musician Murega Baichu. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

As the female governors in Central Kenya settle down to the business of running the counties, residents are now looking to the first gentlemen of the counties with curiosity and awe.

In Meru County, locals were introduced to Murega Baichu, the husband of Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza, through his sweet love songs to his wife during the campaign trail.

As a local musician, Baichu became a permanent fixture at his wife's rallies as she traversed the county to sell her development agenda.

"In each and every rally I was opening with a word of prayer before performing some songs. It was usually a mix of cultural, rhumba and Mugithi," said Baichu.

Not only does he have a gift for playing the guitar but also creates good melodies people can relate to.

Through his traditional, love songs and other compositions, he became to earn the tag of Meru's cultural ambassador.

Though he croons in Swahili and English most of his songs are rendered in the vernacular language, meaning both young and old are able to understand the message.

Mr Murega said: "Through the music, I was able to praise her visible leadership skills and development."

Strumming the guitar to entertain both residents and the governor is something he has done for years, including during the successful campaign for Woman rep in 2017.

"The guitar is a blessed instrument from God because through it I am able to attract crowds and pass important messages through song," he stated.

While Baichu may have stood by his wife as a crooner and entertainer, in Embu County Governor Cecily Mbarire's husband Dennis Apaa has kept a low profile.

Some of her opponents frequently said that if elected governor, Ms Mbarire would take the county government to Teso, the home of her husband.

It was therefore not surprising that during intense gubernatorial campaigns across Embu County, Apaa did not feature publicly.

Mbarire rarely spoke of her marriage during the campaigns but when she was declared winner, she recognised her husband at Kangaru Girls high school after the presentation of the certificate by IEBC returning officer Agnes Mutisya.

"I want to thank my children and husband Dennis who has stood with me throughout the Campaign," Mbarire said.

Although Mbarire has clocked four terms in parliament, few in Embu could pick her husband in a crowd.

Apaa kept a low profile such that even on voting day he wore black shades, a cap and followed her wife from a distance.

However, during her swearing-in, Apaa majestically escorted her wife to the dais and enjoyed the attention and protocol of being the first gentleman of Embu county.

 Denis Apaa, the husband to Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

After other guests were ushered in, Apaa was the first to be ushered in as per the protocol and after Deputy Governor-Elect Kinyua Mugo was ushered in, the Mbarire was escorted to the main tent by the assumption committee members.

It was only after she was sworn in that she took time to appreciate her husband in her speech.

In Kirinyaga County, first gentleman Kamotho Waiganjo has supported his wife Anne Waiguru throughout the campaigns and the contentious tallying that nearly led to chaos.

He is no stranger to the first gentleman's position having been one of two men in the country to join the first gentleman's club.

 Kamotho Waiganjo and Ann Waiguru. [George Njunge, Standard]

While these men may be trailblazers in the region, Maendeleo ya Wanawake Nyeri chapter Chairperson Emma Njora believes that the sooner men accept the new positions the better.

"This is a road to women achieving the one-third gender rule that has been elusive for years in the political sphere because these women have proved it can be done," she said.

She observed that women leaders were often silenced that they must have their husbands' approval to run for office but these men broke the mold and supported their wives and they succeeded.

"It has been a positive effort to bring women and these first gentlemen will be role models for other men to support their women in business, politics or even academics," Njora said.

Her sentiments were echoed by former Nyeri County MP Pricillah Nyokabi who said that the first gentlemen should find causes they can champion to keep them busy and support their spouses as they lead.

"We have many young men who need mentorship in Central Kenya, these men can start mentorship programs or focus on a cause, like sports, environmental conservation fighting Gender-based violence," she said.

Nyokabi noted that leadership qualities are not gendered as they can be found in both men and women and therefore the solutions were also not gendered as both men or women can solve these problems.

"These women governors will succeed because, while women and men have qualities for leadership, I believe women have the ability to fix systems in a way that is not superficial," she said.

She observed that the first gentlemen will have to normalise their roles in the county and region, by cutting their own niche on how they will spend their time.

"The first gentlemen should take notes from first lady Margaret Kenyatta and her Beyond Zero campaign, come up with perhaps a First Gentleman's Cup to nurture talent or take on negative masculinity stereotypes to fight GBV," she said.

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