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What do Ruto and Gachagua have in common?

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Like the man who could be his boss and fifth president of Kenya, Mr Rigathi Gachagua built his profile during the last 10 years of the Kanu government.

Born in 1965 in Hiriga village, Mathira to Nahashon Gachagua Reriani and Lydia Nyaguthii Gachagua, the first term Mathira MP had his happy break when he was recruited as a District Officer Cadet in 1990.

He had completed his Bachelor of Arts (Political Science and Literature) degree at the University of Nairobi in 1988 when he got the job, and by 1993 he was working as one of the personal assistants to Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of Civil Service Prof Philip Mbithi at Harambee House in Nairobi.

Mr Gachagua and Prof Mbithi jelled and soon some of the former’s roles included piecing speeches for former President Daniel arap Moi.

In an interview early this year, Mr Gachagua said they could receive briefs from various ministries and run them up for verification before condensing them into a speech passed on to Prof Mbithi for fine-tuning. “Political power is good. I remember the pool of professors who worked for President Moi,” Mr Gachagua recalled of his career then.

On February 29, 1996, Prof Mbithi was abruptly dropped as Head of Public Service in President Moi’s signature fashion and replaced by Mr Phares Kuindwa.

Mr Gachagua recalls that the pool of officers who worked directly under Prof Mbithi like him were given transfer letters to Provincial Administration offices in hardship areas like North Eastern, Marsabit and Turkana. He only returned to more hospitable areas in Laikipia, Kakamega and Limuru when he pleaded with the President.

One of the enduring images of Mr Gachagua as a DO was when he and anti-riot police officers stopped a Ford-Asili delegation led by former Butere MP Martin Shikuku and area MP George Nyanja in Limuru.

Shikuku confronted the DO, telling him that President Moi had decreed that the Opposition be allowed to visit the country freely. But the young DO did not bulge, prompting Shikuku to tell him that they would report him to Moi. “Enda useme (go tell him),” was his prompt response.

Mr Gachagua believes his tough-as-nails profile as a DO was what prompted his secondment in 2002 to Kanu presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, who he served as a personal assistant until 2006 when he went into business. “I am always loyal to those I support and I can’t betray William Ruto,” he said.

But he believes Mr Kenyatta let down his friends, including himself and Dr Ruto. He has spoken passionately against the President’s involvement in his succession politics.

Before becoming MP, Mr Gachagua, who is two years older than Dr Ruto, edged out Ms Wambura Maranga, who went independent claiming she had been rigged out of the Jubilee Party primaries. Immediate past MP Peter Weru was also in the race in 2017.

Nderitu Gachagua

The younger brother of first Nyeri governor Nderitu Gachagua, who died on February 24, 2017, has been a consistent radical soldier on the side of the Deputy President.

Mr Gachagua said in a past interview that after quitting Mr Kenyatta’s personal assistant job in 2006, he did good business with the government in the Mwai Kibaki years.

When Nderitu was elected in 2013, Mr Gachagua stayed by his side, albeit remotely, offering advice and support. Nderitu fell ill shortly after the elections, leaving Mr Gachagua as an unofficial overseer in his constant and long absences.

Mr Gachagua was among the rebel MPs who defied Mr Kenyatta as Jubilee Party leader and continued with the disguised Dr Ruto campaigns branded “Tangatanga.

Mr Gachagua is a good grassroots mobiliser. As a provincial administrator, he underwent paramilitary training at the Administration Police Institute and an Advanced Public Administration Course at the Kenya School of Government.

He is facing a graft case and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has applied to freeze some of his accounts in banks.

In the interview earlier in the year, he called the EACC act a sad chapter, coming from a man - the President - who he served loyally. He however called it a minor hiccup - “flu that will soon be on the way.”

Despite the fallout, he has vowed that his secrets with Mr Kenyatta are safe, describing himself as “an officer and a gentleman.”

He does not have a home in Nyeri town or Karatina. “I can be in mashinani and still in an urban centre.”

Mr Gachagua became the coordinator of Ruto’s campaigns in Mt Kenya region when Kandara MP Ms Alice Wahome left to head Inua Mama, the DP’s alliance of women parliamentarians.

His other siblings are James Reriani (who will be buried tomorrow in Hiriga), Leah Wangari, Johnson Kibaara, Peterson Wachira, Eunice Nyangari, Jackson Reriani, Dr Josephine Wanjaria, Dr Gacheke Simons Lilian Wachira and Linda Muthoni Ngatia.