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Rigathi Gachagua's plan to net 4.5 million votes for Ruto from Mt Kenya

Deputy President and Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate William Ruto with his running mate Rigathi Gachagua during the Kenya Kwanza Nakuru county Economic Forum in Nakuru City on May 19, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Faced with the task of convincing legislators who supported his opponent and building a formidable force to deliver 4.5 million Kikuyu votes, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua is a man on a mission.

During his naming as Deputy President William Ruto’s running mate a week ago, Mr Gachagua and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria were given the responsibility of marketing the Mt Kenya Economic Forum, a key avenue to place him in the forefront in championing interests of the vote-rich region.   

Gachagua, a first-time MP, had faced opposition from some legislators from his Central backyard who had preferred Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki. His nomination at first caused discord and had the potential of upsetting Mt Kenya MPs.

Ruto said he chose Gachagua from other worthy candidates, including Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Prof Kindiki, Kandara MP Alice Wahome and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

A number of MPs from Mt Kenya skipped the event at Ruto’s official Karen residence. However, Kindiki has since given his endorsement and the harshest critics have since thawed and are now aligning to the Kenya Kwanza Alliance message in Mt Kenya.

“We welcome the choice of Gachagua as the running mate in Kenya Kwanza Alliance and together with him we will deliver the Mt Kenya vote,” said Mr Nyoro.

Insiders say Ruto went for a Kikuyu as his running mate to help him cement his support base mainly in Central and Rift Valley.

Gachagua is now expected to push for the Mt Kenya Economic Forum and ensure communities that form the Gema feel secure in Kenya Kwanza.

Traditionally, Gema communities have voted for one of their own since the advent of multi-party politics in 1992.

In the 1992 General Election, Kenneth Matiba and Mwaki Kibaki contested on the Ford Asili and Democratic Party, respectively, coming second and third.

In 1997, Kibaki was second after retired President Mzee Daniel Arap Moi and would later romp to victory in 2002 under the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in a contest that was a whole Mt Kenya affair between him and Uhuru Kenyatta.

In 2013, President Kenyatta was elected and as he completes his final term, there has been tacit agreement across the board that electing a Mt Kenya resident to State House, would be a tall order.

Once President Kenyatta’s personal assistant-now-turned harshest critic, Gachagua has for the last three days been on the campaign trail.

On Wednesday, Gachagua held a series of meetings with MPs from Mt Kenya to build consensus and plan on a calendar of events for the region. In the afternoon, he met elected leaders from  Nyeri County, before hosting 22 MPs from Mt Kenya, where they worked on campaign meetings across counties of Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Nyandarua, Tharaka Nithi, Murang’a and Kiambu, that make up the Gema nation.

Others to be included, though in the Rift Valley, are Laikipia and Nakuru. The two counties have a significant number of Kikuyus.

Together with Kuria, Gachagua’s team will spearhead the campaigns in Mt Kenya East and West led by Speaker Justin Muturi and former Kiambu governor William Kabogo. They are expected roll out a campaign in the region that will run up to mid-July.

“We will cover every constituency and wards to get more votes than that of 2017 when Uhuru was running. We will ensure Azimio is locked out of the millions of votes in Mt Kenya,” said Kuria. 

Chinga Ward MCA Kiruga Thuku said Gachagua was a coordinator during the Uhuru campaigns in 2013 and 2017 and his organisational skills would easily see him deliver votes for Ruto.

“Everyone among the leaders in the region seems to be now coalescing around him and he has got acceptance immediately. It will be an easy assignment delivering votes for Ruto because of the network,” said Thuku. 

On Thursday, Gachagua met a group of businessmen from Mt Kenya and according to a source, there were a series of other meetings between last evening and Tuesday.

“Businessmen sympathetic to the Hustler movement and Ruto from the mountain have shifted their support from Uhuru to Gachagua. We expect the number to be big in the coming days. People know where the past is and where the future lies,” said an MP close to Gachagua.

The source said they plan to sell an economic liberation message in the region from the current situation where most farmers and business-people are struggling financially.

Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara said Ruto’s bottom-up economic agenda and his association with churches make it easy to market his brand and that Gachagua is a plus for them.