Gachagua's goofs rock the boat as more Mt Kenya leaders get uneasy

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at a market in Nyeri town on December 19, 2022. [DPPS, Standard]

Deputy President (DP) Rigathi Gachagua has made several political leaders uneasy with his hard-hitting utterances even as he seeks to assert himself as the Mt Kenya kingpin.

From asking Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja to allow public service vehicles PSVs) or matatus access the central business district, to remarks that he can actually direct any governor on what to do, the DP has received more rebuke than praise. 

“There is no governor I cannot tell what they need to do and that is outlined in the Executive Order issued by the President, that I’m the bridge between the national and county governments,” said Gachagua.

In his war of words with Sakaja, the governor held that he had the full backing of the President on his push to restore ‘the city’s lost glory by relocating PSV termini.

But Gachagua asked matatu operators and city business people not to worry and continue with their businesses, assuring them of government protection against the plan he argues will stifle the economy of Nairobi.

What followed was a litany of press conferences from Western leaders castigating the DP over what they termed “presenting himself as the Agikuyu Deputy President’. Bumula MP Jack Wamboka even threatened a motion to impeach Gachagua over claims he had become a “tribal chauvinist" using the office of DP to push for the interests of one community at the expense of others.

Gachagua has also said he will bring leaders who had been led astray by former President Uhuru Kenyatta to join Azimio back home, an assignment he gave himself a deadline of December 31. 

But leaders, largely from the Jubilee party told The Standard that they have not received a petition from the DP or other United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leaders for a meeting to join the Kenya Kwanza administration. 

“I have not personally received a meeting with the Deputy President for talks of ditching Jubilee to UDA party but I’m still waiting,” said former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi. 

The DP has also been on record saying he is the Mt Kenya kingpin.

During the thanksgiving ceremony at Nanyuki attended by President William Ruto, he announced plans were underway to organise a homecoming event at Sagana State Lodge, where he would welcome the President to the region. 

In all statements from Gachagua, including those that drew sharp criticism, he has not received backing from Mt Kenya leaders save from his MP Eric wa Mumbi and a few others.

Many leaders have also given meetings presided over by the DP in Mt Kenya counties a wide berth.

Those reached out to by The Standard chose not to comment on the matter while others requested anonymity. A few openly said with time, the region will accept that Gachagua is the region’s senior-most political supremo and will stand up to defend him. 

An MP from Murang’a who sought anonymity said leaders were uneasy with the manner in which the Deputy President was attracting negative criticism from leaders across the divide and that if they publicly supported him, that would transfer the blame from becoming his but to Mt Kenya region. 

“If we keep defending the DP from every criticism, then we shall be exposing our region politically and it may reach a time when we shall be at political war with other regions. It better that he bears the responsibility of his remarks alone,” said the legislator. 

Another leader said: “We owe our allegiance to the President and he doesn’t seem to support his remarks.”

On Thursday, the President indirectly waded into the Gachagua-Sakaja tiff by calling on leaders not to despise each other in nation-building. 

“As a national leader, I will not allow anyone to despise his colleague. All of us are taking part in establishing one country. Paul in the Bible told Timothy that he should not allow anyone to despise his youthfulness,” President Ruto said. 

According to most Mt Kenya leaders, defending Gachagua’s ‘many goofs’ was not good for the relationship with other communities that could be aggrieved by his utterances, especially on job opportunities for his people as a result of supporting the Kenya Kwanza administration. 

“We feel that he should do his things silently and that is why you have not seen us congregate as a group to defend him,” he said. 

However, Nyeri Town MP Duncan Mathenge said Gachagua has foot soldiers across Mt Kenya but they had unanimously taken a deliberate decision not to engage in sideshows with other leaders out to depict Gachagua’s remarks as tribal. 

On the issue of Gachagua allegedly threatening to fire Mathira chiefs for supporting Azimio la Umoja coalition, Mathenge said the administrators must be accountable for their actions. 

“He is in his rights to end the tradition of politicians using chiefs to play politics and it is a lesson to the chiefs who went ahead to be politicians’ agents in the August election.

Kiambu Women Representative Anne Muratha said the ‘teething problems’ being experienced in Mt Kenya were a result of the fact that DP Gachagua was picked by the President and presented to Mt Kenya people. 

“Remember there were some who were opposing him within us while other leaders were in opposition, many have not figured that Gachagua is our guy and he is the one available for kingship position but with time, it will dawn on them,” Ms Muratha said.

On Gachagua’s outbursts, Muratha felt the DP was struggling to prove a point that he is the region’s kingpin and that he was the one managing political affairs, a move she too described as asserting authority. 

“He is within his rights because if he does not speak now, he will never be regarded as the region’s political leader,” she noted. However, political pundits believe the silence by Mt Kenya leaders on matters defending Gachagua was worrying.

Nyeri Young Professionals chairperson Isaac Thuita said: “It is a concern that no single leader has come to Gachagua’s defence since that would reduce the region to a political laughing stock.” 

But political analyst Prof Gitile Naituli said as much as leaders from Mt Kenya needed to support their leader, he too needed to reorganise himself by hiring political advisors on what to say or not and if he has any, he should fire them all. “It seems his statements are alienating him from his own people (Mt Kenya leaders) who should be his foot soldiers. He needs advisors so that he does not look like he is threatening his own people,” said Naituli. 

“This has far-reaching political consequences and he may follow former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s route if he does not change.”  He said Mt Kenya leaders should instead support him.