How Ruto and Njuri Ncheke rescued Linturi after poll defeat

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi in a light moment with President William Ruto. [PCS]

After being humbled at the ballot by Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza in last year's election, Mithika Linturi was in unfamiliar territory and staring at an uncertain future.

When the results of the governor’s election were announced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Linturi was not the only casualty of Mwangaza’s historic victory. Mwangaza had also trounced the incumbent, Kiraitu Murungi, a man who had never tasted any election defeat in his over three decades in political office.

But as Kiraitu had already made up his mind that he was going to retire from politics, Linturi might have been left scratching his head, staring at life in the political abyss.

But as it happened, President William Ruto came to his rescue and appointed him Agriculture Cabinet Secretary. This gave him another influential position in Meru and national politics.

Previously, Linturi served as Igembe South MP for two terms and as Meru Senator from 2017 to 2022 when he threw his hat in the ring for the governor’s seat on United Democratic Alliance ticket.

His political star was shining brighter by the day, and the politician was viewed as the natural heir to the “King of Meru” throne, previously held by Kiraitu, who had announced last year’s election was going to be his last before a planned retirement from public office in 2027.

But Mwangaza had other ideas and pulled off one of the biggest electoral surprises in the country by felling both Kiraitu and Linturi.

A man who after the poll defeat was possibly headed to the periphery of major politics, was now placed at the centre of county and national politics.

Then in October, the revered Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders added another feather to Linturi’s cap by installing him as the Meru community spokesman, placing him above the rest of Meru leaders in the pecking order.

Elders converged at the shrine, which also doubles as its ‘Parliament’, to bequeath Linturi the title.

For about three decades, the title “King of Meru” had belonged to former Justice and Constitution Affairs minister Kiraitu, who had also inherited it from Jackson “Harvester” Angaine, Kenya’s first Lands minister.

The elders decreed that Linturi would be the person representing the community’s interests at the national level and would be the link of the people to the presidency.

“I will work hard so that I can make sure Meru is united so that the aspirations of Meru leaders and the people are realised,” said Linturi in acceptance of his new role.