The Rise of Rigathi Gachagua from DO to DP

If perceptions had played a role in selecting Dr. William Ruto’s running mate for the 2022 presidential election, outgoing Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua would have failed the test at the outset.

In Mount Kenya, a stronghold of the United Democratic Alliance and the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, his nomination sparked bitter opposition, but he overcame his detractors and persisted.

The Mathira legislator was allegedly forced to go to Mount Kenya because Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki defeated him in an internal vote, according to claims made by former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo. He asserted that Mr. Kindiki received 27 votes, Mr. Gachagua had three, and Mr. Justin Muturi, speaker of the National Assembly, received one.

“Let them do their thing. We shall deal and square it out there in the villages. At the end of the day, I will be vindicated and I will herd all the votes to Dr Ruto’s ballot box. I have a job of delivering a win for my presidential candidate,” a bullish Mr Gachagua said after his nomination.

Mr. Gachagua is a first-term member of parliament and has never participated in a national campaign or been active in politics. Nevertheless, despite his flaws, he is on track to surpass the president as the second-most powerful man in the nation and perhaps the next leader of the Gema community.

Mr. Gachagua did not introduce any legislation during his time in parliament that aimed to give people of Mount Kenya more influence. But while running for office, he positioned himself as the ally of the local business community, farmers, and youngsters. “Commitment to the cause of our Mountain independence” was his campaign motto.

Described by his close allies as “a man of raw instincts when it comes to forging alliances, hard to please and who never forgives betrayal, much the more he handsomely rewards loyalty”.

“Those of us experienced in these things knew that Dr Ruto needed someone who could stand out against President Uhuru Kenyatta. Someone who could convert Mt Kenya voters into a movement and who had the finances to escape the trap of being bought,” said career administrator Joseph Kaguthi.

“I knew him as a District Officer in the Kanu government. He was an organiser, orator, and quick to read the crowd; a man who could articulate any policy in a way to win public support. Though I could not hit the streets to explain those things to the public, I perfectly knew Dr Ruto had won for himself a major asset in Mt Kenya region.”

Many Kenyans believed he would perform poorly in the public discussion with Martha Karua of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya due to the negative emotions his nomination sparked. Many people anticipated that Ms. Karua, a senior advocate, former magistrate, MP, Cabinet minister, and presidential candidate in 2013, would dominate the July 19 debate.

In any case, Mr. Gachagua is a rookie lawmaker with a free tongue and a history of making mistakes. At one occasion, he said that Mt. Kenya voters only cared about eating meat and rice in State hotels. In addition, he was denying corruption claims. He had been detained, charged with illegally obtaining Sh7 billion through dishonest means, and placed in police cells.

In the debate, however, he defended himself well, saying the only case he was fighting related to the nature he made Sh203 million.

“Kenyans didn’t know that Mr Gachagua is an eloquent debater. He knows how to counter opponents with logical points. That is exactly the charm he unleashed on Ms Karua to a point all independent analysts gave him 70 per cent rating,” said National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

He said that Mr. Gachagua delivered the Central vote despite opposition from President Kenyatta, the Mt. Kenya Foundation, national government administration officials, the Kikuyu Council of Elders, and Jubilee candidates.

“A terrific team leader who never panics and goes into fight with a single will to win,” was how he described him.

The High Court decided that Mr. Gachagua must give the state the Sh203 million in the blocked accounts, two weeks before the election. His detractors claimed that he was a risk to Dr. Ruto’s effort. He persevered nonetheless, claiming he was being victimized for his support of the DP.

“In the fullness of time, I will be vindicated. It will be left bare for all to see that the cases are politically instigated and they will fade away. I will get my money back and I will build a home where my supporters will be congregating to make merry,” he told a rally in Nyeri.    

He is the eighth child in a family of eleven, having been born to Nahashon Gachagua Reriani and Martha Kirigo in the Nyeri County village of Hiriga. He has two boys with Pastor Dorcas Wanjiku, whom he is married to. His father repaired rifles for the fighters while his parents were members of the Mau Mau movement.

From 1971 to 1977, Mr. Gachagua attended Kabiruini Primary School before transferring to Kianyaga High School to complete his O- and A-levels.

In 1985, he enrolled at the University of Nairobi (UoN), from where he earned a BA in Political Science and Literature in 1988. He served as the chairman of The Association of Literature Students and as the leader of the Nyeri District University Students Association (Ndusa).

At the Administration Police Institute, he received paramilitary training in 1990. After that, he was assigned to the Office of the President, where he served from 1991 to 1992 as a District Officer Cadet. In the districts of Kakamega, Ng’arua, and Laikipia, he worked as a district officer.

He studied Advanced Public Administration Course at the Kenya School of Government between 1999 and 2000.

He served as Mr. Kenyatta’s personal assistant between 2001 and 2006. He oversaw family enterprises from 2007 to 2016 before running for and winning the Mathira seat in 2017.

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Written by Esther Oyugi

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