Don’t mistake a rained on lion for a cat - Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga

 

  • He assumed office when his newly-elected boss died in a freak accident.
  • Mutahi Kahiga spoke about growing up with Dr Gakuru, why he will fuata nyayo zake and his plans for Nyeri County

The weight of two Nyeri governors who died before completing their terms rests on your shoulders. How does that make you feel?

I feel privileged, because God saw it fit for me to push the agenda that the late Governor Wahome Gakuru and I conceived. I am not Gakuru, but I will push our agenda in my own style. I want to have a multi-sectoral approach to everything I do. I want to work with committees, not individuals. 

There is a fear that Nyeri County is jinxed. Do you fear dying in office?

I have no fear because death is an eventuality for all of us. But I am not afraid.

How competent is your official driver?

No comment.

How did you become Dr Wahome Gakuru’s running mate in the first place?

I had known Gakuru since our school days at Kiganjo Primary School. I was ahead of him, but he was my younger brother’s classmate.

We actually grew up in the same village. Our fathers worked together at Kenya Police College at Kiganjo until they retired, so we had a bond outside politics. Two years before elections in 2015, we started working together.

I had a solid support base from teachers and the people of Nyeri town, while he was famous countywide due to his bid in 2013 and his work in Vision 2030. We simply identified and exploited our individual strengths.

Will you set up new priorities or ‘fuata nyayo ya’ Dr Gakuru?

I cannot be Gakuru, and I will have to do things in my own way, but I will remain focused on some of the things we were intending to do.

Development, transparency and accountability will be my guiding principles as I pursue the 12 key priorities that I have set. I want to embed policy and legislative reform by working closely with the county assembly so that we have laws and policies to regulate the things we do.

I want to ensure that all our programmes are sustainable.

How did you deal with those who were saying you should not take over as governor?

Walk around Nyeri and you will feel an aura of hope that was not there when Gakuru died. Nyeri residents were in despair, but not anymore.

We have kept the county moving forward and given residents a sense of continuity. I have avoided engaging the detractors. Wait for 2022. Battles and wars can wait.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and I am telling them, ‘Watch this space,’ but please know that usimuone simba amenyeshewa ukadhani ni paka!

Their argument was that, as a primary school teacher, you are not up to the task of being governor...

I have always considered myself a capable teacher. Presidents Daniel Moi, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Mwai Kibaki were teachers. These men were teachers who became statesmen.

Your government was criticised for paying Gakuru’s family Sh36 million...

It is embedded in the law. A governor is supposed to enjoy an insurance cover by SRC (Salaries and Remuneration Commission) to that level and he was supposed to take up the cover, but we were still setting up government and he didn’t get a chance to get it for himself.

This is why we as the county government found it prudent to pay up. But for the record, the amount has not yet been paid, though it has been provided for in the budget.

Nyeri is an old town that never grows. How will you fix it?

Our plan is to update and modernise the county through spatial planning. We are going to offer incentives to attract investors.

Is it fair to say former PC Peter Raburu ‘killed’ entertainment and night life in Nyeri town? How will you bring back the shine?

Entertainment in Nyeri is a thorny issue for me as a Christian, but I do not want to impose my beliefs on everyone.

You don’t want too much government in people’s lives. However, I want to see the entertainment sector as an industry that will offer employment and entertainment.

People from western Kenya and Nyanza claim that it is impossible for them to do business in Nyeri, yet your residents are welcome in their counties...

All communities are welcome to Nyeri because we are the most open-minded county in the country. We are willing and open to do business with anyone. We have Kenyans from all over the country working peacefully here.

How will you deal with MCAs who try to impeach you like they did with the late Governor Nderitu Gachagua?

I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Do you hang out with retired President Mwai Kibaki? What do you talk about?

We do not spend a lot of time together. I have spoken with President Kibaki but only about the late Gakuru.

Lord Baden Powell’s grave is among the most famous in the world. Why isn’t Nyeri using this to market itself as a tourist destination?

It was unfortunate because there was a tug of war within the Scout Movement and there was some tussle over the allocation of the land. We are waiting for them (Scout Movement) to send us a formal request so we can proceed with developing the site.

How would you advice men from other counties on how to handle the Nyeri woman?

All I can say is that Nyeri women are industrious, very hardworking and self-driven and above all, brave!

Your government intends to make large hospitals autonomous. Will this improve services or breed corruption?

I think the reforms will improve governance and efficiency of the health facilities. It is better for the hospitals to run their own affairs because this puts management on the spot to improve efficiency. There is concern over the stalling of several multi-million shilling public markets…

The Chaka and Karatina markets are national government projects and I believe the Jubilee government is committed to completing the projects soon. As for the Nyeri town open-air market, I have already set aside funds to make it ready for occupation in a few months.

What are you doing to improve the county’s fire department?

We are setting aside Sh100 million for two fire engines and the hiring of an experienced fire station chief and training of our firefighters.

What is the place of Nyeri politicians in the Uhuru succession?

Nyeri must position itself strategically. Who says Nyeri cannot produce the next deputy president?


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