A leopard doesn’t change its spots, neither can it conceal them for long. A few days into Rigathi Gachagua’s selection as Kenya Kwanza/UDA presidential candidate William Ruto’s running mate, the former District Officer (DO) was captured on video asking his boss, the Deputy President, to be visiting Sagana State Lodge, as former President Daniel Moi did, and invite locals for a “mchele na kanyama” (rice and meat) feast. That showed what cloth the Mathira MP is cut from. State House visitations were one of the many ways the Nyayo regime perfected to cultivate loyalty and the feasts and tokenism were a blindfold.
The provincial administration was the eye of the overbearing central government, a system inherited from the colonial masters. The officials, as the President’s boots, were (ab)used to advance the regime’s absolutism. Gachagua and Co. have a hard time trying to shed the hangover and reform to conform to the new order of a progressive Constitution that has devolution and the Bill of Rights, which champions citizen empowerment and inclusivity.
Gachagua’s mannerisms are exemplified by the haemorrhage at Kenya Kwanza with disgruntled partners like Mwangi Kiunjuri of TSP, William Kabogo (Tujibebe Wakenya Party) and Chama Cha Kazi’s Moses Kuria pointing the finger at him. ANC chief Musalia Mudavadi had complained about machinations by UDA, their coalition partner, to lock them out of his western Kenya backyard. Kuria, Kabogo and Kiunjuri have boycotted Dr Ruto’s political functions. Kuria described Kenya Kwanza as the epitome of “politics of deceit and conmanship”.
Gachagua left a trail of lamentations whenever he served and it was highly unlikely he would change into a modest rational leader in politics, where tendencies of dictatorship are a liability, not an asset. Seemingly, apart from the metallic round hat, he has brought to UDA every attribute of a typical DO.
His leadership style isn’t the only scar on his face. Gachagua has a plethora of corruption cases in court, accused of defrauding the Nyeri County government and other public institutions of hundreds of millions of shillings. Why did the DP settle on him and not one in the galaxy of stars at his disposal—Prof Kithure Kindiki, Kimani Ichung’wah, Speaker Justin Muturi and Mudavadi?
Gachagua is the coalition’s Achilles’ heel. His appointment exposes the soft underbelly of the DP: Given the opportunity, he would be a ruthless operative who can sacrifice merit at the altar of personal interest; one who can throw the will of the people through the window for his own will to prevail.
Lastly, if the DP could trample on the wishes of his trusted lieutenants at the top and reject Prof Kindiki, what of that of ordinary Kenyans? He may have found an asset in Gachagua’s tyrannical tendencies—the same that everybody else abhors.
The other political parties supporting the DP must be very afraid and should even seek to revise the details of the coalition agreement they signed. As things stand, with the DP vying as a UDA candidate, there could be very little at stake for them. A telling observation is that his billboards bear UDA’s name and colours—and not a speck of Kenya Kwanza.
Mr Thuranira is a political analyst. [email protected]