The men behind powerful women on county thrones

Newly elected Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga together with her husband George Wanga.

Newly elected Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga together with her husband George Wanga.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • The election of seven women governors has brought into the spotlight the role of the husbands, known as first gentlemen.
  • Ordinarily, spouses of governors have an allocation from the county coffers to finance different programmes they run.
  • It is not clear if the First Gentlemen will also have a budget.

The election of seven women governors has brought into the spotlight the role of the husbands, known as first gentlemen.

Ordinarily, spouses of governors have an allocation from the county coffers to finance different programmes they run but it is not clear if the First Gentlemen will also have a budget.

Here are the spouses of some of the female governors and the role they played during campaigns.

George Wanga, Homa Bay

George Wanga, Homa Bay's first gentleman, came into the public limelight in the campaigns of 2017 when he opposed his wife’s choice of governor.

Gladys Wanga was rooting for then-ODM candidate Cyprian Awiti, who was seeking to defend his seat, while her husband was backing an independent candidate, Mr Oyugi Magwanga.

For Mr Wanga, residents needed not be told to vote for candidates just because they were members of a certain political party—ODM. The wife was of a contrary view.

Mr Magwanga used this to his advantage even as the governor's family staged campaign rallies to ensure their preferred candidate got the highest number of votes.

Mr Wanga would tag along at Mr Magwanga’s campaign rallies where he would tell his supporters about the path they should take in politics.

This style of campaign boosted Mr Magwanga’s support throughout the county as they projected Ms Wanga as one who lacked the capacity to rally her family behind one candidate, hence unworthy of giving political directions.

Both the new governor and her husband would wash their dirty linen in public.

Newly elected Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga [C] together with her husband George Wanga.

Newly elected Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga [C] together with her husband George Wanga [L] during her swearing-in.

Photo credit: Pool

It became a subject of discussion as the 2017 election drew nearer. Though Mr Wanga, alongside Mr Magwanga, put up a spirited fight to challenge the ‘six-piece’ voting wave his wife was promoting, the recently elected governor managed to overcome the criticism and ensured ODM got all parliamentary, Senate and governor seats.

Interestingly, Mr Magwanga this year teamed up with Ms Wanga as her running mate on a joint gubernatorial ticket to carry the day on August 9.

But this time, unlike her rival, former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero who introduced his wife, Susan Mboya, to the public towards the end of the election campaigns, Ms Wanga ensured her husband tagged along at most of her rallies. 

At an event where she was endorsed by his community in Kochia, Rangwe Constituency, she narrated how he saved her from ‘drowning’ in Kano Plain, Kisumu County, her ancestral home. Kano faces perennial floods. 

“George got me out of Kano where we almost died from floods. He waded through the floods and mud to bring me to Homa Bay," Ms Wanga said.

Now with two children, they met at Kenyatta University during their undergraduate programmes.

Mr Wanga studied banking and finance and runs personal businesses. He was by her side at the swearing-in ceremony held at Homa Bay Stadium on Thursday. He is in his mid-40s.

Ordinarily, spouses of governors have an allocation from the county coffers to finance different programmes they run.

In Homa Bay County, Mr Awiti’s wife, Rosela, engaged in the distribution of sanitary towels to schoolgirls.

But Mr Wanga said he is not sure whether he will get such privileges. "Will I really get an opportunity like that? I will share such information at a later date."

Murega Baicu, Meru

When Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza made her debut in politics in 2013, it was her husband Murega Baicu’s music that propelled her into the limelight.

In the song released around 2013, Baicu describes Mwangaza as a bold, wealthy and down-to-earth woman who is ready to serve the people.

It is also Baicu’s song, Ngavana wetu ni mama, that popularised Ms Mwangaza’s gubernatorial bid and unexpectedly ended the decorated political career of former governor Kiraitu Murungi.

Mr Baicu, a musician who was once crowned the Meru cultural ambassador, is the county’s first gentleman.

Before marrying her, he was already Meru’s top musician, representing the community as far as Germany with his Kimeru tunes.

After marrying Ms Mwangaza, Baicu slowed down on music to run the family business, Baite TV, and serve as an apostle in Baite Family Fellowship Church where the governor is a bishop.

.Mr Murega Baicu, husband to Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza

Mr Murega Baicu, husband to Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza plays a guitar during his wife's swearing-in ceremony on August 25, 2022. Mr Murega is a musician who used music to draw crowds to their campaigns.

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

In a recent media interview, Ms Mwangaza said her husband’s guitar and music skills contributed about 50 per cent to her victory.

“We could not afford to pay entertainers in our campaign meetings. My husband’s music prowess played a big role in my victory.”

So prominent was Baicu’s guitar campaign that former deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu hit out that “Meru cannot be led with a guitar.”

Using his music skills, Baicu would remix popular hit songs to subtly deliver messages to their political rivals, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

One of the most popular remixes was Salim Junior’s Ndari ya Mwarimu (Teacher’s darling) where Baicu would respond to Mr Murungi’s attacks with “Kahora Kiraitu, niwooka muno (Take caution Kiraitu, you have crossed the red line).”

In May when their opponents accused Baicu of neglecting his children from his first marriage, the couple responded in kind.

“Before I got married to Mwangaza, I had children with six women. Which children are my critics talking about? All the children I sired with the six women are taken care of,” Baicu hit back as Mwangaza cheered him on.

Ms Mwangaza added, “If you see any child that resembles Murega, please, bring the child to me. If it is a girl, the better because I don’t have girls. I am aware that my husband was in several relationships before we got married and all the children are in school.”

Mr Baicu says while his spouse delivers her mandate as governor, he will ride on that to mentor up-and-coming musicians in the county.

Sam Mburu, Nakuru

Sam Mburu, Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika’s husband, is a man of means. He is described by many as a wealthy and flamboyant businessman.

In political circles, he is popularly known as ‘Kiongozi’, the Kiswahili word for leader, because of his generosity and contributions to harambees.

He has been a close ally of President-elect William Ruto and Governor Susan Kihika for a long time.

He is always in Dr Ruto’s company, especially during public events across Rift Valley and even other parts of the country.

His parents ran a charcoal-burning company in Solai, Nakuru County, where he started off as a modest businessman.

Mr Mburu and Ms Kihika exchanged vows in November 2020 at a colourful event attended by Dr Ruto, among other politicians.

Mr Mburu is now Nakuru’s first gentleman after his wife Thursday took the oath of office as the third county boss after Kinuthia Mbugua and Lee Kinyanjui.

She trounced Mr Kinyanjui to become the first woman to lead Nakuru as governor.

Those close to Mr Mburu say he is a shrewd businessman with strong connections and runs Landmark Freight Services, a clearing and forwarding company in Mombasa, which has two branches in China and rakes in over Sh10 million in monthly profits.

Susan Kihika celebrates victory with her husband Sam Mburu.

Susan Kihika celebrates victory with her husband Sam Mburu after she was declared Nakuru Governor-elect at Nakuru high school county tallying centre on August 12, 2022.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

“Mr Mburu also owns multimillion-shilling properties, including apartments in Nakuru, Nairobi, Kajiado and Mombasa, as well as a string of high-end luxury cars,” a close friend told Saturday Nation.

Although details of his source of wealth are still scant, before he ‘struck gold’, he was a soft-drinks distributor in Nakuru town’s Shabaab area. 

Mr Mburu was among 15 suspects facing charges for allegedly defrauding the government of Sh64 million.

He, alongside former Kenya Bureau of Standards managing director Charles Ongwae and others, is accused of colluding with three firms to undervalue imported goods.

The Kenya Revenue Authority also seized six top-of-the-range vehicles belonging to him.

In the run-up to the 2013 election, he was actively involved in the United Republican Party (URP) campaigns and was instrumental in the formation of a party youth league in Nairobi, which was later incorporated into UhuRuto presidential campaigns.

Ahead of the 2017 election, he largely sponsored Kihika’s campaigns. Ms Kihika, the daughter of the late veteran Nakuru politician Dickson Kihika Kimani, conducted well-oiled campaigns, traversing the county in choppers.

Her campaigns were flashy and showy. She also used state-of-the-art Sports Utility Vehicles that wowed many, including her rivals.

She started the campaigns in February 2015 and sustained the tempo to 2017, going on to win the senatorial seat.

Mr Mburu stood by his wife until she won the governor's seat.

Kamotho Waiganjo, Kirinyaga

Lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo is no doubt Kirinyaga county's first gentleman.

On Thursday, Mr Waiganjo was among hundreds of people who attended the swearing-in of Governor Anne Waiguru at Kamiigua Youth Polytechnic in Gichugu Constituency.

Mr Waiganjo arrived at the venue together with his wife who was re-elected to serve her second and final term in office after trouncing seven opponents, among them highly influential politician Wangui Ngirici, the outgoing woman representative.

Ms Waiguru appreciated her husband, noting that he has been a strong pillar in her life.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Mumbi and her husband Kamotho Waiganjo.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Mumbi and her husband Kamotho Waiganjo.

Photo credit: Pool

“I want to thank sincerely from my heart, the very best husband. He is the strength behind the calmness you see in me. He has been there for me throughout.”

The first gentleman has been so close to his wife even throughout the campaign period.

When Waiguru was announced the winner of the August 9 election at Kerugoya Catholic hall, Waiganjo gave a congratulatory hug to her, much to the amusement of the election officials and residents.

Waiganjo has been practising law for many years. Most importantly, he is a former commissioner of the defunct Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution of Kenya.

He became more notable in 2019 when he married Waiguru in a colourful traditional wedding after a 10-year relationship.

The wedding at Kiamugumo Primary School attracted special guests, including President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Ali Kanga, Kwale

After the election of Kwale’s Fatuma Achani, her husband, Ali Kanga, is now the county’s first gentleman.

Mr Kanga is a lecturer at the Technical University of Mombasa (Tum) and was rarely in the public during Ms Achani’s campaigns.

This was until she was declared the governor-elect by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on August 11.

But Saturday Nation established that behind the scenes, Mr Kanga, has been supportive of the governor, with whom he has two children.

As Ms Achani held grassroots campaigns, he would hold indoor meetings at their home in Matuga with groups of professionals, youths or business people, drumming up support for her bid.

He was born in Tiwi Magodzoni and went to Waa Boys’ High School in Kwale.

He works as a lecturer in the Medical Sciences Department at Tum and undertakes research in immunology, microbiology and virology.

Mr Kanga has, however, avoided making public speeches in the three instances he has accompanied his wife to public events, only standing and waving to crowds when Ms Achani recognises his presence, before sitting down.

Despite that, Ms Achani has described him, together with their family, as a great support system.

 Ali Kanga (right) poses in a photo with his wife, Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani.

 Ali Kanga (right) poses in a photo with his wife, Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani after she was sworn in as Governor on August 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group

In her maiden speech after being sworn in on Thursday, Ms Achani referred to his husband as a pillar, one who has guided and was supportive throughout her campaigns.

“I would like to thank my husband, children and the entire family. What their mother went through on social media or even in the streets was too much to take.

“I have learnt that when a woman is seeking an elective post, it’s a big struggle. I have been abused a lot. I would like to thank my husband because if he was not a strong man, I would have been divorced up to five times,” the new county chief said.

She added that because of her husband’s belief in female leadership, he supported her and is now proud of her win.

Ms Achani had been maligned, mostly online when unofficial accounts posted photos of her children.

The two will be expected to be seen more in public events as he may also undertake special community initiatives in the county, just as it has been common with male governors’ spouses.

Dennis Apaa, Embu

Embu’s first gentleman Dennis Apaa has for long been a subject of political debates in the county, mainly used by cunning rivals who were eager to dismiss Governor Cecily Mbarire’s candidature.

Derided as “belonging to Teso”, where Mr Apaa hails from, desperate politicians wary of Ms Mbarire’s influence have on many occasions used her marriage outside Embu seeking to win votes.

However, Ms Mbarire has managed to keep her husband away from the public eye and her campaigns.

Only described as a businessman, Mr Apaa keeps a low profile and has remained in the shadows and rarely attends public events or addresses the press.

Mr Dennis Apaa follows the proceedings of Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire's swearing-in.

Mr Dennis Apaa follows the proceedings of Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire's swearing-in on August 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro | Nation Media Group

It was the same on Thursday during Ms Mbarire’s swearing-in at the University of Embu where she introduced her husband and asked him to wave, adding “the Teso man” amid cheers from the crowd.

Also present were the couple’s two daughters, Ms Mbarire’s mother and other siblings.

Mr Apaa’s name first came to the limelight after he, together with others, was charged with presenting a false document and seeking to defraud the Irrigation ministry of Sh26 million.

The charges were, however, dropped in October 2014, with the prosecution saying there was no evidence.

Compiled by George Odiwour, David Muchui, Eric Matara, George Munene,  Siago Cece and Charles Wanyoro