The race to succeed Murang’a governor Mwangi Wa Iria who is serving his second and final term is narrowing down to a contest of bigwigs in the region’s politics. Among those touted to go for the seat include area Senator Irungu Kang’ata who doubles up as senate chief-whip and Water principal secretary Irungu Wairagu. Others said to be interested in the seat include former Devolution PS Irungu Nyakera, former senator Kembi Gitura, businessman Julius Kaberere, Raymond Matiba (son of veteran politician, late Kenneth Matiba), and former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau. But it is the looming entry of Kang’ata that is causing ripples in the county due to his good books with Uhuru Kenyatta.
Water PS Wairagu is said to be openly asking parastatal bosses under his ministry to part with millions to fund his campaigns in 2022. Recently, one of the parastatal fat cats was overheard complaining that the ps asked a huge fortune to have his contract renewed. The CEO was forced to fundraise among the suppliers and contractors to raise the money. The soft-spoken 39-year-old city lawyer made history in 2002 when he was elected vice-chairman of the University of Nairobi Students Organisation during his first year. He was 19 years old and since then, no first-year student has held the post. Kang’ata, who served as Kiharu MP between 2013 and 2017, was in 2002 elected Murang’a Town ward councillor. By then he was serving a suspension from university. He came to national limelight when he represented Rebecca Kerubo, a guard at a chemist in Gigiri in the case against then deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza.
He is now the one tasked with dewhipping deputy president William Ruto’s allies in the senate as well as cutting to size rebels in Mount Kenya region, a task that will see him bag the Jubilee ticket for the governor’s seat. Before Kangata’s elevation to senate chief whip, Wairagu was the talk of the county after he was caught up in a fierce political war with Wa Iria fueled by his 2022 ambition. The PS had upped his forays in his home region to launch national government development projects, a move that has irked the governor, who interpreted the moves as premature campaigns. The PS sent tongues wagging when he announced that the government through the ministry of Water and Irrigation had injected Sh9 billion for various water projects in the county. The money was meant to cater for domestic and irrigation water projects in various parts of the county and was to be channelled through the National Irrigation Board for projects in Mirira, Gakoe, Wahundura, Mukurwe wa Nyangathaga, Muruka and Kandabibi.
He further announced Sh8 billion had been distributed to various projects with intent to increase water connections to the locals. The PS also announced the construction of Maragua dam, saying the bidding process had been concluded and the contract awarded. He spoke at Ndinda Irrigation project in Maragua which will serve Kambiti, Makuyu, Maragua Ridge and Kamahuha. The PS also announced the national government had set aside Sh4 billion for building sewerage plants in five major towns in Murang’a county. Curiously, he was in the company of former Equity Bank chairman, Peter Munga, a critic of the governor. The projects saw Wa Iria lieutenants accuse the PS of turning government projects into his own political tool as he positions himself to succeed the incumbent. To cut his influence, Wa iria allocated Sh180 million to sink boreholes and construction of water pans in various parts of Murang’a. But critics dismiss Wairagu as a lone ranger and mean.
Also eyeing the seat is former senator Kembi Gitura, who unsuccessfully defended his senatorial seat and lost to Kang’ata. But pundits aver that Kembi’s popularity has declined in the county considered a hotbed of vibrant politics. Kembi, who served as a deputy senate s p e a k e r between 2013 and 2017, was appointed a non-executive chairperson to Kenya Medical Supplies Authority. Another name that is featuring is that of Julius Kaberere who vied for Murang’a gubernatorial seat in 2013. Kaberere vied under Alliance Party of Kenya. He says he is under pressure from the residents to go for the seat but he is yet to make up his mind. The Kandara-born politician declined to vie for the post in 2017 and opted to back-up Wa Iria. Another name that is featuring is that of former principal secretary at the ministry of Devolution Planning and the Arid and Semi-Arid Area Lands Irungu Nyakera.
Nyakera who claims that his excellence in service delivery made Uhuru sack him, is now the Democratic Party deputy party leader. He was among the youngest PSs in Uhuru’s regime, having served under former president Mwai Kibaki as Transport PS. The Stanford University graduate was recently quoted saying his focus on service delivery and detachment to politics also contributed to his being shoved out of government. But his critics dismiss him as arrogant and inconsequential. Former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau is also said to be interested in the seat. Kamau lost to Wa Iria during the Jubilee primaries where he garnered 118,274 votes against Wa Iria’s 205,976. Matiba is also said to be interested in the seat but is yet to make up his mind. Moses Mangi, who has twice lost to Wa Iria, is also salivating at the prospects of occupying the seat. But there are reports that tycoons who backed him in the last two elections are now rooting for Wairagu, the Water PS. If the tycoons back Wairagu, Mwangi will be forced to pull out since he does not have resources to mount a serious campaign for the seat.