Tharaka-Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa at a thanksgiving ceremony: His gubernatorial rivals accuse him of capitalising on communal fears as a campaign tool. [File, standard]
The race to determine the next Governor of Tharaka-Nithi County is hotting up with clear indications that it is a two-horse race.
The incumbent Samuel Ragwa and the first-time Chuka/Igambang’ombe MP Muthomi Njuki are the top contenders for the seat with the former vying on a Narc-Kenya ticket the latter on Jubilee’s.
Other candidates include the 2013 runne-up and former assistant minister Mr Petkay Miriti (independent).
Mr Gathee wa Gathee (ODM) and Mwenda Mbaka (independent) are also seeking to dethrone Mr Ragwa.
As we edge towards the August 8 polls, sub-Meru ethnic affiliations are emerging as credible voting determinants.
While Ragwa comes from the Muthambi which has close relations with the Mwimbi who occupy Maara sub-county, Mr Njuki comes from the Chuka as do Petkay Miriti and lawyer Mwenda Mbaka.
Mr Gathee wa Gathee on the other hand comes from the Tharaka who occupy the entire Tharaka sub-county and three locations in Chuka /Igambang’ombe sub-county.
In the three sub-counties, every sub-county has a gubernatorial aspirant with Gathee from Tharaka. The real battle lies, however, between Samuel Ragwa and Muthomi Njuki.
The top three candidates in the race have all picked their running mates from the Tharaka bloc which is seen as swing vote in the upcoming elections.
Ragwa maintained his deputy Dr Mate Murithi with Njuki settling on former Tharaka MP Francis Kagwima and Petkay Miriti taking Ichenga Mugao who was eyeing the senatorial seat, but failed to be cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
All the aspirants expect their running mates to play a major role in marshaling up votes towards their baskets.
Ragwa has promised to support Dr Murithi for the gubernatorial seat in 2022 which might be sweet music to his people while Mr Njuki is banking on Kagwima’s popularity and success as former MP in the area.
Going by the IEBC’s database as on February 22,2017, Tharaka-Nithi County has 216,522 votes, Maara 50,870, Chuka /Igambang’ombe 57,231 and Tharaka 47,386.
Whereas Njuki believes he has done enough not only for his constituents but also to the people of the entire county, which believes will earn him votes to be the next Governor, he blames Ragwa of using ethnicity to earn votes.
“He has not done any tangible project in the county that he can cling to,” Mr Muthomi told The standard in a past interview.
Ragwa has been citing unequal distribution of resources and facilities including the Huduma Centre, Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC), High Court, Sports Stadium among other national government projects which are all in Chuka town.
But according to Njuki, these are all ethnic cards the governor is playing to save himself after realising he has nothing to show for the four years he has been in power.
“Njuki has not done anything for Igambang’ombe according to you. What have you done for them as a governor and your office is located in their area?” asks Njuki.
He has been challenging the governor to cite a single project which he has implemented for the people of Maara that can warrant him a second term as their Ggovernor.
Njuki has also warned Ragwa against discussing what he has done and what he hasn’t, arguing that he has never employed him as his spokesman.
Ragwa responds that he took the county when it had negligible infrastructure and his efforts to build a modern county headquarters have always been curtailed by leaders from the area who are close to the national government.
The governor has been telling the Maara region that it would be foolish to let go the top county seat and this seems to have sunk in the minds of people, especially the older generation.
A section of the youth, however, has not been convinced by this and believe Njuki will be the best governor, even as the governor assisted by his deputy is trying to convince Tharaka people that Njuki will not consider them in his leadership.
Ragwa is also targeting Maara votes as a bloc, and a majority of votes from Tharaka and of course a few from Chuka/Igambang’ombe to retain his seat.
Mr Njuki, however, has criticised Ragwa’s tactics as dangerous to the unity of the county.
The governor, he believes, is a symbol of unity and should treat all the communities equally.
According to Njuki, Ragwa got few votes in Chuka hence his strategy of playing the other regions against the Chuka because he has nothing to lose.
But Njuki terms it a dream, the belief by Governor Ragwa that he will bag the Maara sub-county vote because that is where he hails from.
But despite all these accusations from Njuki, Ragwa is still standing his ground that he is not an ethnic leader and whatever utterances he has ever made are factual.