During his long absence owing to ill health, Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua’s younger brother, Rigathi, appeared to call the shots in the county.
Although the Constitution stipulates that Deputy Governor Samuel Wamathai should act as governor in the absence of his boss, Rigathi was often accused of meddling in the affairs of the county and acting as the de facto deputy when his brother was away.
In parliamentary sessions, some MCAs accused him of taking advantage of Wamathai’s laid-back demeanour, a claim the Gachaguas vehemently denied.
Unlike in the neighbouring counties of Kirinyaga, Murang’a and Laikipia where governors have endured the headache of dealing with their ambitious deputies, Wamathai remained Gachagua’s a loyal servant to a point of being labeled a stooge.
The soft-spoken Wamathai even threatened to resign in solidarity with Gachagua in the event that the governor was ejected from office after an impeachment motion against him by MCAs sailed through last year. Wamathai maintained close ties with the governor, who in turn, showered him with praise when he returned from his many trips abroad.
Wamathai’s taciturn character saw him attract little or no attention in public, with a few people able to put a name to his face.
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Despite enjoying all the trappings of power and standing in for the big boss, Wamathai maintained an unassuming mien in his public appearance, always driving himself without bodyguards.
The former Kenya Representative in the International Civil Aviation in Canada holds a Bachelor of Statistics and Economics degree from the University of Nairobi.
However, it is Rigathi who has been in focus for much of Gachagua’s absence. He is rarely seen in public, but is reported to be closely associated with powerful people in government, including President Uhuru Kenyatta. He was the President’s personal assistant during Uhuru’s time as Kanu chairman, particularly the period of his failed presidential bid 2002. Rigathi has been conspicuously present in Gachagua’s functions, especially when his health began to deteriorate.
Rigathi has announced his intention to vie for the Mathira parliamentary seat that was once held by his elder brother.
But with Gachagua’s demise, Rigathi may be persuaded to upscale his ambition and vie for the governorship in this year’s election.
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Friday, Rigathi, who has been at his elder brother’s bedside for the past week, was devastated following the death of his kin. A mourning Rigathi said it was still a difficult time for the grieving family.
“This is a very trying time for us, he had shown tremendous improvement and was looking forward to kicking off his re-election bid as soon as possible,” said Rigathi on telephone from London.
“Even when he was weak, sickly and travelling to and from hospital, he never shied away from his responsibility.”