The death of Governor Wahome Gakuru will forever remind the people of Nyeri County of a promising leader who never lived to see his dreams come true.
With his rich academic credentials and having been one of the authors of Kenya’s Vision 2030 – the country’s development blueprint – people had high hopes in the new administration of the 51-year-old economist who will be buried on Saturday in Kirichu Village in Kiganjo location.
He had been elected governor on August 8 with a landslide after promising to work jointly with farmers and other stakeholders in turning around the agriculture sector – starting with the ailing coffee industry, which is Nyeri’s economic mainstay.
To live to his promises, Dr Gakuru was in the process of launching an ambitious programme to resuscitate the sub-sector.
The programme was to be rolled out as soon as the National Treasury released the county’s funds.
And he was to share his vision with farmers on Thursday when he had convened a coffee stakeholders meeting at the Green Hills Hotel.
The meeting was called off following his shocking death on Tuesday.
The mystery surrounding the accident that claimed his life on Thika Highway is yet to be unravelled.
"As soon as our budget is approved, we shall start rolling out the programme, which will ensure that every coffee farmer has access to affordable farm input.
"And my plan is for the farmers to first improve the structure of the soil," Dr Gakuru told Sunday Nation in an exclusive interview on September 29, a day after he opened the second county assembly.
He had in his speech announced an increase in budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector from Sh100 million to Sh500 million.
The governor’s death evokes memories of an almost similar incident some 40 years ago.
This was the death of educationist Peter Kareithi Munuhe, who died at Kenol, which is not far from Kabati where Dr Gakuru’s official car crashed.
Kareithi, as he was popularly known, had won the hearts of many when he vied for the Mathira parliamentary seat in 1974 but lost to the late Davidson Kuguru.
His dream was to improve livelihoods of young people by first transforming the entire education system in Nyeri.
Education was not revered like today and local children used to drop out of school on completing primary.
Kareithi’s vision was to see every child access secondary education and join a tertiary institution.
A teacher and celebrated author, Kareithi was a senior officer in the Ministry of Education’s Jogoo House in Nairobi.
He had made a name for himself when he published Kaburi Bila Msalaba (East African Publishing House) in 1969, which exposes the evils meted on innocent Kenyans by the British Colonialists during the Mau Mau War.
Kareithi had also joined a club of other open-minded politicians from Central region that was led by the late Nyandarua North MP JM Kariuki.
The group was campaigning to have such liberal minded young and well educated people replace the old, uneducated former home guards who had taken over the country’s leadership at independence.
After his debut in parliamentary politics, his name remained in the lips of almost every resident of Nyeri, including the youth who vowed to support him in subsequent elections.
But this was not to be. A tipper lorry rammed his vehicle at the Kenol junction on June 1977.
Elections were scheduled for November 1979.
For Dr Gakuru, education was not a preference when he unveiled his ambition to become first Nyeri Governor in 2013.
Voters wanted a leader with a clear agenda for development as opposed to a career politician.
Dr Gakuru was seen as the person to take over county’s leadership after former President Mwai Kibaki’s exit from politics on completing his term as Kenya’s President.
His landslide win against then incumbent Samuel Wamathai was expected and voters had high expectations to see a transformed Nyeri.
Among those who were quick to welcome Dr Gakuru’s victory were members of the Coffee Sub-Sector Implementation Committee.
The committee is implementing reforms proposed by a task force President Uhuru Kenyatta had appointed last year to recommend reforms in a bid to revive the coffee industry.