Although Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga had said his choice of deputy would be a “shocker”, few expected a young female economist without political backing to be nominated.
Ms Caroline Wanjiru Karugu’s nomination on Thursday came as a surprise considering she was not among the tens of names floated.
Born and raised in Nyaribo village, Kiganjo, Ms Karugu had never featured in the county’s politics and her nomination for some was a kick in the teeth.
The 39-year-old economist came to the limelight after former governor Dr Wahome Gakuru’s death, featuring prominently in the team tasked to make burial arrangements.
Sunday might have marked her political debut when she attended a fundraiser at New Life Ministries Church in Nyeri with other leaders among them Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, his ICT colleague Joe Mucheru, Mr Kahiga and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. She did not speak at the event.
While the identity of Mr Kahiga’s preferred candidate had remained a closely-guarded secret, her presence at the function might have spoken volumes.
During an interview on Citizen TV on Wednesday, the governor declined to disclose his choice reiterating that his deputy would not be any of the expected front-runners.
An hour before her name was tabled at the assembly on Thursday, social media was awash with congratulatory messages and her résumé uploaded on the county’s website. Given that she is not a common face, only two of her professional photos were making rounds. Her appointment will bring to eight the number of female deputy governors.
For Mr Kahiga, the decision had been a delicate balancing act. It, however, provided an opportunity to assert himself as governor by picking a personal friend and not bowing to pressure from powerful politicians.
Members of Dr Gakuru’s secretariat were fronting Dr Stephen Gachie from Mukurwe-ini. The PhD holder was seen as the best bet to drive Dr Gakuru’s vision given that he was one of the drafters of his manifesto.
Those who campaigned for him said he was bringing on board wits that march those of Dr Gakuru and experience spanning 14 years in managerial positions.
Contacted, Dr Gachie congratulated Ms Karugu, but registered his reservations. “I wish to congratulate her for her nomination. She has the experience, but what is she bringing to the table in terms of a vision?” he asked.
Ms Karugu, who was recently picked by President Uhuru Kenyatta as an independent non-executive director of the Geothermal Development Company board, has vast experience in the private and public sectors.
She holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce from Daystar University and a Global Executive MBA (Strategy) from USIU in partnership with the Frankfurt School of Finance in Germany. She is currently a doctorate candidate.
Ms Karugu is also the CEO of Jabali Microserve Ltd, a commercial subsidiary of Jitegemee Trust. In 2010, she won the prestigious World Young Credit Union Professionals award in the US.
Mr Kahiga yesterday said his nominee was competent and right for the job. He added that nominating Ms Karugu will give women a voice in the running of the county.
“There has been a lot of bashing of women from this area. This will change the face of the typical Nyeri woman. I believe she has the energy to deliver,” said the governor.
Currently, she is a candidate for a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree in Finance at USIU-A in collaboration with the Columbia Business School in New York.
Ms Karugu is also the chief executive officer of Jabali Microserve Ltd, a commercial subsidiary of Jitegemee Trust.
In 2010, she won the prestigious World Young Credit Union Professionals award sponsored by the World Council of Credit Unions in the United States.
Nominated MCA Julia Mukami described her as an administrator and a hardworking woman.
The county boss yesterday said his nominee was competent and right for the job. He added that nominating Ms Karugu will give women a voice in the running of the county.
“There has been a lot of bashing of women from this area. This will change the face of the typical Nyeri woman. I believe she has the energy to deliver,” she said.