Rivals pull out ‘papers’ as race for governorship takes academic angle

Monday June 19 2017

Nyeri Governor Samuel Wamathai addresses locals during Madaraka Day

Nyeri Governor Samuel Wamathai addresses locals during Madaraka Day celebrations at Kabiruini grounds in Nyeri on June 1, 2017. He says he holds a Bachelor’s degree in air and space law from McGill University in Canada. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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Nyeri governor’s race has gained momentum, with top candidates turning to their academic credentials to gain crucial political mileage.

Governor Samuel Wamathai and his Jubilee Party rival, Dr Wahome Gakuru — the two front runners — are now banking on their education, experience in civil service and public administration and development to bolster their bids.

Theirs will be a rematch of sorts, after Mr Wamathai lost the Jubilee primaries to Dr Gakuru and opted to run as an independent candidate.

Dr Gakuru garnered 114,372 votes against Mr Wamathai’s 65,492, as Senator Mutahi Kagwe came third with 54,348.

Mr Wamathai, 61, took over the county leadership after the death of Governor Nderitu Gachagua last year.

He was Governor Gachagua’s deputy.

Also in the race are Patrick Maina Munene of Democratic Party and independent candidate Thuo Mathenge, who are also eyeing a good chunk of the 460,000 votes in Nyeri to propel them to the coveted seat.

While addressing supporters in Karatina town recently, Mr Wamathai dismissed his three rivals as people who are not his match and that he is the best bet for the gubernatorial seat.

“Among all the candidates, I am the most skilled and smart to run the county.

"I have a development record including improved infrastructure and more will happen under my leadership. [A] governor has a maximum of two terms and I just want another term,” he said.

During a TV interview, the governor said he had served the government in various positions for 20 years, including being a deputy high commissioner in Canada for 13 years.

Mr Wamathai, locally known as “Ambassador”, said the county government is offering efficient services to residents because of his public administration skills.

At a past press conference in his office, the governor showed his certificates indicating he has a degree in law, economics and statistics from the University of Nairobi.

He says he also holds a Bachelor’s degree in air and space law from McGill University in Canada.

Further, he has an advanced certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in air transport management, economics and strategic planning.

However, his bid and credentials face a tough test in the person of Dr Gakuru, 55, who projects himself as one of the architects of Vision 2030 — the country’s development blueprint.

Addressing a rally in Naromoru town recently, while accompanied by his running mate Mutahi Kahiga, Dr Gakuru said management of the county required a person with higher education qualifications.

Dr Gakuru has a PhD in public administration and policy from Arizona State University in USA and a master’s degree in management business, NGO and government from Willamette University, also in USA.

In the year 2006, he served in the office of the President at the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) as director in charge of the Kenya Vision 2030 Project as well as the social sector (health, education, employment).

NESC is an advisory organisation to the government.

Dr Gakuru said voters ought to scrutinise candidates and vet their academic certificates, adding that a governor must be technically competent.

“A governor must be having actual training on implementation of policies and government programmes.

"Fake degrees are on the loose and they must be rejected by ensuring only those genuinely fulfilling constitutional requirements are given mandate to lead,” he said.