Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki has now shifted his focus and that of his executive to prioritising grassroots projects to counter critics and the rising popularity of Chuka University Vice Chancellor Prof. Erastus Njoka in the race to succeed him as the county governor.
According to the star, the governor will be getting residents’ views and understanding their plight so he can initiate projects that transform their lives. The county chief has toured several wards talking to residents and initiating development projects.
According to sources close to the county boss, the cold reception of the governor in the areas he visited prompted him to devise a different strategy, with residents accusing him of doing little to transform their lives and his failure to keep his pre-election pledges.
While addressing Muthiru residents, the governor noted that “Touring villages is giving us the truth on the ground. We are coming to your village to fast-track development and get your views. All needs are catered for, including artificial insemination, roads, hospitals, lack of drugs and employment, as we are now a mobile office dubbed Office Mashinani kwa Wananchi,”
His opponents accuse him of leading a corrupt and incompetent government, and initiation of projects without consultation of residents as well as ignoring the elected county assembly members (MCAs) in his plans. A few weeks ago, other leaders from Mount a Kenya East asked the governor to work with other elected leaders instead of being a lone wolf. The governor who is already facing charges of corruption faces a daunting task in convincing the residents that he still can deliver on his promises within the remaining time.
Even where some projects have been completed, residents have complained of the poor state and lack of standards. A few weeks ago, residents of Chogoria town called on the governor to order the retarmaking of the town less than a year after its completion. They complained that, the construction company, which allegedly belongs to a local member or parliament, did shoddy jobs and that already the less than a year old tarmac is being swept away by water and wind. The tarmac, according to the residents lacks drainage, it’s of uneven width such that two vehicles driving from opposite directions can’t safely pass each other and that pedestrians cannot safely use the road.
According to a local opinion leader and business owner, the business community in the town had already cleared buildings on the road side to create space for the road, but the construction company only used a small section of the road leaving their effort to waste.
The state of Chuka general hospital and other health facilities in the county has also remained a thorn in the flesh for the county government with residents complaining of the poor state of health services in the county.
It is understood that sensing defeat, and with rising opposition to his government, the county chief took his county executive to some undisclosed location in Meru County where strategies to regain lost support for the governor were proposed. Most importantly, the decision to work directly with people on the ground in order to regain their trust.
Tharaka-nithi County is set to be hotly contested during the upcoming election, and with the campaign gear already on, at least four candidates are set to vie for the county governor seat. One is the chuka University Vice Chancellor who is approaching the end of his tenure at the helm of the university and who many residents consider to be the front runner in the race. Residents, who we have spoken to consider him as the best candidate to take over. They credit him for the transformation he has overseen at Chuka university including the establishment of campuses at Tharaka and Maara constituenciies: the fact that he is a Christian and non confrontational and the ongoing multi-billion investments including a dam and hospital at kairini.
The incumbent governor is also expected to vie, unless his ongoing court case goes against him. He has the advantage of incumbency. He also boasts of a number of projects started in his name including planting of trees along the main highway and making several roads passable through ambitious road projects.
Current nithi senator prof kindiki is also considered to be interested in the position as well as former NCIC chair Mzalendo Kibunja.
Recently, the Nithi governor has been on record asking residents to give him time and avoid the negative politics that are so familiar in the county. He noted that Tharaka nithi is the only county that is in campaign mood for 5 years without taking a break and concentrating on development.
But for a county that has no industries and where a majority of youths have no meaningful jobs, how he handles this volatile situation may be the main determinant of the outcome of the next elections.