Scholar who defied odds by felling political giants

Seth Mwaniki and Zachary Ochuodho @PeopleDailyKe

For a man who walked the academic circles like a colossus, many doubted he was cut for political shenanigans, particularly after he lost his first attempt in 2013. Wahome Gakuru eventually became the governor of Nyeri in 2017, by which time he had cut himself a niche both in national and local politics as an assertive and hands-on leader.

The governor loved to describe himself to critics through a popular Kikuyu secular song Mundu utoi Ungi (one who has no idea of someone else’s ability) a track that ridicules those who underrate others before testing them.

He creatively coined the slogan Kumira ta Thuraku to encourage voters to turn out in large numbers like safari ants during the October 26 repeat presidential election. Dr Gakuru’s way of engaging in debates was to challenge conventional wisdom, shift the dominant paradigm or alter the perspective of how the educated look at issues that affect the common man.

He was a man who refused to be trapped in any ideological straightjacket and appeared to have cultivated his own streak as a technocrat with an admirable determination to make a difference wherever he served.

His background as a technocrat also gave him an edge in dealing with a wide range of issues. It was this background that gave him the confidence that he could make a difference if he joined politics for the betterment of the Nyeri people.

His first assurance to the Nyeri residents was to revive the health sector, which he described as terrible. “The county is currently in the intensive care unit trailing in development,” he said. At the University of Nairobi where he taught business management, Gakuru was an articulate debater, who rarely lost his cool especially with those who did not share his own vision.

He would go on to persuade them. Gakuru served in different capacities in Kenya and United States. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration and Policy from Arizona State University US, where he graduated in 2004.

He also graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration from Willamette, US. He also holds similar qualification, MBA, from the University of Nairobi, where he also studied for his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration between 1988 and 1991.

Upon returning home after graduating with PhD in United States, he served in various positions in Kenya as a consultant for various firms, lecturer at University of Nairobi, Director General of Vision 2030, besides serving as Group Operations Director, Director-Marketing and Policy at Equity Bank and Head, Policy and Strategy Development at the National Aids Control Council.

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