Third Eye

Feisty Linturi man eying top UDA post but coy on his 2027 political plans

Political makeovers are common in Kenya, but Mr Patrick Muriungi, a veteran journalist and a successful businessman seem to have struck gold with his. Muriungi has been for decades a salient cornerstone in Meru politics and an ultimate power broker bestriding the county’s political landscape like a colossus.

The former Meru County Director of Protocol in the office of former Governor Kiraitu Murungi, who is an experienced journalist and now a budding politician can pass with flying colors as a kingmaker.

When we caught up with him recently and pleaded with him to grant us an interview, a rare one indeed, at his Kithoka home, to which he gladly accepted, he remained tight ripped, and coy on whether he plans to venture into elective politics in 2027.

“I will be contesting for a position during the UDA party grassroots elections expected to take place later in the year. However, I cannot for sure, at this point in time whether I will actually contest for any elective position in 2022. Many of my friends have on several occasions urged me to seek such a position. Let’s see what happens when the time comes. God’s time is the best time,” he said when we pressed him to declare if he intends to plunge into politics and contest in the 2027 general elections.

The father of three came into the limelight during the 2022 elections for his validated controversial statement that ‘among the three 2022 gubernatorial contestants, it was only his former boss, Kiraitu Murungi who could not be the governor of Meru,’. …and true to his words, it came to pass and Kiraitu actually came a distant third in the contest that Kawira Mwangaza won.

The staunch Kiraitu ally-turned-foe who resigned four months to the general elections last year rebranded himself as Linturi’s right-hand man and a Kenya Kwanza bulwark during the campaigns where he was seen campaigning and walking with the now Agriculture Cabinet Secretary who had hitherto declared that he would be in the gubernatorial ballot.

However, this is not the first time his name has been in the public eye, especially in Meru County. Having worked as a journalist for one of the Kenyan top Media House-Standard Group for over a decade, the former Meru County senior official crafted an image as a hard-line hawk and ultranationalist.

His admirers and minders, friends and foes alike largely agree that the Mr Muriungi is slowly but surely establishing himself as a shrewd kingmaker besides being a resilient and politically intelligent man- two traits that have always won him a place in the inner sanctums of power and bestrode the murky Meru politics.

The soft spoken, largely quiet career journalist played a pivotal role in former governor Kiraitu’s political achievements including his rise into the gubernatorial seat. However, a few years after Kiraitu’s rise to governorship, the fallout between the two was evident although it had played out openly. It however snow balled bitterly ahead of the climax of the 2022 general elections with the animus of the separation running so deep that the echoes can still be heard loudly today.

During the one-hour interview, the formerdirector revealed that his close ties with the former governor dated back to his tenure as the South Imenti Member of Parliament and a cabinet minister more than 20 years ago.

He recalled how he once disguised himself as a Njuri-Ncheke elder in a bid to get access to the Statehouse as an undercover agent to attend to a meeting between former President Mwai Kibaki and the elders who had gone to plead with the head of state to reinstate Kiraitu to the cabinet after resigning amid the Anglo-leasing crowd.  

The elders had been sent for a diplomatic chat with the late President by Kiraitu after being implicated in the infamous multi-billion scandal. Muriungi, a close friend of Kiraitu then was to brief him about the statehouse proceedings. While addressing his fallout with Kiraitu, Muriungi blamed the former governor’s allies who he says sabotaged his relationship with him.

Muriungi speaking to Weru TV journalist Muthuri Muriuki (left) during an earlier interview

“The governor was actually not blame on our eventual fallout although I honestly believe that he had the capacity to avert it if he cared. After the 2017 elections, I was appointed deputy director communications but I realized some of my colleagues, two of them in particular would never allow me to perform my mandate and duties well,” he confided adding that there was a lot of witch-hunting in the office of the governor. He said the governor sadly appeared to give the two a hearing but shunned him.

“This is where I felt that I had lost it though I continued performing my duties as director protocol, a position I was given after working in the directorate of communication became unpalatable. I performed my duties like nothing was happening. The governor sadly appeared to act on rumours. All this time, I knew would I strike at the most opportune time. When it came to pass, I delivered myself from bondage by resigning and joining my friend Mithika Linturi’s political camp,” Muriungi averred noting it was unfortunate that the governor never appreciated his work.

According to Muriungi his political advice to the former governor would also meet a dead end. “I really tried to advise my boss on the political situation in the county where UDA was the political party to beat but he opted for other people’s advice,” Muriungi added. He said when his Mbus Party was formed, one of its top officials even went to the extent of threatening him ahead of its launch at the Bomas of Kenya him accusing him of sabotage.  

On if he regrets decamping from Kiraitu’s camp a few months before the August 2022 elections, the former Muriungi says he should have decamped three years ago but decided to persevere.

“I honestly don’t regret leaving Kiraitu’s camp, even if it was today, I would do the same twice and thrice! The former governor never valued me. The clique of men and women he inherited from former governor Peter Munya’s failed political camp completely derailed his re-election bid. I knew Kiraitu’s goose had been cooked,” Muriungi adds.

Asked if he ever spoke with Kiraitu since resigning from his administration and leaving his political camp, Muriungi says he tried reaching out to his former boss via the phone but his messages were never responded to.

“Politics has no permanent enemies. I wanted to resolve the past and seek peace with him but he never responded to my text messages or pick my calls. We met during Yetu Sacco’s AGM in Nkubu and shook hands but not beyond that,” said Muriungi adding he moved on and proudly so.

Muriungi who worked very closely with Linturi during the 2022 campaigns played various roles including communication and organizing political meetings in the CS’s camp. He was also the chairman of the Mithika Linturi campaign fundraising dinner at Three Steers Hotel. He says even though Linturi failed to clinch the gubernatorial seat, clinching the Cabinet Secretary’s position was a big win for him and Meru County in general.  

“I don’t regret that my candidate for governor did not win. I actually thank the people of Meru for their great support. Despite Linturi’s late entrance into the gubernatorial race, they overwhelmingly supported him. I am indeed very proud of them” he said. Muriungi says he is constantly in touch with the CS and that he acts as his Personal Assistant at the county level at the moment.

Asked to advise the Meru governor Kawira Mwangaza, Mr Muriungi called on Governor Ni Mama to be wary of allies of the two former administrations stating that some of those who have been trooping to her office for handshakes may not be genuine.

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