Nderitu Gachagua, who was buried exactly four years after winning the governor’s seat, waited for his death dauntlessly. From the tributes of close family members, including his children, it was clear that he was prepared for his death to the point that he even chose the rites he wanted during his interment.
Gachagua was declared governor on March 6, 2013 following his victory in the March 4 General Election. And as fate would have it, exactly four years yesterday, he was buried during the last lap of his first tenure. During the burial ceremony yesterday that brought together the country’s top leadership – both friends and foes – the heartfelt tributes painted the picture of a man who was resilient to his last breath. Having been in and out of hospital for the past two years, Gachagua summoned his close family members to London during his last days and stated his last wishes.
Family sources indicated that he made clear it to his immediate family that all his children should be taken care of and that there should be no quarrel over his property. According to his younger brother Rigathi, it was Gachagua’s wish to die at home as the doctors treating him had indicated that he was losing the battle to pancreatic cancer. When his health deteriorated, the family was planning to hire a private jet to fly him home from London after commercial flights declined to carry him as he was too frail. “Just before his death, my brother sat down with his family and shared his wishes.
He was one strong man who even in illness showed great strength,” Rigathi summarized his older brother’s attributes. Among his last wishes was that two singers, who according to Rigathi lifted his (Gachagua) soul, sing during his burial. It was also his request to his family to remain united and that his last-born son, Jason, who is studying in Australia, be seen through his education. He said his wish was to be buried next to his father’s grave. He had great respect for his father, whom he considered the rock on which the family prospered.
Singers Caroline Wanjiru and Regina Muthoga were yesterday at hand to grant the governor his dying wish with their songs that moved the mourners. Wanjiru belted out her popular gospel song, Munduiriri (my defender), evoking fond memories of Gachagua’s functions where the song would be played before he embarked on his assignments. On her part, Muthoga, known for her distinctive dancing style, cheered up the mourners with her song, Uyu niwe anga tiwe (is it you or somebody who resembles you).
Despite being engulfed by grief, Gachagua’s two wives – Nyokabi and Wathiegeni – as well as his four children paid glowing tribute to their husband and father as a strong pillar in their lives. Both women, who share the first name, Margaret, read long tributes to their departed husband, describing him as the fulcrum of the success that the family enjoyed. What surprised many was the fact that Gachagua, unlike many leaders, had planned for his death after battling cancer for two-and-a-half years. Despite facing several health challenges, Gachagua confounded both friend and foe by running the Nyeri county government.
A family friend, Mwai Mathenge, a cancer survivor, recounted how he pleaded with Gachagua to step down as governor after he was diagnosed, but he flatly rejected. “He was so determined to work for the people of Nyeri that he said he would manage the condition while still working as Nyeri governor. It took me aback but I respected his decision,” Mwai recalled.