Popular MP ‘facing the sack’ even before being sworn in
Gathoni Wamuchomba was headed for a career as a teacher until one of her lecturers reckoned that from the way she contributed in class, she was cut out for the media.
Her lecturer at the University of Nairobi made a recommendation and Ms Wamuchomba soon found herself at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation hosting an agricultural show. It was during her stint at the national broadcaster that Rose Kimotho, who was about to launch Kameme FM, spotted her talent.
Ms Kimotho asked the young undergraduate to attend an interview. Needless to say, she aced it and was soon the new voice on Kameme FM hosting Canjamuka between 9am and 1pm. The year was 1999.
By the time she was graduating in 2004, Ms Wamuchomba had become a household name.
Then one Sunday at church, SK Macharia approached her.
TRIPLE HER SALARY
The Royal Media Service chairman told her he was launching a Kikuyu radio station and wanted to recruit her. He told her he would triple her salary.
Within days, Ms Wamuchomba was rocking the airwaves at Inooro FM, presenting the morning show. In no time, she was ranked as the favourite vernacular radio presenter.
Her fans would refer to her as Wa British as “Chomba” in Kikuyu refers to white people.
Her star had grown.
But that star has been looking dim these past three days as she became the centre of national attention after becoming the face and, indeed, the voice, of MPs demanding higher pay, contrary to amount recommended by the salaries commission and the stand taken by the country’s biggest political leaders, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
‘WANT TO BE PAID WELL’
“I want to be paid well. I worked. I fought it out to be a Member of Parliament. I campaigned using my resources. I want to be paid well. I want to be honoured for who I am and what I have been able to achieve,” Ms Wamuchomba said on NTV on Wednesday.
She would learn in a few hours that her remarks had not gone down too well with voters in Kiambu who found them highly disrespectful. Soon after, Kiambu residents started signing a petition to stop her from being sworn in.
The calls for higher pay for MPs was started off by her fellow Woman Rep Gladys Wanga of Homa Bay.
Ms Wamuchomba soon felt the wrath of a slighted electorate. She was roundly criticised on social media. A group dubbed Kiambu Against Greed was set up on Telegram and her ‘greed’ and possible recall discussed at great length.
There was even clever wordplay around her name with voters christening her Gathoni Wamishara (Gathoni of Salaries), Muitu wa county (county thief, instead of Maitu wa County which stands for Mama County), while others posted photos of worm-infested green peas. The peas were a reference to the Minji Minji moniker she and other women candidates had acquired during the campaigns.
It has been a bad time for the broadcaster born and brought up at Githunguri whose fame while at Inooro FM pointed her in the direction of politics, which she first ventured into in 2007, seeking to represent Maragua in Parliament. She was not successful and returned to the studio.
The 42-year-old’s second stab at politics was also unrewarding after she failed in 2013.
But Ms Wamuchomba was not about to fade away easily. She returned to the airwaves shortly thereafter with a bang, this time hosting Muiguithania on Kameme FM every Saturday morning.
And more blessings were on the way.
This year, Ms Wamuchomba finally tasted political victory that had eluded her twice when she first beat Annah Nyokabi, who is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cousin, during Jubilee Party Primaries.
So popular was she that in the General Election, she garnered 922,829. Across the country, only President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had more votes than her.
But that popularity counted for little these past three days. First she tried denying she made the statement, insisting on Facebook and Twitter that what she said had been taken out of context, but the heat was unrelenting. She would later retract her statements on Citizen TV and then on Inooro FM and late Thursday she called a press conference.
“I am remorseful. I apologise for the pain I may have caused. I would also like to offer my sincerest apologies to my party patron and President, my fellow Kiambu constituents, my staff, my family, and especially to all Kenyans who were offended by my comments,” she said.
She added, “After deep soul searching and as a God-fearing, servant-leader, I realise that I have let down the people of Kiambu, who put their trust in me. I will learn from this regrettable mistake and do everything in my power to regain their trust. Therefore, I withdraw the comment and commit to continue to serve you diligently and abide by the SRC salary scales.”