His Excellency John Nyagarama Obiero was the governor of Nyamira County until his death. He had been away from the public eye for close to a month and social media were questioning his whereabouts. During these uncertain times of global pandemic wreaking havoc across the world, leaders play a critical role in giving directions to the electorate.
Governor Nyagarama had been absent from high profile meetings and events at the county for more than three weeks. Some of these include Ethics and Anticorruption Commission events, the marking of the International Anticorruption Day, and the official launch of the EACC awareness program in Nyamira.
Both were attended by high-profile commissioners, including Dr. Abdi Dabar and Macharia Rose.
Additionally, the governor has had County Executives represent him and deliver his speeches in the marking of World Aids Day and the refurbishment of pre-colonial law courts in the county.
This is despite the attendance by national leaders, including Chief Justice Maraga and Hon. Susan Mochache who holds the seat of Principal Secretary, Health. Officials have now confirmed that the governor is hospitalized battling Covid-19 after the virus critically affected his lungs, necessitating supplementary oxygen in the Intensive Care Unit.
The legislator is 74 years old and he hails from a village called Nyakemincha in Nyamira. He was born in 1946. This history shaped his utter resilience and aggressive nature in changing the narrative.
Governor Obiero began schooling at Nyakemincha primary school, then to Maseno School and Kisii High Schools for his O and A-levels. After completing high school, he enrolled in the University of Nairobi to pursue an undergraduate degree in Education, graduating with a degree in English and Literature.
Governor Nyagarama has had vast experience in his professional career spanning numerous fields. Soon after graduation from the university, he went into teaching. He went into Nduru Boys’ High School and Menyenya High as a teacher of English and Literature. He also served on the boards of directors at Menyenya, where he was among the institution’s pioneer staff, Sironga Girls, Kebirigo, and Kenyenya Secondary schools.
After leaving the teaching profession, he kicked off a thirty-one-year career in tea, moving from junior to senior-most roles. He started at the Kenya Tea Development Tea Agency as a trainer under management in 1982 and rose the ranks over the years. He has since then managed several branches in the country. His epitome at KTDA was becoming a board director in charge of Tea Zone 10, which covered farms in Nyamira and Kisii. Notably, he was in the agency when they transitioned from being a government institution to securing a private company status. Between 1991 and 1992, Governor Nyagarama went into the private sector and held Managing Director’s seat at Sotik Tea Factory. Backed by a vast experience in the robust tea industry, he was selected as the chairperson for Kenya Tea Packers Limited (KETEPA) and Chai Trading Company between 1996 and 2013. Hon. John Nyagarama has also worked in the publishing sector in his professional career, leading a Touchline Press Limited company, where he grew an interest in developing his own business. In 1993, he initiated his company that would deal with exporting tea in Mombasa.
With a successful thirty-one-year track record in the tea business, he diverged fully into the political arena. His political path was initiated in 2007 when he ran for the MP seat for his home region, West Mugirango, although he lost in the polls. Come 2013; he ran for the newly introduced constitutional gubernatorial seat in Nyamira County.
He won the seat after the residents were convinced and backed his manifesto, which was after core aspects such as improving horticulture in the county, tea promotion, refurbishing vocational training institutions, and sports. He promised the people that he was committed to improving their lives and growing the county.
The governor set up a County Results Office that would be in charge of overseeing his vision implementation and pushing for the attainment of Vision 2030 goals at the devolved level.
His first term in office was marked with several projects that directly impacted the lives of Nyamira residents. One was his introduction of a county government Artificial Insemination program, which would make the services more accessible to the farmers at a lower price.
Farmers would initially get the AI service at an average price of Ksh 2,000, and the government provided it at only Ksh 500. He also improved farmers’ banana production by selling healthy, chemical-free suckers from his plantation at an affordable rate.
His service won him his incumbent seat in the 2017 elections despite tough competition from opponents such as Nyambati Walter and Dr. Gesami James.
County Government Politics
The governor’s tenures have not been spared from political issues, criticism, and wrangles. In April 2020, the Deputy Governor, Hon. Nyarimbo Amos and other critics questioned the governor’s choice of members in the Executive Committee.
The entire process was claimed to be fraudulent and subject to questioning evident in unconstitutional extended contracts and delayed advertising of open roles following term expiry.
The heat resulted in the governor firing and replacing executives in charge of the dockets of Education and Information Communication and Technology (ICT), Trade, Gender, Environment, and Agriculture. Governor Nyagarama insisted on retaining some executives from his first term to ensure smooth continuity of work at the county.
Among those retained was Douglas Bosire in charge of Health, Omamwa John in Public Works, and Omwanza Peter in the Finance docket.
October 2020 had the governor and his team face the Senate Justice, Legal Affairs, and Human Rights Committee regarding complaints raised by whistle-blower youth in the county.
Ongaro Vitals, Nyachiro Samuel, Nyaribo Samuel, and Ochengo Lameck presented their complaints, citing office abuse, misuse of donor funds, impropriety, and nepotism in the county government leadership. The grilling committee which comprised of Mageni Okong’o, Waqo Naomi, and Hon. Mutula Kilonzo Junior, after investigation, arrived at some loopholes.
These included massive cash withdrawals from the bank account that held donor funds, numerous updated receipt documents, and a questionable Ksh 1 million expenditure on training the Members of County Assembly.
Hon. Obiero is married to Naomi Nyagarama, with whom he has two children – the late Ndemo Nyagarama and Momanyi Nyagarama. He lost his son, Ndemo, in June 2020 when aged forty-four, following a long battle with acute meningitis.
The governor is also an enthusiastic farmer managing a quarter-acre banana field, grows tea, and keeps livestock. He enjoys spending time at his Tente farm, where his three-acre private residence is situated.
The governor has channeled his knowledge and experience in farming to encourage Nyamira residents to embrace the banana business as it is a profitable venture. He is also an ambassador for organic farming using crop rotation methods, manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and crop diversification. The governor is a Shakespeare fan who enjoys reading classics.
Death From Covid-19
The Governor died on 18 December 2020 from the Covid 19 complications.
Net worth and Assets
Adding to his work in the county government, he is an entrepreneur and owns a leading private learning institution in the county, Dorcas Memorial Boarding School. Information on the assets under his name remains unavailable to the public yet nor his officially determining net worth.