(Continued from The Warrior Princess)
“We were told to kill her,” one of the men says as they leave the coffee farm.
“She is as good as dead. No one will find her in this vast plantation. They will be looking at the river. She will be long dead by the time anyone stumbles on her bones. Weren’t we told to ensure no one finds her body before the election is over? There is no need of using bullets because someone might hear gunshots and come to investigate,”
They drive towards River Mutonga and stop at its banks, near a waterfall. They remove the spikes from the car then they push it down the edge of the waterfall to the water below.
When Karwitha is over two hours late, Charles knows something is wrong. She is not in the habit of running late. He has called her several times, but her phone is going unanswered.
He calls Sarah, who informs him that Karwitha left the farmhouse shortly after 8 pm. It is now 11 pm, and the drive from the farm to the hotel should have taken only thirty minutes. He calls her husband, but Bob tells him that she is not home.
After trying to locate her for almost three hours, Sarah, Bob and Charles are certain that something terrible has happened so they report to the State police.
“You are saying she is missing?” a sleepy sergeant asks.
“Yes. That is what we have been saying for the last thirty minutes,” an exasperated Bob replies. It is now past 2 am.
“When did you say she was last seen?”
Bob feels like punching him on the face. They have repeated that information a zillion times.
“At 8 pm,” Sarah says calmly.
“Then she cannot be missing. We only declare people missing after forty eight hours. Maybe she went to see her boyfriend. You know how these politicians are. Go and sleep. I am sure she will show up energized for the elections tomorrow,” the sergeant says, and his colleague chuckles.
Bob moves to hit him but Charles restrains him.
“Hitting a police officer on duty will only add to our problems. Lets us get out of here,” the former governor advises him.
Sarah is the first to see the early morning news. She hardly slept a wink worrying about her friend and boss. At 5 am the headlines hit the major TV stations, both State and National.
One of the candidates of the Tharaka Nithi State gubernatorial election is missing. Her car has been found at a waterfall, but she was not in the car, neither has she been found anywhere near the area.
The State fire department and the State police are expected to send divers any time from now to search the river. It is unclear how she found her way to the waterfall, but reliable sources indicate that she had been partying the whole night, confident of her victory, and probably drove to the waterfall while drunk.
Sarah is furious. Which reliable sources told newsrooms that Karwitha had been partying when in fact she just had dinner with her team? Karwitha does not even take alcohol. Besides, the waterfall is too far off the road for anyone, even a drunk, to mistakenly land there. There can only be one answer.
Sarah quickly calls the poll agents and tells them to go to the polling stations as planned.
“Trust me on this: she is not dead. We will find her, and she will be alive,”
She calls the senior campaign officials and tells them to vote as soon as the polling stations open at 6 am and then meet her at the farmhouse at exactly 8 am. She calls Charles and tells him about her suspicions and he agrees to meet her at the farmhouse too. They agree not to bother Bob until they have concrete leads on Karwitha’s whereabouts.
By 9 am, Sarah has assembled a team of five loyal lawyers and the entire top tier of Karwitha’s campaign team at the farmhouse, going over the options. She has already employed teams of scouts and private investigators and they are scouring the entire region near the cliff looking for leads. Sarah has decided that the State police cannot be trusted because they are still under the Governor, even though it is Election Day.
“According to Federal Law, if she is declared dead before the close of polls, then the election is canceled and will have to be repeated after sixty days. However, if she is declared dead after a winner has been declared, then the winner will be sworn in as the governor. If she will have won, then her closest challenger will become Governor,” one of the lawyers states.
“Is it not her running-mate who will become Governor if she wins the polls but is declared dead?” Sarah asks, perplexed. “I thought if a governor dies in office it is the Deputy who takes over,”
“Yes, that is true. But that is only true if the Governor has been sworn into office. If the Governor-Elect dies before being sworn into office, then the closest challenger becomes governor. Previously the running mate would have taken over, but the Federal Senate amended the Constitution and sneaked that in. Nobody talked about it because the main issue in all media stations was the issue of amending the Constitution to make counties semi-autonomous States. It is the same amendment that declared that a State Speaker automatically becomes Governor for the remainder of the term if the sitting Governor and his Deputy die, resign or are impeached.”
“Who proposed that amendment?” Charles asks. “Don’t tell me it is Senator Karani.”
Karani is the man representing Tharaka Nithi State in the Federal Senate and is a close friend of Governor Kijamba. He engineered the impeachment of Charles so that Kijamba could takeover.
“Yes, he is,” the lawyer replies, checking a copy of Parliamentary Hansard on his phone.
“Oh no! They rigged the election years ago under our very noses, and we did not suspect a thing. We should have scrutinized those amendments when Governor Charles and his deputy were impeached. We could have secured Karwitha more tightly had we known,” Mwiti mourns.
“So what should we do?” Charles asks.
“Proceed with the election,” Sarah says firmly.
“And risk that thug becoming governor again?”
“Karwitha will be fine. We will beat them at their own game. Our challenge now is getting our supporters to go out and vote without breaking the rules forbidding campaigning on election day. Ever since the news that Karwitha is missing broke out our supporters have vowed to boycott the poll. We can’t afford to find her alive but with the thug already re-elected,”
“Technically we are not on the campaign staff, so we can discuss the election on the media as voting is going on. I can call a few friends in Nairobi and plant them on the national stations then the five of us and squeeze our way into the local stations to tell the people to vote,” another lawyer offers.
Sarah is unconvinced. She wants to beat that thug, but she knows her boss would want to win without bending ethical rules. Just then the telephone rings and she picks it. Her face lights up.
“A farmer has found Karwitha in his coffee farm in Kiangua. She is alive but in very bad shape. He is rushing her to Chogoria Hospital as we speak. I am headed there. Get the word out that she is alive so that our people can vote. Do not give any details until I call you from the hospital,” she says, dashing out. Charles follows her, dialing Bob’s number.
Karwitha becomes conscious at 9 pm. Charles, Bob and Sarah are at her bedside in the private wing. One of her legs is broken and she has wounds on her body. She is still in bad shape but doctors have assured them that she has no internal injuries and will be fine. They found semen on her and wanted to hand it over to the police, but Sarah pleaded with them to hold on a while. If the police were behind this, then they cannot be trusted with the sample. Not until Karwitha is officially Governor.
Karwitha smiles at them. Bob squeezes her hand, but then she drifts off to sleep again.
The poll results have started streaming in, and Karwitha is leading by a wide margin. Kijamba and his cronies had counted on her death and seemingly did not have a back-up plan to rig the election. There was statewide electricity blackout at 8 pm as counting was going on in all polling stations, but Karwitha’s campaign team beamed flashlights on the ballot boxes and no stuffing could happen. The electricity came back at 8.30 pm.
The inauguration of the Governor of Tharaka Nithi State traditionally happens at Ndagani Stadium a week after the winner is announced. The Karwitha-Charles ticket won with 76% of the vote. By 7 am on the inauguration day, the stadium is packed.
The excitement is palpable.
At 10 am, the Governor-Elect and the Deputy Governor-Elect are driven into the stadium. There is wild cheering as the Governor-Elect steps out of the black SUV, dressed in a beautiful purple dress. She is on crutches and her husband walks beside her to the dais, carrying her handbag. Behind them is the Deputy Governor-Elect, Charles. On the podium to receive them is the Senator-Elect, Ephantus, who trounced former Senator Karani. Ephantus will be sworn into office when the Federal Parliament resumes next month.
It was a clean sweep in Tharaka Nithi State. All FDP candidates lost. Even the Deputy President got very few votes from the state, and ultimately lost the Presidency to James Leodong of the Federal Alliance Party (FAP). It was a tight race, and had the DP won in Tharaka Nithi, he would have beaten Leodong. But he made the wrong call by supporting Kijamba.
There is thunderous applause as Karwitha and Charles are sworn into office by the State Chief Justice, and again as Karwitha takes the podium to give her maiden speech as Governor.
“The great people of Tharaka Nithi,” she begins. “I am grateful for the confidence you have in me. Our adversaries have tried to destroy us, but we have prevailed. They impeached Governor Charles, but you have impeached them at the ballot (wild cheering). The forces of evil cannot prevail. Together we will clean up this State. We will fight the corruption cartels. We will weed out the thugs in the State Police. We will build an economy that favours every citizen in the State, not just a few rich men. Now, more than ever, I am determined to make this State a habitable place for all of us. They may have tried to kill me; they may have raped and humiliated me, but what they really did was to awaken the warrior spirit in me. And I will fight for justice and economic prosperity of this State,”
The crowd roars, interrupting her speech. The chanting grows to deafening levels.
Suddenly two shots ring in the air, and Karwitha collapses on the podium, her blood quickly soaking her dress. There is sudden pandemonium as the crowds disperse. Senator Ephantus, Bob, Sarah and a few police officers move to assist Karwitha. It takes a moment for anyone to realise that the Deputy Governor has also been hit, and is groaning and bleeding on his seat.
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