The People Daily newsroom has been left in shock and brewing tension after the sudden resignation today of Maina Muiruri, the newspaper’s Managing Editor. Mr Muiruri tendered his resignation to editor in chief Peter Opondo and Human Resources office in the morning, barely a week after he was given a show-cause why letter to defend some of his decisions on the editorial desk.
After clearing with HR and handing over to Mr Opondo, Mr Muiruri wrote a short exit message to all staff. “A time to say goodbye and to appreciate the good times we’ve shared. God bless you all,” he said in the email message.
He becomes the first – and perhaps biggest – causality of the return of Peter Opondo, who was brought in early May from Royal Media Services to streamline operations at Mediamax. The media house – which runs the People Daily newspaper, K24 and Kameme TV and a number of radio stations – is owned jointly by President Uhuru’s family, Deputy President William Ruto and Equity Bank CEO Dr James Mwangi.
It is the first signal from the new regime at Mediamax that reforms won’t spare even the big shots. It is understood that a recent audit revealed questionable actions touching on editorial and finances, some of which may snare editors in charge.
The audit revealed the existence of ghost workers and contributors, where some people were paid for doing nothing, while others had their earnings inflated. Overall, the company is said to have been spending Ksh2.8 million on ghost workers and contributors, most of them associated with employees in senior positions.
Maina has worked for People Daily for exactly eight years, having joined in July 2010. He started his career at the Standard in 1992, where rose from writer to political editor, before leaving in June 2009. June, it seems, is his unlucky month.
Many at Mediamax may have not seen this coming. “Maina was a good guy,” says a People Daily editor who worked close to him. “He was a great features writer, he changed the fortunes of the paper, but personal charge was a problem. I worked closely with him and gave him high regard.”
Maina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and government activities and a diploma in mass communications. He is credited with leading the revival of People Daily newspaper into the mainstream media space and transitioning it to a free-newspaper in July 2014, which was a game-changer.
Given its high circulation since it is given out for free and can be targeted at certain regions or segments of the readership, the newspaper has been attracting more advertising that keeps it in operation.
Maina’s resignation has elicited mixed reactions, with his backers saying he may have been sabotaged by some of his juniors. They say some people have been “trooping to Opondo’s office to divulge Maina’s private conversations on the editor in chief.”
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At the other end, the firming of Deputy President William Ruto’s grip on the media house cannot be ignored. He has since bought a controlling stake, estimated at 60%, and may have already started pulling strings ahead of his 2022 presidential race.
With a shortage of top talent in newsrooms, Maina could easily return to Standard Group or can be snapped up by Daily Nation. Or he can choose to go full time on his lecturing job.