Will outgoing first-term Mt Kenya governors break jinx?
Outgoing first-term governors from Mt Kenya are not sitting pretty if the performance of their predecessors in the previous election is anything to go by.
During the last General Election, only two out of 10 governors made a comeback, as eight others were rejected in a major voter revolt that also saw a similar number of senators from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard ejected.
To make matters worse for the incumbents, the eight who were defeated in 2017 have offered themselves for re-election in what could turn into a tough fight.
Presently, Kiambu’s James Nyoro, Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) have put strong fights to retain their seats.
Nearly all of them are facing stiff challenge from their predecessors and sitting Senators, a development that has left the incumbents a worried lot on whether the jinx that befell their predecessors would consume them too on August 9.
In 2017, Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria and his Embu counterpart Martin Wambora were the only ones re-elected, as William Kabogo (Kiambu), Samuel Wamathai (Nyeri), Mwangi Waithaika (Nyandarua), Joseph Ndathi (Kirinyaga), Joshua Irungu (Laikipia), Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya (Meru), State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua (Nakuru) and Samuel Ragwa (Tharaka Nithi) were shown the door by the electorate.
Political analyst Prof Macharia Munene predicts that a similar scenario could face a number of governors, who have not performed as to the expectations of the electorate.
Prof Macharia, formerly a lecturer at the United States International University-Africa, believes Iria and Wambora may have survived the 2017 massacre due to their “craftiness and good political timing.”
“They were good and crafty politicians with the ability to read the prevailing political situations better than their opponents. It is this ability that made them manoeuvre their way out in 2017,” Macharia says.
Secondly, Prof Macharia argues, the fact that the eight were voted out is an indication that voters are independent minded and never swayed by political euphoria.
“It is a clear indication that the then incumbents were judged on their performance and actions. Voters do not forget the wrongs committed by an individual while in office,” Macharia observes, adding that the same is likely to be repeated with the electorate kicking out individuals perceived to have been non-performers.
The don also says the 2017 voting pattern is indicative that political parties did not matter so much as long as the candidates aligned themselves with the “correct” presidential flagbearer.
“As long as the candidate was in support of President Uhuru at that time, it did not matter which party he was affiliated to,” Macharia said.
In Kiambu, Nyoro, who inherited the county following the impeachment of his former boss Ferdinand Waititu in 2020, is seeking a fresh mandate on Jubilee Party. He is facing stiff challenge from Senator Kimani Wamatangi of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Kabogo (Tujibebe), Thika MP Patrick Wainaina (independent), Gatundu South Moses Kuria (Chama Cha Kazi) and Mwende Gatabaki (Safina).
To boost his bid, Nyoro has intensified his campaigns, and last week, he launched a manifesto anchored on six pillars including improved service delivery, economic empowerment and urbanisation, enhanced health services and citizen social economics which empowers citizens.
“We are not tiring and are very much actively delivering projects that improve the lives of our people. We are ready to ensure that Kiambu shines again before the end of my tenure and from our track record, it is evident that we have and will continue to deliver,” says Nyoro,” he said.
In Nyandarua, Kimemia of Jubilee faces stiff competition from UDA’s Moses Kiarie, aka Badilisha, Assembly Speaker Ndegwa Wahome of CCK and former Governor Waithaka Kirika of The Service Party.
However, pundits say it is clear the battle is between Kimemia and Badilisha.
Though his county was last week credited by the Commission on Revenue Allocation for creating wealth more than any other devolved unit between 2013 and 2020, Kimemia has an uphill task, after a NIS poll gave Badilisha 47 per cent against his 37 per cent.
In Kirinyaga, Waiguru who has switched to UDA is having sleepless nights as she faces a tough battle against her predecessor Ndathi on TSP, area Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici (independent), Senator Charles Kibiru of Jubilee, Peter Gitau (Safina) and Bedan Kagai (Narc Kenya).
Kinyanjui, the Azimio candidate in Nakuru, faces stiff opposition from Senator Susan Kihika of UDA in a battle that has only been compared to the early rivalry between Susan’s father, the late Kihika Kimani and Kariuki Chotara in the 80s.
For Ndiritu of Laikipia who has embarked on an aggressive campaign to convince voters to re-elect him, this will be the fourth time he will be facing Irungu in the fight over Laikipia, having fought in 2013 when the former unsuccessfully contested on Party of National Unity.
In 2017, the two fought in Jubilee primaries, with Irungu trouncing Ndiritu who consequently switched camp to vie as an independent candidate and won.
Njuki, who is battling a court case related to the theft of county resources, is battling it out with former Chuka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Njoka of Jubilee and Mzalendo Kibunja of Narc Kenya after Ragwa withdrew from the race.
Njuki could be in more trouble if plans by Azimio to field a candidate to face him in favour of Njoka succeeds.
On Monday, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, during a campaign tour of Tharaka Nithi, said the coalition is working on modalities to have one candidate.
In Nyeri, the governor is being challenged by Senator Ephraim Maina of Jubilee and Dr Thuo Mathenge.
Meru Governor, who got a reprieve after President Uhuru asked Munya not to return to county politics is facing stiff challenge from Woman Rep Kawira Mwangaza and Senator Mithika Linturi of UDA.
In Embu where Wambora is not defending his seat, the race pits former Senator Lenny Kivuti of Devolution Empowerment Party against Cecily Mbarire of UDA, Dr Njagi Kumantha (Democratic Party) and Emilio Kathuri (Jubilee).
Similarly, in Murang’a, the battle is between Senator Irungu Kang’ata of UDA, Wairagu Wa Maai (DP), Irungu Nyakera (Farmers Party), Joseph Mbai (Usawa Kwa Wote), Moses Mwangi (Safina), Henry Maina (independent) and Jamleck Kamau of Jubilee.