County at a crossroads as big shots lock horns
An epic storm is gathering momentum in Nyandarua, pitting experienced civil servant Sicily Kariuki (who is also a former Water Cabinet Secretary) against incumbent Governor Francis Kimemia, over the Jubilee ticket for the August polls.
At least three other aspirants have declared interest in the seat. They include ex-governor Waithaka Mwangi and Moses Kiarie, aka Badilisha, of UDA associated with Deputy President William Ruto. Kiarie will be making a second stab at the seat.
Embattled county Speaker Ndegwa Wahome is also eyeing the post under a Chama Cha Kazi of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
Kimemia, who has been grappling with hostile reception from a section of the electorate, faces an uphill task.
Observers say that although Jubilee Party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta is yet to pick a candidate, Kariuki and Kimemia have emerged as front-runners.
Kariuki is credited with good mobilisation and communication skills. She has launched an onslaught after leaving her 30-year-long career as a civil servant.
Kimemia is said to have divided a section of leaders in the region, with Kariuki appearing to have National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and a host of local musicians in her corner.
Political competitions between the two have occasionally sparked chaos among the electorate. These battles played out during Raila Odinga’s tours of Nyandarua shortly before the self-effacing Kariuki left State office to focus on the governor seat.
Raila would find himself sandwiched between the two as they competed to demonstrate their loyalty to Azimio la Umoja to boost their respective bids.
“When I was leaving office, I was the only one loud enough to declare that I was doing so to seek governorship on a Jubilee ticket. And so it was automatic that I would contest on Jubilee. This is our regional party; it’s the party of the President. I believe leadership is about taking risks. That is what I did by maintaining that I would run on a Jubilee ticket even before it was clear that others would start embracing the party. We had to show the way for others to follow,” Kariuki told ‘People Daily’ yesterday.
Governor Kimemia is an equally experienced leader who maintains he will battle for the Jubilee ticket, saying the region must have its own political party.
“How possible is it that we (Mt Kenya region) will go to the next dispensation when we do not have a part of Jubilee? If a problem arises, through which party will the community defend itself , even in Parliament? Several parties have joined Azimio, but which one will we say belongs to Central Kenya?” asked the governor.
Jubilee aspirants in central Kenya are hoping that ongoing efforts by Uhuru and his allies from the mountain region to rejuvenate the party and make it dominant, coupled with the gradual dwindling of Ruto’s popularity, will boost their chances.
Already, the President has promised aspirants wishing to vie on Jubilee tickets various desirables, including his political influence and the party’s funding.
There is every indication that the former CS intends to ride on her remarkable projects in water and health sectors to give Kimemia a ride for his money.
While at Health and Water ministries, Kariuki pitched tent in the county and steered various projects, endearing herself to the local population. She organised medical camps in the region and opened Ndaragwa Kenya Medical Training Centre.
A month before she left office, Kariuki said the government had invested in water projects worth over Sh3.6 billion since 2020 in Nyandarua alone — ranging from desilting colonial dams, drilling boreholes, establishing irrigation schemes, digging water pans, improving agribusiness and providing clean drinking water to thousands of households.
Other projects include a Sh400 million sewerage system in Ol Kalou township, Rutara Dam, Gwa Kiongo Dam Irrigation Project in Ol Kalou, Karagoini Water Project in Ndaragwa, Leshau-Karagoini Water Supply Project and Upper Gitwe Irrigation Project, costing taxpayers Sh21.1 million.
Her development tours in the county rattled Kimemia, who accused her of using State resources to launch her bid for the governor seat.
Kimemia is among the few leaders in Mt Kenya region who has remained supportive of Uhuru. But while in other counties in the region top government officials were prevailed upon not to resign so as not to antagonise the incumbents, the President seems to have let Kariuki quit and launch her onslaught on the governor.
Yesterday, Kariuki told ‘People Daily’: “That is a question I cannot really answer. For me, it’s something I desired (being the governor of Nyandarua. I negotiated for myself and I was granted the permission to leave office”.
Kimemia has been broadcasting his development record, ranging from upgrade of hospitals, boost to education and agriculture, to lobbying the national government to undertake more initiatives in the region. He blames Mt Kenya for giving their leaders only one term in office.