Gakuya fights to shake off one-term MP tag in Kasarani
If history was to repeat itself, then Kasarani MP Mercy Gakuya must be a very worried person - the expansive constituency has never had a legislator win a second term, for the last 39 years.
Since Andrew Ngumba won the seat in 1983 (then Mathare), taking the post from long-serving Munyua Waiyaki, no legislator has been re-elected in the area.
The constituency was carved from Mathare, once one of the biggest in the city, covering the sprawling Mathare slum to areas bordering the capital with Machakos and Thika
Gakuya who in 2017 vied on a Jubilee ticket, won with a landslide, trouncing incumbent John Njoroge Chege (Independent) and Steven Paul of ODM. At the polls she garnered 78,698 votes against second-placed Paul’s 17,938 and Njoroge came a distant third on 16,851 votes.
However, this time round, it looks tricky for her. Serious hurdles are emerging with the party primaries following the entry of Nairobi County minister in charge of education and sports Janet Muthoni Ouko and SportPesa Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ronald Karauri, all seeking the Azimio ticket through the Jubilee Party.
The densely populated constituency covers Kasarani, Githurai, Mwihoko, Mwiki, Njiru, Chokaa, Ruai, Kamulu up to the Nairobi -Machakos county border at Joska.
The position has so far attracted more than 16 aspirants including former area legislator Njoroge who seeks to recapture the seat on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket . The former MP will face off with Nairobi lawyer Bonface Nyamu and businessman Peter Mwangi Mbugua (Pemwa) in the primaries.
Nyamu who says he has been a Kasarani resident since 2005 can be remembered as the petitioner who took former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko to court claiming that he was unfit to hold office.
Gakuya on the other hand has expressed confidence of retaining the seat, citing her development record.
“ I have a good track record and I am confident of retaining my seat to continue with the projects I started,” Gakuya, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Zoology and a Master’s degree in medical physiology, told People Daily.
A section of residents however accuse the MP of neglecting the constituency accusing her of a poor development record.
Apart from the road from Eastern-bypass through Mwihoko to Githurai, most of the feeder roads in the constituency are in bad condition especially in areas of Ruai and Kamulu where residents have been forced to sleep by the roadsides or temporarily move whenever it rains.
Janet Muthoni Ouko made a strong entry into the race last year and locals feel that she is among the front runners for the seat, owing to her track record as the county executive in charge of education, youth, sports and social services, but the recent arrival of Karauri has turned competition for the Jubilee ticket to a three-horse race.
Ouko who hails from Subukia vied for the Nairobi Woman Representative posit during the party nominations in 2017, but lost and believes this is her time. She has promised to help solve land issues in the area and make education her priority.
“I have been at the forefront of citizen demand for education reform in the country since 2005 and since then I have seen the sector transforming through the constitution-making process to acknowledge education as a social economic right and to recognise the role of citizen participation in process,” said Ouko who began her career in governance and education rights activism at Moi University where she was the secretary-general of the university’s student organisation (MUSO).
She added: “I have already initiated several projects in Kasarani even before being elected and once elected I will continue to make education my priority as well as infrastructure and general well being of all Kasarani residents.”
“I have invested in Kamulu for many years now, Kasarani is part and parcel of my life. The reason that this time the people of Kasarani want a change of leadership is because they have been neglected by their MP. They are still struggling to educate their children, have no roads, clean water or proper sewer systems. Many of them are also struggling to feed themselves,” Karauri told People Daily.