Businessman Zedekiah Kiprop, or Buzeki, who is among the top candidates for the Uasin Gishu governor’s seat, has declared that he will not campaign for Deputy President William Ruto in his State House bid.
Mr Buzeki, who is gunning for the seat for a second time as an independent candidate, has also made it clear that he will not attach the DP portraits to his campaign materials.
He explained that in the 2017 General Election, his main competitor then, now Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, took him to court accusing him of popularising his candidacy using Jubilee presidential hopefuls, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Dr Ruto, and yet he was an independent candidate.
“While on the campaign trail, a court processor came and served me with a summary judgment, where I was ordered to pay Sh500,000 within 12 hours or in default spend three months in jail. I paid the fine and the incident taught me a painful lesson,” he said.
I will not goof again
Mr Buzeki garnered 148,000 votes, trailing Mr Mandago by 45,000 votes.
He blames his defeat on endorsements and voter manipulation.
This time around, Mr Buzeki said he is keen not to goof again.
“The DP is a candidate just like me. I wish him well and pray for him and I hope he also prays for me too,” he said.
“Unfortunately, as an independent candidate I am not allowed to solicit votes for or campaign for anyone else. I used to say ‘vote for me as an independent and vote for UhuRuto for the presidency’,” he recollected.
Concerning his relationship with the DP, he said there is no bad blood between them.
“I don’t have any differences with the DP, since I am an independent candidate. I wish him well in his ambitions,” he said.
The entry of Mr Buzeki, a successful businessman in dairy farming, transport and logistics, has complicated the Uasin Gishu governor’s race.
Mr Buzeki is known for his athletic physique and firm personality, which are accentuated by his trademark dark glasses.
There are 530,993 registered voters in Uasin Gishu’s six constituencies. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) register shows that Turbo has 110, 851 voters, Soy (81,867), Moiben (68,822), Ainabkoi (54,797), Kapseret (66,582) and Kesses (67,136).
Before plunging into politics, little was known about Mr Buzeki. He would occasionally help in philanthropic work in the North Rift region when approached.
Many termed him a favourite of the DP who had been ‘brought’ to unseat Mr Mandago and was termed someone else’s project.
Despite parading several branded vehicles in readiness for this year’s campaigns, Mr Buzeki said he would conduct low-key campaigns, visiting voters in their homes.
“I will mount door-to-door campaigns with a lean team, selling my manifesto to the voters in their homes. I am keen on debunking propaganda used before against me and people have a chance to know me better,” he said.
Political observers in the region paint Mr Buzeki as the face of political defiance in the region regarded as the bastion of the DP Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.
“He has resources compared to other candidates he is running against [for the governor’s] seat. His firmness, oratory skills and massive international networks dwarf his competitors and this is what is making him a formidable candidate,” observes Moi University communication professor Lumala Masibo.
He said tribal politics between the dominant Nandi and Keiyo communities will also play a big role in determining who will succeed Mr Mandago.
“UDA nominee Jonathan Bii and the United Democratic Movement’s William Kemboi Kirwa come from the Nandi community while Buzeki comes from the Keiyo community. The tribal card and support of other communities will also play a big role in determining the race,” he said.
Prof Masibo said loyalty to the DP, who hails from the region, and how national politics will shape up will also play a role.
“If he remains neutral and independent as he has been saying, that will work in his favour,” he said.