The stage is set for a titanic battle for the Embu senatorial seat.
It will be interesting to see Governor Martin Wambora, who is serving his last term, face off with his deputy David Kariuki of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in the August 9 polls.
The two are allied to Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
Mr Wambora is seeking to capture the seat on his Umoja na Maendeleo Party (UMP).
Mr Kariuki, popularly known as ‘Roho Safi’ (good heart), won the UDA nominations after trouncing the incumbent, Mr Njeru Ndwiga, and former Kamukunji MP Norman Nyagah.
‘I’ll send him home’
“I don’t fear Wambora and I’m confident that I’ll send him home so that he can rest,” he said.
Mr Kariuki said his victory in the hotly contested UDA primaries was a clear sign that he will beat Mr Wambora in a fair political contest. He accused the governor of betraying him even after being ‘very loyal’ to him throughout his second term.
He said: “Wambora promised he’ll back me for the senatorial position soon after he recaptured his seat in 2017 but I was shocked when he declared interest in the same seat. Let’s meet in the political ring and I’ll floor him.”
Mr Wambora says those with leadership experience in counties should defend devolution in the Senate. “Governors who have served two terms are better placed to represent their people in the Senate. They are conversant with the problems facing counties,” he said.
He said counties need more funds for development projects. He would fight to ensure the National Treasury releases funds to counties in time, he added.
However, some analysts say Mr Wambora has been in political leadership for long and should quit active politics.
“Wambora has been a Member of Parliament and governor [for] close to two decades and he should allow others to lead,” Mr Muriuki Mbeu said.
Others eyeing the seat are former Youth and Gender principal secretary Lilian Mbogo (Jubilee), former KenGen employee Alexander Mundigi (DP) and university lecturer Dr Fridah Karani of The Service Party (TSP).
Mr Nyagah is running as on an independent ticket after failing to win the UDA ticket.
Embu has four constituencies: Manyatta, Runyenjes, Mbeere South and Mbeere North, whose voting dynamics vary. The cosmopolitan county is mostly inhabited by two major communities, the Embu and the Mbeere, with a significant number of Kamba and Kikuyu voters.
Party politics will also be a factor in the contest, with UDA enjoying euphoric popularity.
Mr Wambora, Mr Ndwiga, Mr Kariuki, Ms Mbogo and Dr Karani are all from the populous upper Embu, which comprises Runyenjes and Manyatta constituencies.
Political pundits opine that the five may divide votes, giving an advantage to Mr Mundigi and Mr Nyagah from Mbeere North and Mbeere South constituencies .
Mr Wambora, popularly known as ‘Ciiko’ (actions), is a good strategist and his entry into the senatorial race should not be taken lightly.
However, some residents complain of being marginalised by his government. “We didn’t benefit much from Mr Wambora’s administration and we may try one of our own to see whether there will be any positive change,” Mr Njeru Kiura said.
For Mr Kariuki of UDA, the ghosts of his tenure as the Health executive may haunt him.
Mr Kariuki conceded that the sector is on its deathbed and resigned as the Health boss, citing frustrations from his boss.
“Having served as the CEC member in charge of Health and having worked in a county government that Embu people feel is less concerned with their plight, Kariuki may find himself answering hard questions from the electorate,” political analyst James Njeru said.
Mr Mundigi, who is flying the DP flag, came second to Senator Ndwiga in the 2017 polls as an independent candidate.
After losing the election, Mr Mundigi went all out to woo voters again by attending every event in all corners of the county, earning the tag of a ‘man of the people’.
The businessman says his motivation to run for the senatorial seat is driven by his experience with abject poverty and ethnic animosity between the Embu and Mbeere communities.
Mr Mundigi says he will push for an increase of county allocations and ensure the money is prudently spent.
While declaring his bid, Mr Nyagah said the county is resource-rich, but the wealth has been misused because of lack of proper oversight. “Residents would benefit immensely if the resources are well harnessed,” the former MP said.
Mr Nyagah is, however, facing accusations that he is aloof and out of touch with problems bedevilling the residents.
Ms Mbogo will have to shake off the tenderfoot label and prove that although she is a rookie in politics, she is up to the task.
She believes she has the knowledge and expertise to make Embu shine in all areas of development.
Ms Mbogo promises to lobby for a ‘one man, one shilling’ revenue-sharing formula that will increase funds allocation to the county.
She said she will also sponsor the Ward Enterprise Fund Bill to finance small enterprises at ward level, with direct supervision of MCAs.
Further, Ms Mbogo promises to source foreign markets for bananas and miraa so that farmers can boost their earnings.
“I’ll also work with foreign partners to create employment for the youth who are suffering at home due to lack of jobs,” she said.
Ms Mbogo, who enjoys the backing of State operatives for choosing to run on the ruling party ticket, is banking on the youth and farmers to clinch the seat.
Dr Karani believes it’s time for a woman to take up leadership, saying male leaders have failed the county.
The incumbent, Mr Ndwiga, who has been labelled as ‘old and tired’ by his rivals, will have to prove that he still has the oomph to lead for another term.
The former Manyatta MP and Cooperatives Development minister in President Mwai Kibaki's regime, said: “I’m not tired; I'm very energetic and ready to work for the people of Embu County.
“It won’t be easy for anyone to defeat me just because they think I’m old. What is old? Even Joe Biden was elected as president of the Unites States at an advanced age. There’s pending work that awaits me to complete.”
He said that during his tenure, he championed tea reforms which have now brought hope to farmers who were being impoverished by unscrupulous cartels.
Mr Ndwiga said he also restored the joy of Muguka farmers through the Miraa Support Cash Programme.
TOMORROW: Moiben Constituency, where Silas Tiren is fighting, as an independent, to retain his seat.