Nzioka Waita out to upstage rivals in Machakos governor contest

Nzioka Waita.

Chief of Staff and Head of the Presidential Delivery Unit Nzioka Waita.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita has joined the Machakos governor’s race in the August General Election.

He has announced his entry through multiple billboards bearing his image and inscribed 'Masaku Mbee 2022' (Masaku Ahead 2022) erected across the county. An elaborate website under the same title also went live last week.

The former head of Corporate at Safaricom, who also heads the Presidential Delivery Unit, portrays himself as the most suitable candidate to succeed Governor Alfred Mutua who is serving his second and final term.

He joins a crowded list of aspirants, including Transport CAS Wavinya Ndeti, Machakos assembly speaker Florence Mwangangi, Mavoko MP Patrick Makau, Deputy Governor Francis Maliti, city lawyer Kyatha Mbaluka, United Democratic Alliance chairman Johnson Muthama and former Machakos Assembly Speaker Bernard Mung’ata.

Mr Waita joins a long list of high-ranking civil servants in the Jubilee administration interested in elective politics. They have to quit next month to contest.

He says on the Website in Kikamba that as a son of the county, he is the best leader among those running for governor. Also included on the website is his six-point agenda that includes health, water, education, markets, an enabling environment for job creation and investment attraction, and ward level development.

Mr Nzioka's announcement has sparked both cheers and jeers. Some analysts concur that he is borrowing heavily from Dr Mutua’s rulebook.

“In 2013, Dr Mutua tapped on his exposure as the government spokesman to try his luck in competitive politics. This is exactly what Mr Waita seems to be doing. However, unlike Dr Mutua who enjoyed eight years of publicity in civil service, Mr Waita is not yet widely known in Machakos”, argues Teddy Munovi, a political analyst.

He says the odds are against Mr Waita’s political gambling. “Mr Nzioka has no known grassroots political networks. He is only banking on his proximity to the President. This can be a poisoned chalice,” Mr Munovi said.

Others believe Mr Waita can pull a surprise, considering he is expected to have built a huge war chest and established a wealth of high-value networks. 

“A big dog has entered the arena where some people have dominated. Consequently, the traditional big dogs in this arena have become underdogs,” said Chama Cha Uzalendo secretary general Philippe Sadja.

“Mr Waita has the President’s ear. You cannot assume a person with such advantages. That is how Dr Mutua debuted in competitive politics in 2013.”

It is not lost on observers that Mr Waita enters the race when Dr Mutua and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka have yet to make up their minds on their hopefuls of choice.

Telling from the colour theme Mr Waita has used on his billboards, speculation is rife that he is eyeing Wiper’s ticket, meaning Mr Musyoka would be torn between him and Ms Ndeti, Ms Mwangangi and Mr Makau, who are also eyeing the Wiper ticket.

Already, Ms Ndeti, Ms Mwangangi and Mr Makau are not seeing eye to eye. And Mr Musyoka has cautioned them against following him to events, lest he be seen to have a favourite.

The former vice president recently promised to talk with them to avoid a situation where infighting injures the party and his presidential ambition. "When I become president, there is nothing any of you cannot become in my administration," he said.

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