Murang'a senator: How frontrunner Kagwanja came last after Jubilee talks
The Jubilee Party ticket for the senator’s race in Murang’a County was Prof Peter Kagwanja’s to lose, and lose it he did.
Prof Kagwanja was destined to be nominated by the party to contest the seat after a private opinion poll carried out by the administration rated him at 73 against Mr Kembi Gitura, who had 28 points.
A report filed to the panel that sat to pick one of the two men explained that the latter was perceived as a liability on the grounds of age, scandal and freshness.
The panel that sat at Windsor Hotel in Nairobi on April 15 and 16 comprised Transport CS James Macharia, Woman Rep Sabina Chege, Ministry of Justice’s Chief Administrative Secretary Winnie Guchu, Jubilee coordinator in Murang’a Gakure Monyo and Murang’a County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo. Mr Ngumo had been recruited by the panel to mobilise chiefs and their assistants to collect opinion ratings from the field.
“Mr Gitura is 70 years old, compared to Prof Kagwanja’s 58. Gitura served as senator between 2013 and 2017 and he does not enjoy the leadership freshness that voters are favouring. He is also mentioned adversely in the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) where the health sector was cited to have lost among other medications, Covid-19 items,” the report read.
Prof Kagwanja was rated as a scholar who was favoured by the Cabinet, being the husband of Energy Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma.
“Kagwanja has also been a known name in Mwai Kibaki’s regime, where he was a member of the think tank. In Murang’a, he is being associated with freshness of leadership and stands out as our bet to compete against the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) wave that has taken root in the county,” the intelligence report read.
However, Prof Kagwanja lost the ticket because of the emotive issue of Murang’a North and Murang’a South political divides.
Murang’a South has Gatanga, Kandara, Maragua and Kigumo constituencies, while the north has Kiharu, Mathioya and Kangema. In the past two general elections, the south has not managed to produce a governor, a woman rep and a senator, and the August 9 elections are seen as a time of reckoning, as the south pushes for its moment of glory.
With Prof Kagwanja leading in the opinion poll, power plays came in and Mr Monyo pointed out to the panel that the Jubilee gubernatorial aspirant, Mr Jamleck Kamau is from Kigumo Constituency, which is in the south. He argued that for balance, the senator nominee should be from the north.
Prof Kagwanja is a native of Maragua, from the south.
Mr Ngumo also notified the panel that UDA had picked Mr Joe Nyutu as its candidate for senator “and he hails from the south of the county, while its gubernatorial aspirant — Irungu Kang’ata — hails from the north hence presenting a contest balance”.
After deliberations, it was announced that Mr Ngumo should go back to the grassroots and get fresh grounds for the contest tickets — a cue for him to go and prepare a report that would justify the failure of Prof Kagwanja to win the ticket. But someone in the panel leaked the information to Prof Kagwanja, and immediately, there was a court case to bar Mr Gitura from being presented with the nomination ticket. However, the case was lost.
On April 21, 2022, Mr Ngumo was back to the panel with “new findings” that turned the tables for Prof Kagwanja. The new report indicated that Prof Kagwanja was a confidante of Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi who had since joined Kenya Kwanza Alliance, led by Deputy President William Ruto. He was also said to be a close associate of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cousin — Mr Kung’u Muigai — who announced that there was an oath that bound the Gikuyu community against supporting Mr Raila Odinga’s family and community for the presidency.
Mr Odinga is the presidential aspirant for the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party, which the Jubilee Party is a part of.
Prof Kagwanja and Mr Muigai were also the point men in the controversial coronation of Mr Muturi as Mt Kenya spokesman at the Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine in Kiharu, the report revealed.
The panel considered the new information and soon arrived at a unanimous verdict that Prof Kagwanja did not satisfy the loyalty threshold, and released the ticket to Mr Gitura, who will now battle it out with UDA’s Nyutu, ODM’s Pius Kinuthia, Hellen Kigia (Farmers Party), Stanley Karuri (independent) and Munoru Mwangi (Kanu) for the county’s 600,000 votes.
Prof Kagwanja has since conceded and has announced that he has moved on and “I will continue to remain alive in the politics of the county”.