A dramatic showdown looms in the Nakuru Town West parliamentary seat contest as fierce sibling rivalry plays out.
Carved out of the larger Nakuru Town constituency ahead of the 2013 General Election, the seat is currently held by Jubilee Party’s Samuel Arama, a two-term legislator.
Jubilee, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) are the parties to watch in the August 9 polls, each with a significant following in the cosmopolitan region.
Apart from Mr Arama, others eyeing the seat are Mr Daniel Githengi Kamau (UDA), Mr Andrew Isoe Ochoki (ODM), Ms Jedidah Wairimu Kiplenge (Kanu), Mr Benson Sande (Safina), Mr Jacob Luka Ogetii (Amani National Congress) and independent candidates James Ojwang Omondi, Kenneth Kipkorir Sang and Charles Moranga.
However, political pundits say the front runners are Mr Arama, Mr Ochoki and Mr Kamau, with Mr Ochoki having come second in the 2017 elections.
“I’m confident I’ll win the seat in the August 9 polls.I’ve engaged the electorate and I know I’ll be the next MP,” Mr Ochoki says.
After the 2017 polls, Mr Ochoki disputed the results and moved to court seeking the nullification of Mr Arama’s victory.
IEBC had declared Mr Arama the winner with 29,682 votes against Mr Ochoki’s 25,071 votes.
In his suit, he claimed there was voter bribery, voter intimidation, inconsistency of serial numbers in IEBC’s form 35A, alteration of election papers and differences in entries.
However, the suit was dismissed in February 2018 by Justice Mumbi Ngugi, who ruled that Mr Ochoki failed to provide enough evidence to support his claims.
He was ordered to pay Mr Arama Sh2.5 million and a similar amount to IEBC.
In 2017, Mr Ochoki commanded the Kaptembwo ward voting bloc, the largest in the constituency with 37,748 registered voters.
However, Mr Arama, who has a home in London ward, enjoys massive support from almost all the six wards in the constituency due to his development record.
An ardent supporter of President Kenyatta’s administration, analysts say Mr Arama’s loyalty to the Head of State has spurred development in his constituency.
He is, for instance, credited with improving education standards through increased allocation of bursaries to bright but needy learners, a move that has contributed to good performance during national examinations.
He, however, faces strong opposition from Mr Kamau of UDA.
The Shabaab MCA enjoys massive support in his ward, which has 20,561 voters.
“Kamau is a strong challenger to the sitting MP if he gets the Shabaab bloc and the Barut (6,699) and Kapkures (10,590) wards, which are largely inhabited by Kalenjins—ardent supporters of UDA,” Mr Jesse Karanja, a political analyst says.
Mr Kamau is confident that he will win the race even as he described the Nakuru West race as “complicated”.
He told the Nation: “l’ll win the seat. However, one of my opponents has made it difficult for other candidates to campaign in some places in the constituency, especially in Kaptembwo ward.
“He has hired goons in Kaptembwo ward with instructions to bar some candidates from campaigning there. I urge the police to intervene.”
However, it’s the sibling rivalry among Jubilee, ODM and Kanu candidates that may cost the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party candidates the seat.
Analysts warn that by fielding three candidates, the rivalry among the parties may be the coalition’s Achilles heel in the polls.
“The rivalry may end up denying Azimio la Umoja victory in the largely cosmopolitan constituency as the three candidates will divide votes among themselves and give an advantage to their opponent flying the United Democratic Alliance ticket.
“Failure by Azimio to field only one candidate to face off with their opponents in the August 9 polls could turn out to be their major undoing,” said lawyer and political analyst Steve Kabita.
However, Mr Arama says he is confident of flooring all his opponents to win the August 9 polls.
“Jubilee Party is alive and I’m confident its popularity and my performance for the two terms will be my strength in this race,” the MP said.
The Nation understands that in the past three months, top Azimio honchos have been engaging Mr Arama, Ms Kiplenge and Mr Ochoki to reach a consensus.
“The talks were not successful [and] now they have to face off in the ballot. Azimio even conducted a survey to try and convince two of the candidates to step aside, but it was not possible,” a source told the Nation.
Shifted his allegiance
Mr Arama is one of the two legislators from Nakuru who have not joined Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA.
The other is Mr Raymond Moi (Rongai, Kanu), the elder son of former President Daniel Moi.
Mr Arama was first elected on an ODM ticket in 2013 but later shifted his allegiance to the ruling Jubilee Party.
Analysts say with most of the MPs gravitating towards UDA, Mr Arama will have to work extra hard to retain the seat.
“With Nakuru being part of William Ruto’s political backyard, it will be a huge mountain to climb for Mr Arama.
“The ‘tyranny of numbers’ may apply here because most of DP Ruto’s supporters see his support for Raila Odinga as a slap in the face,” observes lawyer Kabita.
‘Nothing better to offer’
The tough-talking legislator says that, he is not scared of any opponent.
“I’m confident l’ll comfortably retain the Nakuru West parliamentary seat. My competitors have nothing better to offer the constituents. I’ve accomplished a lot for my people and I’m banking on my track record to win the seat,” Mr Arama says.
The legislator added that Nakuru County is solidly behind Azimio ls Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party despite claims that the region is a UDA stronghold.
The constituency comprises six wards that are predominantly inhabited by low-income earners, who eke out a living in the informal sector.
Most of the residents are Luos, Luhyas, Kisiis, Kikuyus, Kambas and Kalenjins.