The battle for the Nyandarua governor seat is getting complicated by the day for the contenders, including incumbent Francis Kimemia who is seeking a second term in a race that has attracted four other aspirants.
The main battle will be in Kinangop Constituency, which has the highest number of registered voters at 109,241. It will also be expected to extend to Kipipiri Constituency with 50,366 registered voters.
The candidates have deliberately picked running mates from Kinangop Constituency due to the high number of registered voters there.
While the running mates are expected to consolidate votes from Kinangop and Kipipiri, the governor candidates, all from Ol Kalou apart from Mr Kirika who is from Kinangop, will be battling for votes from Ol Kalou (68,376), Ol Joro Orok (54,770) and Ndaragwa (52,831) constituencies.
Mr Kirika, a former deputy governor, is having a hard time convincing voters from his Kinangop backyard to back him as residents accuse him of initiating supremacy battles in the first regime, which led to the fall of first governor Daniel Waithaka.
Mr Kimemia, running on a Jubilee Party ticket, and United Democratic Alliance’s Dr Kiarie Badilisha are the leading contenders in the race.
The campaigns revolve around political parties and Mr Kimemia’s scorecard, with regionalism expected to influence the voting patterns. Others are agriculture, health and water projects.
The fate of incomplete multimillion projects initiated by the current regime, maintenance of roads equipment, and maintaining the county’s high rating by the World Bank and other institutions will also be considered by voters.
While Mr Kimemia is banking on his performance record, Dr Badilisha is capitalising on missed targets by the governor, and the leadership wrangles that have dominated the county in since the inception of devolution.
Among Mr Kimemia’s achievements are the construction and equipping of 30 health facilities in the rural areas, ongoing construction of the Mashujaa Hospital in Ol Kalou town, upgrading of the JM Memorial Hospital from Level Four to Level Six, and the Engineer Hospital upgrade from Level Three to Level Five.
Grading and gravelling of roads
There is also the grading and gravelling of 3,000 kilometres of roads, youth empowerment programmes, increased bursary allocation from Sh40 million to Sh147 million last financial year and 100 boreholes drilled.
But perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Mr Kimemia’s regime is the potato industry, following the establishment of cooling plants, ongoing construction of a processing plant, and a certified seed multiplication centre at the Ol Joro Orok Agricultural Training College.
The upgrade and facelift of Ol Kalou town through tarmacking of roads, paving walkways, installing street lights and improved garbage led to the approval of the town’s upgrade to a municipality, supported by the World Bank.
But the governor is facing stiff competition from his rivals, and his over-ambitious manifesto is also a headache.
The situation is worsened by early campaigns by his opponents, such as Speaker Wahome, who initiated and led a revolt against the governor, often leading to impeachments and counter-impeachments.
Dr Kiarie’s entry point is the mismanagement of county resources, accusing the incumbent of returning development allocations to the National Treasury.
“Nyandarua’s development lagged as the governor returned development funds to the Treasury. That will be a thing of the past if I am elected the governor. We shall have all contracts awarded by November so that by March, all funds are fully utilised,” said Dr Kiarie.
He is also promising construction of processing and value addition industries, Nyandarua being an agricultural county, and to streamline awarding of contracts, giving priority to the locals.
“I will ensure accountability and have a united leadership to avoid political supremacy battles,” said Dr Kiarie.
Mr Kimemia defended the return of funds to the Treasury saying “the money they claim was returned to the Treasury was meant for contractors who had not completed the jobs. I refused to pay for incomplete jobs ... which is one reason we got a clean audit report from the Auditor-General”.
Mr Kirika is campaigning on the platform of being an experienced leader, having served as Kinangop MP for two terms and later as the deputy governor in Mr Waithaka’s regime.
A lawyer by profession, he is also riding on transparency, adding that the first governor is under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for ignoring his advice.
Mr Wahome Ndegwa, the county assembly Speaker, on the other hand, is using the fight against corruption as his main entry point, but is at pains to explain what amounts were lost and recovered through his efforts.
“I have fought corruption with all my might. I have suffered for that but I have no regrets. I have built the most modern county assembly, which is fully digitalised. I have also built a modern office and Speaker’s residence,” says Mr Ndegwa. He adds that during his tenure, all budgets were passed on time, and so were the required laws, enabling effective service delivery.
“I am leaving the assembly with my head held high. The very manifestation of integrity and epitome of good governance,” said Mr Ndegwa.
Rarely in the county
In the better part of his first two years of administration, Mr Kimemia was rarely in the county.
But according to his political adviser John Ndegwa, the governor spent the time lobbying for projects and mobilising resources.
“We need to be honest, most of the ongoing and completed projects worth millions of shillings are donor-funded. The county development allocation was about Sh1 billion, but we have over Sh20 billion ongoing and completed projects ... that is what the governor was doing in the first two years, mobilising the resources,” he said.
Dr Kiarie also faults the governor for failed construction of industries as captured in his manifesto.
“We are an agricultural county, but the county does not have a single milk processing factory established by the county government. We still have no potato processing industry in Nyandarua as farmers suffer in the hands of brokers,” said Dr Kiarie.
But Mr Godwin Mugo, the Nyandarua Disabled Persons Association chairman said Nyandarua has attracted many investors due to the conducive business environment.
“We have many private-owned potato, sugar beets and other processing and value addition industries. We have a Sh500 million private milk industry in Kipipiri, a sugar-processing industry and potato value addition factories in Kinangop. All these investors were attracted by the governor’s leadership.
“It is not in the interest of any government to do business but to create an enabling environment and help investors overcome cumbersome investment bureaucracies,” said Mr Mugo.