The choice of running mates for Nyandarua governor candidates has turned the vote-rich Kinangop constituency into a political battlefield between the deputies.
Candidates for the governor’s position are from Ol Kalou constituency and will be battling to show their political prowess in Ol Kalou, Ndaragua and Ol Joro Orok constituencies.
The running mate selections were informed by voter population, inclusivity and voting patterns, with Kinangop and Kipipiri constituencies more likely to vote in one direction, while the other three are expected to vote in a similar pattern.
The performance of the running mates in Kinangop and Kipipiri, with minimal backing by the governor candidates, will play a critical role in deciding the next governor. Kinangop and Kipipiri have 109,241 and 50,366 registered voters, respectively, while the whole of Nyandarua has 335,634.
Ol Kalou, Ndaragua and Ol Joro Oroko, the main battlefields for the governor candidates, have 68,376, 52,831 and 54,770 voters respectively.
All governor aspirants have picked running mates from Kinangop, carefully selecting influential professionals, among them perennial losers in past elections.
Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia (Jubilee) has picked Mr Joseph Mbugua, an engineer who brings with him 33 years of experience in infrastructural development.
Mr Mbugua holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Nairobi and has taken managerial courses at the Kenya School of Government.
He is the only running mate with no political experience, joining politics directly from the civil service. He is the Kiambu regional director for the Kenya Rural Roads Authority.
But in appointing Mr Mbugua, Governor Kimemia is counting on his influence in development issues in Kinangop and Nyandarua as a civil servant and his integrity record.
Governor Kimemia is expecting the political first-timer to use his development record at the community level – including the construction of schools and churches, and supporting local self-help groups and needy children with school fees – to counter experienced politicians picked as running mates by his opponents.
Speaker Wahome Ndegwa (Chama cha Kazi) has appointed Mr Peter Gathimba, also from Kinangop.
Born in 1956, Mr Gathimba holds a bachelor of commerce (finance) degree from the University of Nairobi and a master’s in business administration from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
He has a wealth of experience in finance management, having served with the Nyandarua county council as an accountant, internal auditor and county treasurer, before moving to the Nyahururu municipal council as chief accountant and municipal treasurer and later to the Naivasha municipal council in the same capacity and the Nairobi city council.
He is also a former Rift Valley Water Services Board finance and administration manager.
He was Sports, Tourism and Trade executive in former Nyandarua governor Daniel Waithaka’s administration.
Mr Gathimba lost to Dr Kiarie Badilisha in UDA nominations, in voting that he believed was not fair and transparent.
In the 2017 General Election, Mr Gathimba contested Nyandarua governor’s seat but lost in the Jubilee primaries.
He was picked by Dr Kiarie as his running mate but he abandoned the candidate at the eleventh hour.
Dr Kiarie also picked his running mate, banker John Mathaara, from Kinangop constituency.
Mr Mathaara contested the Kinangop parliamentary seat in 2002, 2007 and 2013 but lost each time. He took a break from politics, until he was picked by Dr Kiarie as the running mate.
But though politicians are more preoccupied with the Nyandarua North and South voting pattern myth, political observers say it might not work out. They say voting patterns might be influenced more by party politics and individual candidates and their running mates’ performance record.
“In 2017, the Jubilee waves swept across the county and the voting pattern and determinant was the popularity of the candidate and the party,” said Mr Reuben Muchemi.
“With the picking of presidential running mates, we expect political dynamics to change, a very drastic change that will influence the voting patterns.”
Mr Charles Wakai echoed similar sentiments, saying party and individual candidates are the main factors in the August elections.
“Any candidate with a tangible development track will carry the day. If the running mate is easily acceptable by the voters, that will be a big plus for the candidate,” he said.
“It's unlikely that the high number of running mates from Kinangop Constituency will result in the division of votes.”