Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki has endorsed Governor Muthomi Njuki’s re-election, shocking many locals.
The two friends turned political foes teamed up as Jubilee Party candidates to oust Governor Samuel Ragwa, who was seeking re-election on a Narc Kenya ticket in 2017, but they parted ways in early 2018.
The two county political bigwigs continued a war of words, causing a rift between their supporters.
Though the exact cause of their bitter differences remains a secret, Prof Kindiki accused Mr Njuki of corruption, while the county chief alleged that the lawmaker was demanding a share of public funds claiming that he helped him win.
At one point, Governor Njuki posted comments on social media and shared them with the Nation, claiming that Prof Kindiki was on a witch-hunt after the county boss declined to give him millions of shillings that he had been demanding from the county government.
“Prof Kindiki is painting me as a corrupt person because I declined to give him public money that he has been demanding,” said Governor Njuki.
The rift widened in August 2018 at the Uragate Tharaka Cultural Festival in Mukothima ward, when their differences played out in public, prompting anti-riot General Service Unit officers to intervene.
Mr Njuki denied the senator, who arrived shortly after the governor had concluded his speech, a chance to address the crowd. The county’s public address system was disconnected, prompting the legislator to hire one from the nearby Shauri market.
Worried that the animus between the two leaders would deter development and cause further divisions in the small county, the Ameru Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders summoned them to the Kijege shrine in Chiakariga ward to unite them, but they boycotted.
Prof Kindiki then started going around the county campaigning to unseat Mr Njuki, regretting and apologising to residents for supporting him in 2017.
On February 20, Prof Kindiki called a political rally at the county headquarters in Kathwana to officially launch his gubernatorial bid. But to the shock of many, Deputy President William Ruto, who attended the event, announced that the senator had dropped his governor ambitions to support him in the national campaigns.
DP Ruto then held Mr Njuki by the hand and asked residents to support him for a second term.
The announcement angered some at the event and they walked out in protest, prompting Prof Kindiki to intervene. He promised to hold another meeting to explain the decision.
Running mate position
Barely a month later, Prof Kindiki held a meeting with his close political allies in Meru town and promised them that if DP Ruto did not consider him for the running mate position, he would come back to the county and contest the governorship.
On May 15, in the much-anticipated unveiling of a running mate, DP Ruto named Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and the disappointed and visibly angry Prof Kindiki announced he would take a break from active politics.
But Prof Kindiki was later named DP Ruto’s presidential campaign chief agent and joined the rest of the Kenya Kwanza alliance team for the nationwide campaigns.
Back in his county, locals doubted Prof Kindiki would come back and endorse Mr Njuki for a second term, considering how the governor had discredited him.
As the cliché goes, politics has no permanent enemy or friend.
During a campaign tour of the county with DP Ruto and MP Gachagua last Saturday, Prof Kindiki shocked residents in Mukothima by pleading with them to re-elect Governor Njuki.
The announcement drew mixed reactions, with some residents lauding the move as others accused Prof Kindiki of betraying his supporters and being an unprincipled politician.
“This means that Prof Kindiki’s main intention was to besmirch Njuki and take over the county leadership, not that the latter was a corrupt leader as he claimed,” said Mr Mutegi Nthiga, a Chuka town resident.
The senator told the people that though they were disappointed by what transpired between him, Mr Njuki and DP Ruto, they should forget all that and vote for the two.
“Even if you feel that you were betrayed in the running mate contest, we have to vote for Ruto and his entire UDA team because he (DP) has promised to endorse me for the presidency after his 10-year tenure ends,” said Prof Kindiki in Marimanti, Tharaka constituency.
Though a big percentage of Tharaka constituency residents, where Prof Kindiki comes from, have expressed reservations about the endorsement, the move is likely to bolster Mr Njuki’s re-election chances.
Mr James Kimathi, a resident of Kibunga market, argued that Prof Kindiki has no bargaining power as he is not contesting any elective seat and that he has to be submissive to get an appointment if DP Ruto wins.
Mr Njuki has also embraced Prof Kindiki’s endorsement and has urged DP Ruto to appoint him to a powerful ministry.
Mr Njuki is facing competition from his deputy, Nyamu Kagwima (Wiper) and Prof Erastus Njoka (Jubilee).
Others are Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia (Narc-Kenya), Gitari Mbiuki (Chama Cha Kazi) and Ashford Kaugi (independent).