What you need to know:
- President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election strategists under Team Uhuru patron Jomo Gecaga and a separate group of technocrats are having sleepless nights over the matter in an election whose winner will be determined by voter turn-out.
- Already there have been pockets of violence in counties like Murang’a and Embu as contenders jostle to get an edge over their opponents especially for the governor’s seat.
- In some cases, aspirants may be prevailed upon to shelve their ambitions to forestall potential implosion.
- Like Bishop Wanjiru and her Embu counterpart Ms Mbarire, Ms Laboso regrets that their male challengers had resorted to mudslinging.
- In Narok, DP Ruto’s bosom friend, Samuel ole Tunai, will be fighting against a strong wave from the influential Ntutu family.
Jubilee Party faces a litmus test in 10 counties in make-or-break nominations that could either boost President Uhuru Kenyatta’s chances for a second term or derail his campaign.
The high stakes primaries in the hotspot areas have also seen pressure mount on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to conduct party nominations as aspirants warn they will take nothing less than flawless primaries.
Indeed, the President’s re-election strategists under Team Uhuru patron Jomo Gecaga and a separate group of technocrats are having sleepless nights over the matter in an election whose winner will be determined by voter turn-out.
A fortnight after he unveiled his new political outfit, the intense shoving fuelled by the new law that outlaws party-hopping has made the elimination process a matter of life and death in Mr Kenyatta’s strongholds. Clinching the Jubilee ticket will be as good as winning the seat in the August 2017 poll.
Already there have been pockets of violence in counties like Murang’a and Embu as contenders jostle to get an edge over their opponents especially for the governor’s seat with the man who mediated the merger of 12 parties into Jubilee Party Senator Kiraitu Murungi warning the trend could trigger “disintegration at infancy”.
Only last weekend, Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti and Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire clashed in public with Ms Mbarire accusing Mr Kivuti of going back on an agreement that would see the former back her bid to be governor. Mr Kivuti has declared he will be going for the county’s top job.
“I cannot allow you to come to my constituency to ridicule me by launching your governor’s ambitions here. Couldn’t you do it at your place? You cannot shake me, this is my home ground,” she said.
“The county has decided on the matter (governorship) and thus we should continue,” Mr Kivuti fired back, suggesting he was the anointed one. Their fights spilled over to the floor of the county assembly last Wednesday, dividing the House down the middle.
So intense is the clamour in other places like Kiambu, Meru, Kajiado, Narok, Bomet, Nairobi, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties that we understand Jubilee’s risk monitoring instruments brief Mr Kenyatta about the goings-on in these regions weekly.
The Sunday Nation has learnt of several options Jubilee luminaries are toying with to minimise the damage of being eliminated in nominations.
So far, the leading contenders in Kiambu governor’s seat William Kabogo (incumbent) and Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu are strong characters with each invoking the President’s name in the campaign trail.
In some cases, aspirants may be prevailed upon to shelve their ambitions to forestall potential implosion.
In exchange, they will likely be handed plum government jobs should Mr Kenyatta secure a second term in office.
It is instructive to note that presidential candidates value candidates with deep pockets. They can be called upon to bolster the campaign kitty in a vigorous competition like what 2017 polls promise to be. Senator Murungi, who has his eyes trained on the Meru governor’s seat, currently occupied by Peter Munya, admits that Jubilee nominations in all Rift Valley counties, the larger Central Kenya, Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret will attract fireworks.
“We are making arrangements to ensure only party members take part in the exercise. We trust IEBC will deliver a flawless nomination,” he said.
He is also running against a former assistant minister, Dr Kilemi Mwiria, who narrowly lost to Mr Munya in 2013.
“I believe that the process will be free and fair because if it is not, we shall be spoiling for both the President and the Deputy. This is because Meru is more than 90 per cent Jubilee territory so there is no need for any of the candidates to expect favours from either the President or the DP,” Dr Mwiria told the Sunday Nation.
He acknowledged that whoever comes up with best ways of reviving the fortunes of miraa farmers, the region’s main crop, will have it easy with the voters.
Governor Munya refused to join the new party choosing instead to run on a PNU ticket.
Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, Dagoretti South MP Denis Waweru, Nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa are all hoping to unseat Governor Evans Kidero.
It will be a high octane face-off with both Mr Waweru and Ms Wanjiru seeking to exploit the numerical strength of their Kikuyu ethnic group in the city as Mr Wamalwa and Mr Sakaja hope to pick their running mates from the largest voting bloc to boost their chances.
Both Mr Sakaja and Mr Sonko are banking on the youth vote. Mr Sonko’s grassroots network and mobilisation skills will also come in handy. Ms Wanjiru, too, is a grassroots operator and a serious challenger.
Kirinyaga Governor Joseph Ndathi said the race for the governor’s seat will be won and lost on the basis of what each aspirant has done for the county.
“I can show what I have done and it is visible. If you had a national flag you will tell Wanjiku what it did for them. One would expect an aspirant to say that ‘I lobbied for the dual carriageway to come through Kenol-Makutano route in the Cabinet,’ but we know this was not true.
“Or why Kirinyaga did not get National Youth Service youths yet people saw them working in other areas. I will show the roads I have upgraded and hospitals and dispensaries I have equipped,” said Mr Ndathi to challenge former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru who is eyeing the seat.
Ms Waiguru, on the other hand, says that being a neutral player, the IEBC must do all it has to protect the integrity of the primaries.
She took a swipe at Mr Ndathi’s track record.
“Kirinyaga has lagged behind, people cannot feel the fruits of devolution. Our healthcare system is in a shambles, there are increasing cases of cancer with rice farmers stuck with their commodity in stores. Water and sanitation is nothing to write home about as is the case with security.”
In a rejoinder to the governor’s criticism, she says there are tangible projects in Kirinyaga she initiated.
“I supported schools; you can today find an Huduma centre here. I also influenced the upgrading of Kiamugumo-Githure-Kiamutugu road and will do all the roads when I become governor.”
The fistfights witnessed in Nyeri with lawmakers impeaching Governor Nderitu Gachagua are a clear indication of the fierce battle expected in the country. Mathira businessman Ephraim Maina is said to be readying to take on Mr Gachagua. It will be an epic showdown with more entrants expected.
Murang’a is another county to watch after the two-term Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau officially announced his plans to unseat Governor Mwangi Wa Iria.
In Bomet, the race has so far brought forth two titans, Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso and Dr Julius Kones, chairman of the Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation .
Dr Kones, who challenged Governor Isaac Ruto now rooting for Chama cha Mashinani outfit in 2013, says fair nominations are key to keeping the party together.
“The people’s will is that the primaries will be free and fair, nothing short of this.”
He says Bomet remains a Jubilee zone despite Mr Ruto’s charting an alternative path.
In an ugly twist, Ms Laboso accuses her opponents of procuring the services of goons to intimidate her. Some allies of the Deputy President William Ruto, the regional supremo, however, feel she may not be strong enough to beat Governor Ruto. But she disagrees.
“Like in the past elections when I have competed and won nominations, this will not be different. I am not waiting to be given the ticket on a silver platter,” she said.
Like Bishop Wanjiru and her Embu counterpart Ms Mbarire, Ms Laboso regrets that their male challengers had resorted to mudslinging.
“I have heard that story (That I’m married to a Luo and I should go vie in Kisumu) for 10 years now. When the people of Sotik first elected me a decade ago, they knew where I’m married and it was never an issue. It has never hindered me from discharging my responsibilities,” she said.
For transparent party polls, Bishop Wanjiru insists the IEBC must solely rely on party register. “Transmission of results must be electronic and we hope there will be no breakdowns.”
While the law bans party-hopping, a disgruntled aspirant can opt to campaign for Jubilee’s rival thereby denying Mr Kenyatta’s party majority seats in Parliament.
Narok and Kajiado are two counties Jubilee is angling to sweep next year. Former Interior CS Joseph ole Lenku and former Olkejuado county council chairman Taraiya ole Kores are going for each other’s jugular for the Jubilee ticket with Mr Lenku’s successor, Joseph Nkaissery, having endorsed Mr Kores for Kajiado’s top seat.
In Narok, DP Ruto’s bosom friend, Samuel ole Tunai, will be fighting against a strong wave from the influential Ntutu family.