Ghost of Nakuru City status returns to haunt Susan Kihika in gubernatorial race

Susan Kihika and Lee Kinyanjui

Senator Susan Kihika (left) and Governor Lee Kinyanjui, the two leading candidates for Nakuru's gubernatorial race.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

If there is one political ghost that Nakuru gubernatorial frontrunner Susan Kihika would like to slay ahead of the August 9 polls is the ghost of opposing the upgrade of Nakuru Town into city status.

This ghost seems to be haunting Ms Kihika and for a good reason as the incumbent, Lee Kinyanjui seems to be riding on the glory of the city's status.

Mr Kinyanjui, who is seeking a second term, has constantly used it as a campaign strategy and it is giving him a competitive edge over his arch-rival.

"There is no doubt the city status is giving Governor Lee Kinyanjui a huge mileage among the business community, especially hotel owners who are enjoying the fruits of the city status," said George Omondi, a political analyst in Nakuru City.

At least many hoteliers in Nakuru are reaping the benefits of the city's status as hotels in Nakuru are now fully booked while investors are flocking to the city to set up manufacturing and construction industries.

At every business or social forum Mr Kinyanjui always reminds the residents that the city's status is as a result of his concerted efforts.

"I fought hard to ensure Nakuru Town was upgraded to city status because I knew the benefits of a city. I want to leave Nakuru City at par with Nairobi and Mombasa," said Governor Kinyanjui.

In an apparent reference to his arch-rival Ms Kihika, Governor Kinyanjui said: "If I leave you with people who don't know where the city status came from will they know how to develop the city to the next level of development?"

"Matters Nakuru city status is very close to my heart. When I was elected in 2017 Nakuru had no airport. I want to state here that next month Nakuru Airport at Lanet Airstrip will be ready."

"We're quiet and we may not be ordinary politicians moving around the county making noise like empty debes but our work is loud. When there is too much noise, there is no work that is going on. Where you see a river making a lot of noise is the shallowest point and where it is quiet it is the deepest," said Mr Kinyanjui.

"I urge the voters of Nakuru to go for content and not noisemakers to ensure our county moves on with its development agenda," added Mr Kinyanjui.

In 2019 Ms Kihika led MPs Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) and David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East) and other leaders to reject the plan to elevate Nakuru Town to a city during an ad hoc committee hearing.

The legislators proposed the town’s elevation to a city delayed for at least 10 years.

"It would be detrimental to rush the idea without first addressing these basic requirements like a storm drainage system. Nakuru Municipality should not attain city status without a concrete and practical storm drainage system," said Ms Kihika then.

Senator Kihika, who read the statement on behalf of the Nakuru MPs, said other challenges included garbage collection and solid waste management, emergency preparedness, firefighting and disaster management.

Some of the issues like emergency preparedness, firefighting and disaster management have since been addressed by Governor Kinyanjui administration.

Smooth sailing

Ms Kihika a shrewd grassroots mobiliser is burning the midnight oil crisscrossing the 55 wards and has been consolidating her campaigns but it has not been smooth sailing as she is finding herself on the defensive side as she is constantly forced to state her stand on the city status.

Ms Kihika, who is seeking to become the first-ever woman governor in Nakuru County, said there has been a misconception that she was against the City's status.

"I am the senator of this county, I'm a lawmaker and a lawyer by profession. I knew what should have been done before Nakuru could get its city status," she said.

She added: "When the bill came to the Senate, there was a lot of opposition to it because of the children who had been rounded up by the county government and dumped in Baringo. But I stood up for my county. I stood up for the people of Nakuru and I said we shall not penalise Nakuru due to individual bad manners."

"I want to state here that I voted for Nakuru to get city status at the Senate and I mobilised my colleagues to vote for it. If I wanted it not to pass, it would not have passed."

"I'm glad I supported it because it has helped our city. Some of the hotels in the city today are fully booked, it is making our town vibrant and this is great."

She continued: "I would like to go a step further as a governor, engage the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC)  and make sure Naivasha is upgraded and the per diem paid to civil servants who hold meetings in the lakeside town is increased."

She said she meant well to the people of Nakuru saying: " I want the city status fringe benefit to overflow to the whole county so that the more than two million residents of Nakuru County feel the greatness of having a city in their midst. We have big hotels and I would not want the hotel owners to suffer. "

Ms Kihika assured the business community that she was not opposed to the city's status.

"My stand has always been clear on the city status issue. I will be the last person to oppose the city status for the sake of cheap political mileage."

She added: "The business community is a very important development component to Nakuru County because the devolved unit depends on Small and Medium businesses, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and those are things we want to see being vibrant so that we can transform Nakuru."

"I'm confident that I will be elected as the governor of Nakuru on August 9 and accomplish my agenda and vision of reclaiming the lost glory of Nakuru," she said.

Ms Kihika says she has grand plans to decongest Nakuru City if she is elected governor on August 9.

She said contrary to smear propaganda by her opponents in the run-up to the August 9 elections, she believes Nakuru City can have an orderly public service vehicle system.

"I believe in order. We can build good matatu terminus, we don't have to completely throw those matatu operators out of town to be able to have a good city," she said.

Ms Kihika said: "Clearly there was an issue of congestion at the city centre but I'm also sure we can have a solution that will be favourable to everybody. 

The city status will remain a hot potato and both front runners are playing their cards to ensure they woo small and medium business communities to clinch the gubernatorial seat.

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