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The women who could be strong pillars in Uhuru succession race

As political formations for the 2022 elections take shape, the issue of gender equality in contest tickets has gained greater significance.

Some have proposed that if the presidential and gubernatorial aspirant is male, he should consider picking a female running mate and vice versa.

While governor contests are still in their early stages, for presidential tickets, four women have come out strongly as possible pillars for potential successors of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

They are Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, her Murang’a counterpart Sabina Chege, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua.

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga during a funds drive at Lwanda Catholic Church in West Karachuonyo Ward on March 5, 2021. 

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

If the political formations decide to be true to gender equity, these four women offer the best options to tilt the scales as running mates, said political analyst Prof Njoroge Ngugi.

“It is important to note that the four have not shown clear signs of belonging to one political formation hence why they are the best placed for serious contenders,” he said.

While Ms Wanga is strongly aligned to ODM Raila Odinga’s team, the other three are yet to declare their loyalties and support for any 2022 presidential aspirants.

For Ms Wanga to be a running mate, she must first abandon the Odinga camp and align herself with the contest ticket of an aspirant outside the Western zone of Kenya’s politics. 

Narc Kenya Party leader Martha Karua. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The notable aspirants so far are Mr Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, Amani National Congress’s Musalia Mudavadi, Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and businessman Jimmy Wanjigi.

“Ms Wanga can only be a running mate to either Kalonzo Musyoka or the Mt Kenya-based aspirants due to regional power balance maths,” Prof Njoroge said.

Yesterday, Ms Wanga said she remains true to the cause of Mr Odinga’s politics and can serve in any capacity under his blessings.

“I am flattered and I know I have that potential. But there is always that best timing…at this juncture, the agenda is to propel Mr Odinga to be the fifth President of Kenya,” she said. 

Kirinyaga County Governor Anne Waiguru will be defending her seat next year.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

However, if President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga come up with a project to unite Kenyans in whatever succession plan that would consider her as a factor, Ms Wanga avers she is ready.

On July 27, she was among Mr Odinga’s entourage to media mogul Samuel Kamau Macharia’s home in Murang’a County to meet with national musicians.

“Ms Wanga is one of our brilliant and valuable jewels in today’s transformational politics. She is the force behind legal interventions to come up with policies that have increased musicians’ earnings so far by 60 per cent,” Mr Macharia said.

Her father, the late John Nyasuna, was a councillor and chairperson of the Kisumu County Council. 

Murang'a Women Representative Sabina Chege has confirmed her 2022 candidature for the gubernatorial post.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

In 2003, she became the first woman to be elected secretary-general of the students’ union at Kenyatta University.

She was the first woman to be appointed chair to the powerful Finance and Planning Committee in the National Assembly.

Her passion is empowerment of women and youth and education for girls.

For Ms Karua, her political star is shining brightest now as she was recently appointed chair of the Mt Kenya Unity Forum.

“I will be vying for the Kirinyaga gubernatorial position in 2022 but politics is a field of vast dynamics. There is no iota of doubt in my mind that I am capable of serving in the presidency where we have the President and the Deputy President. As of now, our unity of purpose as Mt Kenya is the greatest agenda, others will follow later,” she said.

Known for her steadfast agenda of consistently fighting to protect human rights and democratisation, Ms Karua is billed as an iron lady overqualified in our politics.

“As a politician with roots in the Judiciary, where she served as a magistrate, in Parliament as a legislator, in the Cabinet, a presidential aspirant and a political party leader, she remains a force ready to go should she decide to throw her hat in the big ring,” political analyst Herman Manyora says.

He adds that Ms Karua can be a running mate to presidential candidates outside Mt Kenya.

Exit Ms Karua, enter her fieriest competitor in Kirinyaga politics, Ms Waiguru, who was nominated by President Kenyatta as Cabinet secretary for Devolution in 2013.

Profiled as a woman who attracts great interest for both the wrong and the right reasons, Ms Waiguru needs no introduction in any part of the country.

“She got the looks, charisma, the brain and the cash…She is an easy sell and is a brand that can move. The kind of close focus she attracts can only tell she has something special that her competitors fear,” says Central region Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation chair Lucy Nyambura.

“If picked as a running mate, she would be an asset in the formations she is in.”

A graduate of agricultural economics who also holds a master’s degree in economic policy from the University of Nairobi, Ms Waiguru is well trained for the national economy, Ms Nyambura says.

“She worked for Transparency International as an intern and research assistant before she joined the Kenya Leadership Institute. She has served as a public servant and a governor. She would not be a stranger in high office,” she said.

However, she insists that she is in the race to retain her governor’s seat, where she will battle it out with Ms Karua and Kirinyaga Woman Rep Purity Ngirici.

“It is a statement of fact that I am qualified. I have served as head of governance and the economic stimulus programme at the National Treasury, alternate to the permanent secretary at the National Treasury in the Public Procurement Oversight Authority and Advisory Board as well as the Women Enterprise Fund Board,” Governor Waiguru said.

Prof Njoroge says Ms Waiguru has been critical in improving services to citizens, especially as the brain that put in place the Huduma Centres, as well as the establishment of the 30 percent procurement rule to the advantage of the youth, disabled and women.

For Ms Chege, she has been active lately in politics, dining with Mr Odinga and Mr Mudavadi.

Though she is yet to formally express which of the two she supports for the presidency, she is cited by Prof Njoroge as an asset to reckon with.

“Listening to her speak, it can never be lost even to her radical critics that she oozes brilliance. She is talented in major ways that are ideal for politics. She is an orator, has conciseness of the mind and can argue her case under harsh conditions,” he said.

Having already pitched her bid for the Murang’a governor post, Ms Chege says her future in politics is still bright.

“A step at a time... I can even lead this country if I were to be entrusted with that responsibility. But there are those footsteps that must precede such a big shot,” she said.

“So far, I am content with where I am as a woman rep with ambitions to be governor. But most importantly, I would not run away from a genuine call to serve my country and people in a higher position.”

Serving her second term as the Murang'a woman representative, her popularity started when she was an entertainer.

She played Rehema in the defunct “Tausi” soap and featured prominently in popular songs by benga musician John De Mathew, now deceased.

In 2015, she was crowned an elder by the Kikuyu Council of Elders.

A mentor for students under the Sabina Chege Foundation and the National Government Affirmative Action Fund in Murang’a, the former teacher remains a person of interest in the shaping of succession politics of 2022.

“She is emerging as one of the powerful female politicians in the Mt Kenya region and cuts a personality who knows how to exercise loyalty to her line of duty,” Ms Nyambura said.

“The President no doubt likes and supports her and that is a major plus for her given that it is no longer a secret that State House is actively involved in managing its next occupant.”