There are many reasons why Susan Kihika has been nicknamed the Iron Lady of Nakuru politics.
First on the list is her ability to successfully and effectively make inroads in the male-dominated county where only one woman, Eunice Muriithi, made it as an elected member of the county assembly.
Ms Kihika, the region’s county assembly speaker, is the daughter of the late politician Kihika Kimani and, perhaps walking in her father’s footsteps, she decided to contest the Bahati parliamentary seat in Nakuru County in 2013. She was unsuccessful.
But this did not kill her ambitions. When the county assembly of Nakuru sent out calls for people to compete for the speaker position, she offered herself.
In the race were 12 men. She defeated all of them to become the first woman speaker of the assembly under the new constitutional dispensation.
Her win has encouraged not only her but other women. It has also shown that when men support women, the journey towards gender parity becomes less painful.
“Time is ripe for Kenyans to support more women in positions of leadership in government and political office. I call upon both genders to unite to ensure gender parity and the implementation of the constitution in its true spirit,” she says.
Many believe she has what it takes to be the speaker given her experience and academic qualifications.
She was admitted to the bar and licensed to practice as a lawyer in the State of Texas and in the United States Federal Court.
Her legal background has contributed significantly in building her profile as a tough negotiator who will not be cowed into taking sides.
At the assembly, she continues to shine as she takes control of the members who can at times be aggressive and heavy handed.
But she says her main objective is to ensure that “members play their oversight role on the county executive without fear or favour”.
Kihika has shown that her style of leadership “is guided by ethics, integrity and accountability” as she is not afraid to go against the decisions of the executive if there is merit to do so.
In 2013, for instance, as the chairperson of the county assembly vetting and approval on appointments team, she led the House to reject six appointees to the executive committee positions presented by the governor. Ms Kihika observed that their nominations were flawed.
This incident did enhance her profile as a no-nonsense speaker who never shies away from remaining true to the law.
As a speaker, her primary roles are to ensure that the standing orders and rules of the assembly are adhered to by all.
But she goes further than that by interpreting and enforcing these orders while also officiating debates.
But she has also learnt that to succeed politically, she has to remain in touch with the people at the grassroots.
Consequently, she is involved in many activities relating to the community ranging from promoting peaceful integration among various ethnic communities in Nakuru to joining other leaders in supporting community projects.
Recently, she was among leaders who conducted a fundraiser for a new motorcycle savings and credit cooperative organisation in a bid to empower young men to save rather than spend their earnings on alcohol.
Her ability to relate well with elected leaders across the party divide has made work much easier, while her campaign on social justice issues and against hate speech has endeared her to many residents in Nakuru.
Her opponents are already saying that she should go for woman representative position in 2017.
However, her supporters have other ideas. They want her to run for the Nakuru Senate seat. She has accepted the request.
“I am grateful that the people of Nakuru have believed in my leadership skills,” she says.
Among those eyeing the Nakuru Senatorial seat include County Speaker Susan Kihika, prominent city lawyer Karanja Kabage, veteran politician Koigi Wa Wamwere, Madaraka Mwithaga, who is son to former Nakuru town MP Mark Mwithaga, businesswoman Wambui Mambo, former fiery lawmaker Njenga Mungai and Jackson Waihenya.
(AWC Feature Service)