Political heavyweights brace for fiery nomination battles ahead of August polls

Sunday January 15 2017

Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi addresses Meru County Jubilee Party aspirants during a meeting at Thiiri Centre on Saturday. A tough war is expected in the county and in other key regions in the upcoming party primaries. PHOTO | PHEOBE OKAL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi addresses Meru County Jubilee Party aspirants during a meeting at Thiiri Centre on Saturday. A tough war is expected in the county and in other key regions in the upcoming party primaries. PHOTO | PHEOBE OKAL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ISAAC ONGIRI
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By TIMOTHY KEMEI
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Political titans from the two main political outfits, Jubilee and the National Super Alliance (Nasa), are bracing themselves for major battles during their parties’ nomination exercise ahead of the August election.

The primaries, expected in the next two months, will see some of Kenya’s political bigwigs squaring it out for nomination certificates to contest the General Election.

Areas where the battle for party nominations will be fiercest include Nairobi, Meru, Kakamega, Busia, Embu, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Murang’a, Mombasa, Kisumu, Migori, Siaya and Nandi.

In Nairobi, the battle for the Jubilee ticket for the governor’s seat is likely to be between Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko, MPs Johnson Sakaja, Dennis Waweru and a former presidential candidate.

In Kakamega, the battle for the opposition ticket for the gubernatorial seat will see  the incumbent Wycliffe Oparanya square it out with Senator Boni Khalwale.

In Migori, former Rongo MP Ochilo Ayacko is bracing for a major battle to unseat Governor Okoth Obado, while in Murang’a, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau will face incumbent Mwangi wa Iria.

In Mombasa, Senator Hassan Omar has already declared his bid to unseat Governor Hassan Joho. Others in the race include Nyali MP Hezron Awiti and businessman Suleiman Shahbal.

Both Jubilee and Nasa assembled their aspirants in Nairobi this week with promises of fairness in the party primaries.

The President’s Jubilee Party has launched a membership recruitment drive, just as has Mr Odinga’s ODM.

SERIOUS INFIGHTING

There is serious infighting in the President’s Jubilee Party amid claims that some of his allies are being favoured ahead of the do-or-die nominations expected later in the year.

In Mr Odinga’s party, similar claims have arisen, causing anxiety among party supporters with chairman John Mbadi forced to come out strongly to explain the party’s position on the matter.

Hopes that the Jubilee Party primaries would be conducted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission have also began to fade. This is after the party’s aspirants’ convention at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, ended without a mention of the proposal.

The Treasury Cabinet Secretary also appears to be suggesting that no cash has been set aside for such an activity, urging parties to instead use the Political Parties Fund, which is merely Sh350,000, against an exercise that could cost over Sh3 billion.

What is more, the new law prohibits non-registered members from participating in political party primaries. Parties have gone to the grassroots to list members for their primaries. The parties are expected to submit registers to IEBC by February 14.

Bitter rivalry in Kiambu between Governor Joseph Kabogo and Kikuyu MP Ferdinand Waititu exposed the extent of the infighting after the two exchanged harsh words during their convention, with their supporters cheering and jeering.

“We want our nominations done fairly. We call upon our aspirants not to engage in divisive campaigns that may disorient our national campaigns. If you lose, we will find somewhere in government for you,” President Kenyatta said.

He further warned: “Of what help will it be to you if you make a lot of noise and bring all of us down?” he asked the aspirants.

WAIGURU JOINED RACE

Tough battles are also expected in Meru between Senator Kiraitu Murungi and former ally Peter Munya. But Mr Murungi will first face the equally strong Kilemi Mwiria, who lost the governor’s race by a thin margin in the last elections during the Jubilee primaries. Mr Munya has since joined the Party of National Unity.

The battle in Kirinyaga is also turning out to be interesting after former influential cabinet secretary Anne Waiguru joined the race to oust Governor Joseph Ndathi.

On Saturday, Mr Ndathi said he had fought tougher battles. He said all that JP must ensure is that the nominations are free and fair.

“We hope they will invite IEBC to run our primaries. We also regret the manner in which the membership recruitment is being done. It means that candidates will have to buy the cards for their supporters. This can be abused by wealthy candidates who may unleash their money on their opponents by literally buying the cards and the party members,” Mr Ndathi said.

In Tharaka Nithi, Governor Samuel Ragwa, who has differed with Senate Minority leader Kithure Kindiki, hinted that he may jump ship, saying the primaries may not be fair.

Prof Kindiki has ganged up with one-term Chuka Igamba Ngombe MP Muthomi Njuki after falling out with the governor.

“I am ready to move to a party of my choice,” the governor said, raising speculation that he could join the Party of National Unity.

But Mr Kindiki has appealed for sobriety, asking candidates seeking JP ticket to work together.

“We have seen candidates in Nairobi working together. It would be great if all of them emulated that example,” he said.

Nairobi County Women Representatives Rachael Shebesh said that despite high-stakes politics in the city, the party must ensure it has only one candidate.
“We must assemble only one candidate and share seats in the city in a manner that reflects our diversity,” she said.

Similar competitions are expected in Nakuru where former assistant minister Lee Kinyanjui has hit the ground running to challenge incumbent Kinuthia Mbugua.

SWAY OVER CANDIDATES

In Kajiado, former Interior Minister Joseph ole Lenku will battle the freshly graduated Taraiyia ole Kores for the JP ticket. Both have close ties with Mr Kenyatta.

In Embu, Runjenjes MP Cecile Mbarire and Senator Lenny Kivuti are battling for the TNA ticket against Governor Martin Wambora, who is also in the same party. Mr Kivuti is Deputy President William Ruto’s ally.

Mr Ruto is said to be strategising to influence Mt Kenya politics as part of a wider plan to hold sway over candidates in the 2022 presidential race.

In Nyandarua, a titanic battle is expected between former head of public service Francis Kimemia and incumbent Governor Daniel Waithaka.

Mr Kimemia has been working to overhaul the entire Nyandarua leadership, coming up with a line-up that includes many big shots, county women representative and members of the County Assembly.

The battle in Deputy President William Ruto’s backyard in the South and North Rift is also fierce, with incumbent Paul Chepkwony, Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat, former National Social Security Fund managing trustee Richard Langat, Kenya Ports Authority Director Fred Kirui and former Moi University don Prof James Sang  all eyeing the Jubilee ticket.

But while the five gear up to face each other at the nominations stage, the greatest interest will be on Governor Chepkwony and MP Langat, both of whom have emerged as fairy strong.

“Kericho residents need to know how the money that was allocated to them annually over the past four years was used. We are not fighting over anything, the only thing we want is performance. I am asking the people of Kericho to give me a chance to become their governor,” said the Ainamoi MP during a recent public meeting.

But a vexed Prof Chepkwony shot back when he rose to speak, reminding Mr Langat that he himself had no development record to write home about despite having been a two-term MP for Ainamoi Constituency.

“I have done a lot of work and I will seek re-election because my report card is impressive. What report card does Mr Langat have about Kipkelion?” asked Prof Chepkwony.

There is no peace in the Cord coalition, with a tough war expected in Siaya after Senator James Orengo hinted he could run for governorship against incumbent Cornel Rasanga.

“We will discuss this matter later. I believe there is still time,” Mr Orengo said when asked to discuss his candidature.

FACING SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Mr Rasanga is also already facing sleepless nights from Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, who is enjoying the backing of the influential Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo.

But Mr Orengo, a close confidant of Mr Odinga described by allies as the last man of the ODM leader, could spoil the party for the two if he makes good his decision to run.

On Saturday, no party official wanted to discuss the status of Mr Orengo’s candidature.

It is Kisumu, Senator Prof Anyang Nyongo will face off with Governor Jack Ranguma and Mr Odinga’s sister Ruth Odinga.

A similar contest is expected in Homa Bay county where wealthy former accountant Sammy Wakiaga  and Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga will be battling incumbent Governor Cyprian Awiti.

“We hope that the party will do justice by ensuring we have proper nominations. We are however afraid that individuals who may not have been registered as party members may cause mayhem on nomination day if the party implements the law that requires only party members to vote,” said Mr Wakiaga.

Busia County, where Funyula MP Dr Paul Otuoma is expected to run against incumbent Sospeter Ojaamong, is also a big issue in the coming polls.

Migori is another battle front with former Cabinet Minister Ochillo Ayacko and Governor Okoth Obado as the front runners.

In Nyanza Nyatike and Bondo constituencies are also listed among areas where tough battles are expected.

In a replay of the race between area MP Omondi Anyanga and Union of Kenya Civil Servants Secretary General Tom Odege is expected at the party nominations.

Though Mr Odege was reluctant to apply for the ODM ticket he was compelled to do so by his supporters laying the ground for a bitter battle that has attracted national attention already.

In Bondo nominated MP Oburu Oginga is spoiling for a fight with local MP Gideon Ochanda-Mr Oginga has already declared he will be back to Bondo to reclaim the seat he held for close to 15 years.