That the Kibra by-election is turning out to be one of the most hotly contested in the country’s recent history is not in doubt.
The race for the seat has shaped up into a fierce battle between Deputy President William Ruto of Jubilee Party and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the ODM leader.
This is not without reason. The outcome of the contest will have huge ramifications on the 2022 race for State House. It has led to new alliances and regrouping of political leaders.
And on Sunday both Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga were pulling out all the stops to ensure their candidates bag the seat in polls set for Thursday.
The seat was left vacant following the death of former MP Ken Okoth.
Although Kibra is largely perceived as an ODM and Raila Odinga bastion, the party appears to have been rattled by the massive campaigns launched by the Deputy President.
Being the penultimate day for campaigns, the two criss-crossed the city constituency in a desperate appeal to residents to vote for their preferred candidates.
Mr Odinga is fronting Mr Okoth’s brother, Imran Okoth, while Dr Ruto is drumming up support for former footballer McDonald Mariga.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula have also hit the campaign trail for their parties’ candidates.
ANC’s flagbearer is Eliud Owalo, a former ally of Mr Odinga, while Mr Khamisi Butichi will fly the Ford-Kenya flag.
And for the first time, Kibra residents who spoke to the Nation said they had witnessed an oily campaign and huge promises compared to previous polls.
The battle for the seat has been dominated by promises of development, party politics, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s handshake, tribal arithmetic and the 2022 General Election.
While Dr Ruto attended church events in the constituency before addressing a rally at DC grounds, the ODM brigade was joined by Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat, governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and James Ongwae (Kisii), and nominated MP Maina Kamanda at Joseph Kang’ethe grounds.
Mr Odinga’s children Raila Jr, Rosemary and Winnie also threw their weight behind Mr Okoth.
Political analyst JM Waiganjo, a former MP, said the political clout displayed was expected to shape the opinion of ordinary voters.
“The stakes are high. If a party wins in cosmopolitan Kibra, it would increase its command of Nairobi which is crucial in control of the country,” Mr Waiganjo said.
The mini poll has resulted in new alliances, mainly of those backing the Building Bridges Initiative fronted by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, against those opposed to it, with the alliances likely to continue up to next General Election.
“If you lose in Kibra, you must go back to the drawing board,” Mr Waiganjo said.
The Kibra campaigns, Mr Waiganjo noted, also saw the return of tribal mobilisation, with leaders urging their communities to vote for their preferred candidates.
The Ford-Kenya brigade, led by Mr Wetang’ula was at Lindi grounds, where he expressed confidence the party’s candidate, Mr Butichi, will win the Thursday poll. Both Jubilee and ODM had electrified crowds.
The DP, who was accompanied by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and other leaders, said the Kibra seat is a must win for the party and warned against any form of violence that may disrupt a smooth running of the election.
“It’s now or never. I want to warn anyone who is planning to stir violence in this area that if they dare they shall know that I am the Deputy President of this country,” said Dr Ruto.
The leaders who accompanied Mr Odinga, mostly delved into the 2022 succession politics, saying the Kibra by-election was only a platform to forge their unity ahead of the next General Election.
Mr Odinga said the presence of the governors demonstrated that Kenyans want unity.
He said the gathering was the first of its kind since his handshake with President Kenyatta in March last year.
“We said we will not turn back until Kenya changes for the better. We want reforms that will kill tribalism, corruption, election violence, youth unemployment and instead bring peace and unity of all Kenyans,” said Mr Odinga.
Dr Ruto accused the Opposition of having done little development in the constituency despite having controlled its leadership for decades and urged Kibra residents to vote for Mr Mariga.
He also accused Mr Odinga of duping his followers by not revealing to them that the Canaan he was promising to take them was the Jubilee government.
“He used the handshake as a bridge to get to Canaan. Build your own bridge to development through Mariga. He is the only government candidate in this race, the rest are in the Opposition,” Dr Ruto said.
Mr Odinga said the Kibra race pitted reformists against anti-reformists and accused the DP of opposing the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative and asked the voters to shun the candidate fronted by the DP.
“Those who claimed they want to bring development in Kibra are just baiting you. They are like a one-man guitar unlike Imran who is a fruit of the handshake,” said Ms Waiguru, adding that after the Kibra elections, they will campaign for the BBI whose proponents, she said, will form the 2022 government.
Mr Duale, however, accused Mr Odinga of using the BBI to divide Kenyans along political lines unlike the President who was using it to unite Kenyans.
“We shall only support the report if it shall help promote equity in sharing of resources and promote peace in the country,” said Mr Duale.
The governors, who flanked Mr Odinga, said the BBI report must succeed for the country to begin a new chapter.
“We must bring the country together and all communities must be in government. If you are not here with us, where are you and what are you doing?” posed Mrs Ngilu.
Dr Mutua said the three Ukambani governors are the bona fide spokespersons of the Kamba community, which supports the BBI report.
“Unity of purpose is what we seek. We need financial stability. A win in Kibra will change the narrative and spearhead this country forward,” said Dr Mutua.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said the party will go to court on Monday to compel the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to produce the ‘right’ voters’ register, claiming that the current one has anomalies.
“Some of our supporters have told us that their names are not in the register. Otiende Amolo (Rarieda MP), James Orengo (Siaya Senator) and I will on Monday institute court proceedings against IEBC CEO Wafula Chebukati until he produces the right list,” said Mr Sifuna.
Mr Wetang’ula called on the IEBC to oversee a free and fair election and the police to ensure maximum security on voting day.
“Since we began the campaigns two months ago, we have been peaceful, no stone throwing associated with some parties. We need to give Kenyans a chance to choose what they want,” said Mr Wetang’ula.
Mr Mariga, who started his speech with a prayer and a brief history of his life’s journey, that started off WITH him hawking groundnuts in Kibra slums, urged the crowd to show him support not to fail him on Thursday.
He promised to refurbish all football pitches in Kibra, put in place an inclusive CDF board, promote local talents and push for the legalisation of Marijuana for medical purposes.
This was after reggae sensation Kenyatta Hill, who had been invited to entertain the crowd, called on him to push for the legalisation of the drug.
“I urge you to come out to vote in as many numbers as you have showed up for this rally on the D-day,” said Mr Mariga.
Mr Okoth, on the other hand, promised to spruce up roads in Kibra and improve education among other developments.
“If elected, I will work for all residents of Kibra without favour. All tribes will be treated equally and resources will be shared equitably,” said Mr Okoth.
Kibra, which was hived off Lang'ata constituency, has 118,658 registered voters according to the latest figures by the IEBC — a slight rise from the 118,276 people, who were registered as voters during the August 8, 2017 polls.
The IEBC released the updated register as ODM claimed that the faction allied to the DP had imported voters in the area to tilt the outcome in favour of its candidate.
IEBC has dismissed the claims but ODM has threatened to move to court. Some 24 candidates got the electoral commission’s nod to vie for the seat.
Kibra is ODM’s political stronghold in Nairobi and it is where Mr Odinga built his own illustrious political career.
As such, the former Prime Minister is keen to maintain his status in what has been his political bedrock for more than three decades.
A Jubilee Party win would be a perfect opportunity for Dr Ruto to water down Mr Odinga’s influence in Nairobi politics and also a confirmation that the ODM chief may not be a big threat to his State House ambitions in 2022, if he decides to take yet another stab at the presidency.
With internal party rifts and the imminent collapse of the 2017 Opposition coalition, the decision by the ruling party and the other Nasa affiliate parties to field candidates in the by-election might have sent the ODM party back to the drawing board.
With many Kenyans still voting along their ethnic lines, this might prove to be a tight race for Mr Odinga who has to convince the Luhya community to vote in favour of ODM’s Imran.
While President Kenyatta has been quiet on the Kibra poll, his allies within the party have openly campaigned for Mr Odinga’s candidate.
Kibra has in the past been plagued by-election violence, poverty and lack of proper housing making it among the top pledges the candidates are using to woo voters.