Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana during the official launch of the construction of Sh350 million Thwake river bridge. [Photo: Stephen Nzioka, Standard]
With two leading contenders, all allied to National Super Alliance (NASA), the Makueni gubernatorial race is shaping up.
Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who ditched his Muungano Party to join Wiper, is battling it out with three other contenders, but it is the New Democrats Party (NDP) leader Loyd Masika who is offering a reasonable competition.
Masika, a real estate guru, was initially to go for Wiper nominations with Kibwana but chickened out after Muungano entered into an agreement with the party. Masika said the agreement had put him at a disadvantage and opted for the NDP.
Although both candidates are rooting for NASA in their campaigns, Kibwana and Masika have been going hammer and tongs against each other in a bid to endear themselves to the voters.
Governor Kibwana also hopes to reap from his grassroots penetration, which includes decision making structures from the villages to the constituency level.
County leaders like Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo believe that the governor improved his chances of being re-elected when he joined Wiper, the dominant party in the region.
“The upheavals witnessed in the formative stages of the county government were exacerbated by the fact that the governor was from a minority party. We now expect Kibwana to come in with a majority MCAs and that would make his work easier,” Maanzo says.
Kibwana has retained his 2013 running mate Adelina Mwau, a robust grassroots mobiliser in her own right.
Yet Masika is no pushover in his own right. He is staking a claim to the NASA brand by aligning himself to the coalition which has a strong support in the county.
The candidate has been supporting special interest groups through his Cheshire Foundation which has earned him support among a sizable number of supporters.
His party has attracted a good number of MCAs elected on the Wiper party. Among them is county assembly majority leader Francis Mutuku whose defection to NDP has given Masika the much needed political kick.
Mr Masika’s choice of Prof Emmanuel Mutisya, former Kenyan ambassador to Tanzania and United Nations boss in-charge of African projects, is also seen as a clever move to neutralise Prof Kibwana’s intellectual mien.
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He says he stands for accountable and prudent management of county resources to eradicate poverty.
“I will introduce e-collection of revenue to enhance transparency. The same will be channeled towards improving the lives of the county residents,”
Masika who is also banking on his vast experience in the corporate world says.
Prof Kibwana on the other hand is relying on his incumbency and a “remarkable track record” especially in water provision.
His administration has constructed major dams and boreholes across the county. “Ours is a people driven government. We initiate only projects that people ask for. That way the people own the projects and it is easier for their implementation,” says Mrs Mwau.
Hanging on the wings to benefit from a seeming NASA vote split however is Jubilee’s Gideon Ndambuki, the former Kaiti MP who says he is not a push over and rubbishes claims that Makueni is an opposition stronghold.
Mr Ndambuki says county residents are now more enlightened and will chose a leader with a proven track record other than one aligned to the “correct” political party.
“Political parties do not bring development. A development conscious person will deliver irrespective of the party,” Ndambuki says, adding that he is not afraid to sell Jubilee in Ukambani for what he calls remarkable development record.
On Thursday during the launch of Makueni Fruit Processing plant in Kalamba, Kibwana acknowledged that Jubilee still has some fire in its belly and Kaloki should not be wished away.
“Whatever we do, let us not blot Kalonzo’s prospects of ascending to the top by staining his bedrock with a red. Let us be vigilant to the very end,” he said.
Another candidate, Bernard Kiilu of LDP, is also sticking his neck out even after suffering a major blow following the withdrawal of his running mate from the race.
Like the rest, Kiilu says water and food security will be his main priority should he assume office as the county boss.
“We will bring out interventions needed to revamp agriculture and bring it at par with world class players for sufficient food production,” he says.