Kabete MP Ferdinard Waititu addressing a gathering. ( Photo: Kamau Maichuhie/Standard)
A titanic battle pitting Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and pugnacious Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu is shaping up in the race for the county’s top seat.
From court battles to political platforms, Mr Kabogo and Mr Waititu have not spared any effort in fighting for the coveted position.
However, there are five aspirants, namely James Nyoro, David Ngari, commonly known as Bishop Gakuyo, trader John Mugwe, Njoki Gathendu and Gakure Kanyanja who have also announced their interest.
Both Mr Nyoro and Mr Kanyanja contested the seat in 2013 but lost to Kabogo. They came second and third respectively.
Waititu, Nyoro and Mr Mugwe come from Limuru and Kabete in upper Kiambu while Mr Gakuyo and Ms Gathendu are from Thika and Ruiru in lower Kiambu.
The aspirants, with the exception of Kanyanja, have formed an alliance and talks are said to be underway for plans to field one of them to face Kabogo in the Jubilee Party primaries slated for April.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that the aspirants were considering supporting Waititu, with Nyoro as his running mate.
But Kabogo, who comes from Ruiru in lower Kiambu, is leaving nothing to chance to ensure that he secures a second term.
He has been crisis-crossing all 60 wards in the county to woo voters over the last few months. Lower Kiambu has five constituencies – Ruiru, Juja, Thika Town, Gatundu South and Gatundu North.
The governor has also been meeting people from outside the Kikuyu community living and working in the county as the search for votes goes full throttle.
Waititu has also been traversing the county meeting women and youth groups. The governor hopeful has also been attending church events, funerals and other public gatherings.
He has also made unexpected visits to markets and bus parks in the county, where he has met residents and sold his agenda to them.
The two politicians have been using public meetings to discredit each other.
This will be Kabogo’s fifth term in political office if he wins the Jubilee nomination ticket. The flamboyant politician made his political debut in 2002 as a political greenhorn, surprising many when he clinched the Juja parliamentary seat via the little-known Sisi kwa Sisi party.
In 2007, he was felled by a newcomer George Thuo. He however filed a petition, which he won in 2010.
In the subsequent by-election, the governor shocked many when he defied the influence of Government machinery and clinched the Juja seat on a Narc-Kenya ticket, handing Thuo, who was vying through the Party of National Unity, a humiliating defeat.
Speaking in Kiambu town recently, Kabogo said he was now a seasoned politician and was confident of winning a second term.
His tenure as the first Kiambu governor has not been a bed of roses. For the last four years, the county has been embroiled in political wrangles pitting him against the majority of area Members of Parliament.
The county chief has also been at loggerheads with Members of the County Assembly on several occasions, and survived at least two impeachment bids.
Of the county’s 12 MPs, only Ruiru’s Esther Gathogo and Juja’s Francis Waititu support his re-election.
The governor known to have deep pockets has also been at pains on the campaign trail to erase the notion that he is arrogant and out of touch with the common man.
Pictures of him sitting on the ground with ordinary folk drinking sodas, and eating bananas and boiled maize bought from roadside food kiosks in remote areas have become common as he tries to prove to residents that he is one of them.
Waititu, who has vowed to ensure that he becomes Kiambu’s second governor, is also fighting the perception from some residents that he is an outsider.
The MP shifted his political base to Kiambu in 2015, when he vied for the Kabete parliamentary seat after the death of area MP George Muchai.
He lost the Nairobi governor’s seat to Orange Democratic Movement’s Evans Kidero in the 2013 elections.
Prior to that, he was the MP for Embakasi constituency and an assistant minister in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s government. He has also been a councillor in Dandora, Nairobi, where he rose to become the capital’s city’s deputy mayor.
A number of residents do not believe he is the right person for the job as they feel he has not been a resident of the county.
When Waititu was elected as the Kabete lawmaker, Kabogo described the constituents as an embarrassment to the county for electing “an outsider”.
The fiery legislator, known to be a crowd puller, is also battling criticism from some residents who say he is not fit for the governorship because he allegedly harbours traits of hooliganism.
The MP has in the past been captured on camera leading residents in stone-throwing demonstrations to protest perceived ills.
He has however received accolades from many residents who say he is “grassroots person”.
He also has the backing of the majority of MPs from the county. Among the legislators supporting his bid for the governorship is Alice Ng’ang’a (Thika Town), one of Kabogo’s fiercest critic.
Governor Kabogo remains unfazed by the possibility of facing an opponent for his seat.
During a meet-the-people tour in Ruiru recently, he said he was not worried because his track record was good enough to get him re-elected.
“I hear that five people want to come together with the sole aim of defeating me. I want to let them know that I will show them dust at the ballot. This year’s election will be my fifth one and I can tell you I’m not prepared to lose,” he said.
The possibility of a third force in the race cannot overruled.
Mr Kanyanja, a former senior manager at National Bank of Kenya, has maintained that he will not be forming a coalition with anyone but will go it alone.