Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa. (Photo: Standard)
For the first time since he quietly pulled out of the race for Nairobi governor’s seat, Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa has opened up on his short-lived bid.
“I was betrayed,” he says.
In a candid interview with The Standard on Saturday, Mr Wamalwa says he dropped out of the race because “some people” from the Mt Kenya region refused to support him, branding him an “outsider”.
“My entry into city politics was received with a lot of support. Several leaders in the county supported my candidature. But down the road, I realised there was a group plotting against me because they were not comfortable with the big support I was getting,” the Water CS says.
Without mentioning names, Wamalwa said a powerful group comprising elected leaders and influential business people declared that the city was too important to be left to an outsider and that only one of their own should get the seat.
“Some people believe that Nairobi County is a crown in the jewel that should not be left to what they call an outsider as they referred to me. They forget that everybody is a player in Nairobi politics, they tried hard and I yielded,” he said.
Wamalwa’s candidature was first publicly fronted by a group of Mt Kenya MPs led by Kabete legislator Ferdinard Waititu. During a church service at St Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Kiambu, in July last year, the MPs lauded the CS as a friend of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, someone who would transform the city’s fortunes as governor.
The MPs, who included Kieni’s Kanini Kega, Kiambu Town’s Jude Njomo and Tigania’s Mpuri Aburi implored on the CS, who was also in attendance, to run for the seat.
“We will make sure many residents of Kiambu who vote in Nairobi cast their votes for him,” said Waititu.
But on Friday, Waititu said he had indeed promised to support the CS but he (Wamalwa) never declared his interest for the seat publicly. “I said I would support him if he was interested, but I did not hear him declare,” he said.
Kega had urged Wamalwa to run, saying he was Jubilee’s best bet to winning the city.
“As the ruling party, we cannot have the capital city being governed by the Opposition. Wamalwa’s candidature would neutralise CORD’s dominance by drawing the Luhya bloc to Jubilee,” he said.
Immediately after the Kiambu endorsement, Wamalwa’s bid picked momentum fast. Support from his Western backyard and from President Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya region came swiftly. Close to 20 MPs from Western and 65 Members of the Nairobi County Assembly rallied behind him.
Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka and his Vihiga counterpart Moses Akaranga voiced their support for Wamalwa, and so did MPs Ababu Namwamba (Budalangi), John Waluke (Sirisia), Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Ayub Savula (Lugari), Wafula Lazaro (Saboti), Janet Nangabo (Trans Nzoia) and Reginalda Wanyonyi (Bungoma).
Word went round that he was the President’s choice for the city seat.
But four months after Wamalwa’s political train on the Nairobi’s politics roared to life, it began to totter. Just as he joined, he would silently retire from the race.
Those who had endorsed his bid dumped him and shifted their allegiance to other camps. His rallies became the target of rowdy youths, which the CS blamed on his rivals.
Starehe MP Maina Kamanda, a strong supporter of former presidential candidate and now aspirant for Nairobi Peter Kenneth, accused politicians from outside Nairobi of misleading Wamalwa into expressing interest in the city’s top seat.
“The likes of Waititu and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria introduced Wamalwa to Nairobi politics through the back door. They did not bother to prepare the ground for him and that became his undoing. He should have built consensus with local leaders in the city,” said Kamanda.
Others like Lugari MP Ayub Savula admitted that although they had endorsed his candidature, his bid would have been a “tall order”.
“The city is expansive, and densely populated. One needs a lot of resources and time. Besides, politics in the city revolve around the slums and require someone who knows the dynamics there,” said Savula.
Wamalwa left a crowded field of Jubilee Party aspirants keen to unseat Governor Evans Kidero. They include Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, Nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru and Kenneth.
He insists he would have easily trounced Governor Evans Kidero in the polls had he received genuine support from the Jubilee Party.
Wamalwa says he is under immense pressure to run for the Trans Nzoia gubernatorial seat but is yet to make up his mind.