Jubilee campaigners in Ukambani are taking political stock of their performance in the August 8 General Election following a campaign that saw a significant rise in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s vote share in the region.
President Kenyatta nearly doubled the votes he received across the three counties of Kitui, Machakos and Makueni in 2013, which helped him to consolidate his lead nationally over his Nasa archrival Raila Odinga, according to official results.
The President garnered 175,189 votes against the National Super Alliance candidate’s 969,573 – or 15 per cent of the votes cast – a significant increase in his and Deputy President William Ruto’s 2013 tally of 89,064 in the region.
The impressive showing in a region seen as being dominated by Nasa presidential running mate Kalonzo Musyoka-led Wiper Democratic Movement is attributed to an aggressive, well-oiled juggernaut.
Prominent figures from the three counties were to bolster campaigns by Jubilee candidates and weaken Wiper, from which most of them had defected.
The strategy involved getting respected high-ranking professionals and prominent business leaders to rally behind President Kenyatta’s re-election bid by enhancing his vote haul. This was informed by
Jubilee MPs’ difficulties in opposition strongholds.
But there was a challenge: They lacked a strong national political figure to lead the campaigns.
Business magnate Peter Muthoka then stepped up. He took the commanding role in the campaign, marshalling grassroots support and mobilising millions of shillings which he donated to all the local Jubilee candidates.
In 2013, Narc party leader Charity Ngilu, now the Kitui Governor, led Jubilee’s campaigns in the region. But her exit after falling out with the party hierachy left a political void, which Mr Muthoka filled, albeit behind the scenes.
The shrewd tycoon coordinated the campaign teams, especially in resource mobilisation, and reaching out to key demographics such as the clergy and clan elders.
According to Sports Kenya chairman and former secretary-general of the now-defunct DP Ruto-led United Republican Party (URP) Fred Muteti, Mr Muthoka single-handedly ensured Machakos Town MP Victor Munyaka retained the seat for Jubilee.
He achieved the feat in the face of a spirited campaign by Wiper and Maendeleo Chap Chap, which is led by the Machakos Governor, Dr Alfred Mutua.
“Each of the 22 Jubilee candidates, the majority of whom defected from Wiper, had been assigned a brand new Prado car to bolster the President’s re-election campaign in the region and also their own,” said Mr Muteti.
A Jubilee strategy of fielding parliamentary candidates across the region also bore dividend. Even in Wiper-heavy areas, they established campaign teams for President Kenyatta, who, surprisingly, got more votes than some local parliamentary candidates.
This happened in Kitui Central, Kitui West, Mwingi West, Kilome, Kaiti, Mavoko, Yatta and Mwala, among other constituencies, as Jubilee bagged three MP seats.
Resource mobilisation was another key factor. Mr Muteti told the Nation that Mr Muthoka donated campaign merchandise such as branded Jubilee T-shirts, posters and banners worth more than Sh300 million to candidates.
Roping in the Acceler Global Logistics chairman and CEO was seen as a blow to Mr Musyoka as he brought in a larger team consisting of the former Vice-President’s allies instrumental in his 2007 presidential bid.
Mr Muthoka accompanied President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto in their campaign forays, including public rallies that they held.
“I have come to stand with the President and we’ve agreed to bring our people together and fast-track development in Ukambani,” said Mr Muthoka in a brief address at AIC Kibwezi Girls’ Secondary School this year.
The tycoon’s open involvement in Ukambani politics – especially in the presidential race – however raised eyebrows as he is known to keep a low profile. In an uncharacteristic style, he stuck out his neck by getting deeply involved in the campaigns.
The Jubilee campaigners now face appraisal at a meeting convened by Mr Muthoka for next week in Machakos.
For instance, an ugly incident during the President’s tour of Makueni, when he was heckled by youths in Jubilee T-shirts, is being seen as a direct consequence of poor coordination by Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu, who is from the area.
Dr Mailu is being accused of failure as the county gave the President only 8 per cent of the votes cast despite the CS being the senior-most government figure in the campaign and having access to the most resources.
In the twilight days, Kenya’s Ambassador to Turkey Kiema Kilonzo was brought in. The former close ally of Mr Musyoka’s and two-term Mutito MP is hugely credited with turning around the grassroots mobilisation by reactivating Ukambani political networks, which yielded impressive results.
Another key player was Professor Paul Musili Wambua, Mr Musyoka’s partner for 25 years at the defunct Musyoka and Wambua Company Advocates.