The race for the Nairobi Woman Representative seat that has attracted seven candidates has shaped up into a two-horse contest between Jubilee Party and Orange Democratic Party (ODM) candidates as the August 8 D-day nears.
It is a competitive and heated race between ODM’s Esther Passaris as she seeks to unseat incumbent Rachel Shebesh of Jubilee, who is guarding her post with a comprehensive re-election strategy.
The other candidates are Rahab Ndambuki of Wiper party, Nadya Khan (Maendeleo Chap Chap), Khadijah Ruguru (Mzalendo Saba Saba Asili), Winnie Wanja Wainaina (Party of National Unity) and Teresia Omollo of Republican Liberty Party.
Ms Passaris draws support following her successful business venture, the Adopt-A-Light’ initiative, which, through her firm Adopt a Light Limited, lit most parts of Nairobi.
She contested in the Embakasi parliamentary by-election after the killing of MP elect Mugabe Were, but she lost to Ferdinand Waititu, who is the current Kabete MP.
In 2013, Ms Passaris contested for the Woman representative seat and came third behind Ms Shebesh who polled 632,646 votes, followed adrift by her ODM challenger Sylvia Ming’ala who got 327,568 votes.
Ms Passaris garnered 291,384 votes, no mean achievement considering she did not have a mainstream political party backing compared to her rivals.
However, her entry to ODM gives her an advantage since the Raila Odinga-led outfit is popular in the city.
Ms Ndambuki garnered 53,202 to end up in fourth position.
But Ms Shebesh remains unshaken, saying she will retain her seat because her development record speaks for itself.
“I have done a lot to improve the lives of the youths, women, people living with disabilities and children in Nairobi,” she says.
The Jubilee candidate enjoys some advantage.
She first served as an ODM Nominated MP between 2007 and 2013 before she defected to Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA through which she was elected Woman rep.
“I have had high level interaction with voters in the last 10 years and on different platforms, which has given me the mileage I need to effortlessly win,” she says.
One of the project she boasts of is the youth programme called ‘Jenga Talanta Initiative’, which has enabled youths identify and hone their talents.
She has also identified three schools where she supplies sanitary pads to Class Eight pupils for a year.
Ms Shebesh says the Sh7 million she receives under the Affirmative Action and Social Empowerment Fund established by the Ministry of Devolution has been distributed equally to benefit marginalised groups.
“There is not much you can do but the projects [I] have initiated have benefitted many marginalised groups. I am confident of winning,” she says.
On women, she says she has improved table banking and that the number of groups that received loans to set up businesses has risen.
For youths, she has introduced value addition programme to boost their income.
Despite slimming down to the two ODM and Jubilee flagbearers, their challengers are not sitting pretty; they have been traversing the capital marketing themselves.
The differences in Nasa on who between Ms Passaris and Ms Ndambuki should step down for the other could be an added advantage for the opponents.
During a recent meeting of the Kamba county leaders at Uhuru Park, Ms Ndambuki reiterated that she would be on the ballot box come August, noting that Nasa is not an ODM affair, therefore all the other affiliate parties (Wiper, ANC, CCM and Ford-Kenya) should be represented in the contest.
“Nasa is not made up of ODM alone. We are equal partners as Wiper, ANC, Ford Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani.
“It is unfair to others for ODM to allocate themselves all the top slots in the city,” Ms Ndambuki said.
“They have the governor, senator, women representative yet we are all equal in the coalition.”
The infighting could prove fatal since it may cause a slip of votes between the candidates, thus giving the others an edge.
Mr Lawrence Oyugi, a member of the coalition, has called upon presidential candidate Raila Odinga to intervene.
“An unfair situation exists in Nairobi, which if left to simmer might lead to voter apathy in the city in the battle for women representative position,” Mr Oyugi says.
According to Mr Oyugi, Ms Passaris enjoys support from the party bigwigs.
“This happens despite the presence of strong candidate Ms Ndambuki of Wiper,” Mr Oyugi observes.
Ms Ndambuki put together a team that is assisting her to persuade the Nasa top leadership to favour her.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero has tried to mediate the talks between the two to no avail.