President Uhuru Kenyatta has been thrown into a dilemma in the campaign trail after increased clamour by Jubilee-friendly parties and independent candidates to be given the same attention as Jubilee contestants.
For President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, it is a case of being damned if they support the independents or other party candidates over their own, and equally condemned if they do not.
The friendly parties and independent candidates control a critical mass of followers, who will help in wooing voters to turn out in large numbers on the election day, a scenario that might be impossible if he is seen to be dismissing them.
Faced with the dilemma during a tour of Meru with President Kenyatta, Mr Ruto today introduced an independent candidate for the governor seat, Mr Kinoti Gatobu, and Maendeleo Chap Chap’s Kilemi Mwiria, both facing Jubilee’s Kiraitu Murungi in the August race and incumbent Peter Munya of PNU, who boycotted the tour.
This came just less than a week after the DP was shouted down in Elgeyo-Marakwet when he tried to back Governor Alex Tolgos over independent candidate Moses Changwony.
On Thursday, President Kenyatta, who had taken the six-piece voting to Nyeri County, had to change tune in Karatina, Mathira Constituency, after residents appeared to disagree with him on his call to vote for Jubilee candidates only.
“I have heard you and I have gotten the message. Vote for me but just vote for the leaders you want and that I can work with.
“Give me people who I can work with,” the President said in Kikuyu while laughing, toning down on his early tough stance on Jubilee candidates.
Later, Jubilee candidates in Nyeri denied fighting or fearing contestants from “friendly” political parties and independents, saying the outcome of the General Election will be similar to that of the party primaries.
“Since 2013, Nyeri has suffered in terms of development because of having different political parties with different ideologies.
“Leaders, including the governor, MPs and MCAs fought, which derailed development and this time we will ensure it is Jubilee only,” the Jubilee candidate for Tetu, lawyer Gichuhi Mwangi, said.
But on the flip side, President Kenyatta needs to have the most loyal foot soldiers in Parliament, as opposed to having an avalanche of independent candidates, who might make it difficult to marshal support and whip members in critical legislative processes.
“The President needs troops in Parliament and wants to avoid a situation where, if re-elected, they have a group in Parliament that they do not directly control,” a presidential campaign strategy paper says.
At the end of the day, states the paper, the August 8 election is about the President, one they said should focus on service delivery and not be sucked into internal wrangles.
The Saturday Nation has established that after promising foolproof nominations, the Jubilee leadership does not want to be sucked into the irony of backing the very people the voters rejected in the nominations in April.
The independent candidates, coalesced under the Kenya Alliance of Independent Candidates that is chaired by Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, have vowed to back President Kenyatta, but have demanded respect, and almost equal space.
“I did not dump Jubilee. Jubilee dumped me,” the governor in a past interview said.
He posed: “If I have 20,000 followers, do you want to tell me that he (Uhuru) will not be interested in them?”
Mr Kabogo lost the primary to Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu.
In Tharaka-Nithi, Chuka/Igambang’ombe MP Muthomi Njuki said Tharaka-Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa of Narc Kenya and Senate candidate Kiambi Matanka of Maendeleo Chap Chap should “expect a blackout” when President Kenyatta visits the area on Tuesday.
In Laikipia on Thursday, Mr Ndiritu Muriithi, who is vying for the Laikipia governor seat as an independent, was shouted down.
In Murang’a, Senator Kembi Gitura was bullied by Jubilee candidates to get off the tour.
Reported by Patrick Lang’at, Alex Njeru, Joseph Wangui, Grace Gitau and Mwangi Ndirangu