Governor Kinuthia Mbugua (r) when he announced he’d support Lee Kinyanjui (l) during a rally presided by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nakuru. (Photo: Suleiman Mbatiah/Standard)
Withdrawal of Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua from the gubernatorial contest appears to be the beginning of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s onslaught on independent candidates in his Mount Kenya backyard.
Governor Mbugua left the race with political arch rival Lee Kinyanjui after lengthy negotiations with the President and his Deputy William Ruto at State House Nakuru.
Speaking in Molo town, Kenyatta confirmed they had brokered a deal between Governor Mbugua and Kinyanjui.
“We spoke last night with the two leaders and Mr Mbugua has agreed to step down for Kinyanjui,” Kenyatta said.
The Head of State described Mbugua as a gentleman. Mbugua said he was opting out of the race because of the respect he has for President Kenyatta.
“For the sake unity among Jubilee Party supporters and the love I have for the party. I’m collapsing my entire political structure into Jubilee,” he said after a closed-door meeting with Jubilee top guns.
Mr Mbugua, lost in the party primaries and defected from the Jubilee Party. But the ground has been hostile towards him since then. According to State House sources, the negotiations started on Friday evening when the President and his deputy arrived in Nakuru town on a three-day tour that started in Nyandarua county.
The talks were initiated by Deputy President. “It took the President and his Deputy to convince Mbugua to step down and support Kinyanjui who the two leaders felt was the best choice and was appealing to voters in the county,” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Respect for President
Another source said there was the risk of losing the Nakuru County gubernatorial seat if both leaders were on the ballot.
“Both candidates are strong and they might have split the Jubilee votes — giving the NASA candidate — Dr Peter Koros a perfect opportunity to win,” said a State House official privy to the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Murang’a gubernatorial aspirant Jamleck Kamau also withdrew from the race after making several about turns including challenging Jubilee Party’s decision to issue his competitor Mwangi Iria the nomination certificate. His withdrawal reportedly happened after a lengthy talk with the President.
Developments in Murang’a and Nakuru point to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s deliberate effort to lock his home base under Jubilee Party. But it is Laikipia County that has presented a complicated matrix for the President.
Notably, when he visited Nyahururu town within Laikipia West constituency on Friday, he did not endorse Jubilee candidates. One possible reason for this could be the former President Mwai Kibaki’s factor.
Former MP Ndiritu Muriithi who is an independent candidate in Laikipia gubernatorial contest is Kibaki’s nephew. Mr Kibaki personally went to campaign for him. That is the only campaign he has done since he left office.
People within President Kenyatta’s circles say he would be uncomfortable campaigning against his predecessor. The second significant factor is what is emerging as a ‘anti-Kiunjuri movement’.
Several candidates have accused Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri of interference in the Jubilee primaries. But he has denied any involvement. The President’s advisors say it would be unnecessary for him to be caught up in Kiunjuri-Muriithi battles.