Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s decision to pick Wavinya Ndeti as the Wiper candidate for the Machakos governorship against Alfred Mutua has caused ripples in the county.
Political temperatures have soared in the past few days following the much-anticipated compromise between Wiper and Ms Ndeti’s Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU), which culminated in the naming of Ndeti, the former Kathiani MP, as the Wiper candidate in the August polls through “a negotiated democracy” mechanism.
Formerly, the CCU party leader had resisted persistent calls to join Wiper, and had even forged ahead with her campaigns to the extent of naming her running mate, city lawyer Boniface Kabaka, who formerly served as Dr Mutua’s adviser on constitutional affairs.
Initially, the governor’s race was shaping up as a contest between the outgoing East African Legislative Assembly MP Peter Mathuki, who is Kalonzo’s close confidant, Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala (Wiper), Ndeti (CCU) and former Chief Officer in Mutua’s government, Lemi Muia of Jubilee Party.
New bid to block Governor Joho via court
But it has now narrowed down to a three-horse race after Kolonzo named Mr Mathuki as Ndeti’s running mate with an understanding to share power on a 50-50 basis should the pair wrest power from Dr Mutua.
This arrangement appears to have spelt doom for Mr Kiala, who had been campaigning to dethrone Mutua, and in an earlier interview with The Standard confirmed having paid up to become one of the aspirants seeking to fly the Wiper flag in the race for governor.
Wiper’s decision to sideline Kiala in the final line-up despite his consistent loyalty to the party and leader Kalonzo has been interpreted by analysts as a deliberate action to “cut down to size” Senator Johnstone Muthama, who has been openly campaigning for Kiala and discrediting other aspirants including Mathuki and Ndeti.
Kiala had been hoping to square it out with Mathuki in the Wiper primaries scheduled for next week.
Jubilee Party has also cleared Mr Muia, who commands a huge following of youths through his Youth Power Movement. Muia has been wooing voters to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election and courting the people of Machakos to elect him as their second governor.
Mutua, who beat Ndeti in 2013 on a Wiper party ticket, has been fighting off the ‘bad boy’ tag for having fallen out with Kalonzo and subsequently forming his own political party, Maendeleo Chap Chap.
Although the former national government spokesman is yet to name his running mate, he has been popularising MCC not only in Machakos County but also in the entire Ukambani region and beyond, and propagating the narrative that his party is anchored on fast and efficient delivery of services to residents through transformative leadership.
ODM stirs firestorm in NASA
ODM stirs firestorm in NASA
A defiant Mutua appears determined to retain his seat and probably frustrate those who have waged political battles against him, including Kalonzo who has described the governor’s decision to rebel against the party that brought him to power as “outright political conmanship”.
Sources say Kalonzo, who is one of the Opposition coalition principals, is particularly interested in teaching Mutua ‘a political lesson’ for showing open contempt for him and engaging in behaviour that borders on snatching the ‘Kamba kingpin’ tag that for decades had been widely associated with the former Mwingi North MP.
In the meantime, it is worth noting that a Wavinya-Mathuki merger and the fact that all NASA affiliate parties within the county have settled on a compromise candidate to face Mutua is the clearest indication of a looming political battle in Ukambani’s richest county.
Although recent opinion polls have placed Mutua way ahead of his opponents in terms of popularity, the governor faces a real task of having to marshal his campaigns without the help of all the MPs in the eight constituencies, save for Mwala legislator Vincent Musyoka who has stuck with him.
Observers believe the media-savvy governor is least worried about going it alone, at least for now.
“Mutua has already made a name for himself among the electorate, whether through propaganda, public relations or facts. People have bought Mutua’s narrative that he is being fought for initiating development in Machakos and that appears to be the gospel truth in the minds of most voters,” says a civil servant who preferred anonymity.
But Mutua has unfulfilled promises hanging around his neck, including water for all, the New Machakos City, which never was, as well as thousands of jobs for the youth.
On the other hand, Ndeti, who is believed to have maintained her political network since 2013, is set to enjoy the boost provided by Wiper combined with the impressive development legacy she left in Kathiani where she served as MP from 2007-2012.
Meanwhile, Muia has been discrediting both Mutua and Ndeti for playing the tribal card in their campaigns and has been urging voters to reject them, arguing that the county is largely cosmopolitan and leaders should therefore promote positive integration.
“When Mutua says his Chap Chap party is homegrown, and Wavinya hangs on to Wiper just for the sake of seeking support from tribal chiefs, they miss the point. Machakos residents deserve leadership that does not invoke tribal tags as a bargaining chip,” says Muia.