Former Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku on Friday took over the reins of power as the governor of Kajiado, crowning the fast rise-fall-and-rise career of the former hotelier.
The self-effacing man shot to limelight in 2013 when President Kenyatta lifted him from complete obscurity and hoisted him to the powerful Interior ministry in a stunning move that raised questions about the suitability of the choice.
Even though the 46-year-old former head of the Kenya Utalii College was later dropped from the Cabinet following a spate of terrorist attacks, he has maintained he put in place long term measures which “brought forth the peace we are enjoying now”.
Away from the limelight, Mr Lenku went ahead to fashion himself in the grassroots as a front runner so much so that he whitewashed former Kajiado County Council chairman Tarayia Ole Kores during the Jubilee Party primaries.
Mr Lenku outfoxed long-time political players such as Mr Kores and other gubernatorial hopefuls Daniel ole Nina aka Livondo and George King’ori.
Mr Lenku then went ahead to delicately steer his campaign through the slippery divide between surging Maasai nationalism and the clamour for inclusivity in a county which, as the “bedroom of Nairobi”, is home to many communities.
And this is where rain beat his opponent David Nkedianye of the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
“Nkedianye made a very big mistake. During the nominations he supported Maasai candidates against those from other communities within the Nasa family.
“This was especially so in the populous constituencies of Kajiado North and Kajiado East,” Sironka ole Masharen, a local political analyst, said.
Mr Masharen, a respected Maa historian, explained that Nasa leader Raila Odinga made things worse for Dr Nkedianye when he made remarks to the extent that immigrants shouldn’t buy land in Kajiado.
“This statement affected especially the Kisii vote. Acting Interior CS Fred Matiang’i’s campaigns amongst members of the community had this voting block all sewn up for Jubilee,” Mr Masharen, who wrote the seminal book The Maasai Pioneers, said.
Dr Nkedianye has been unable to shake off the tag of being ‘anti-immigrant’, due to punitive measures against small time investors in the county.
A key area of concern was the allocation of market facilities in Kitengela where locals were favoured in a tussle that led to bloodshed.
The notable lack of developmental action plan in the towns of Kitengela, Ongata Rongai, Ngong’, Kiserian and Isinya also affected the governor’s performance.
Failure to deal with the sewerage systems and collection of garbage irked the business community who accused Dr Nkedianye of ignoring their plight.
“These towns have rapidly grown without commensurate attention to infrastructure.
“Traffic jams, flooding and heaps of garbage portrayed a leadership that had focus elsewhere,” John Kinyua, a businessman in Kitengela, said.
The county government also rubbed investor communities the wrong way when they braked the sale of land in the county.
“The land mess in Kajiado has a political angle that can’t favour the governor,” Mr Simon Ole Kipury, a land merchant, told Saturday Nation in the final week of the campaigns.
To counter Dr Nkedianye’s sour relationship with traders, Mr Lenku presented himself as “a safe pair of hands”.
In the final analysis however it is immigrant communities, mostly the Kikuyus, who did it for Mr Lenku.
Kajiado North, where they are the majority, had (in 2013) 101,275 voters – 33 per cent of voters in the county.
Three Cabinet secretaries attended event.