Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary and Kirinyaga Jubilee gubernatorial candidate Anne Waiguru
An incessant exchange of brickbats is increasingly defining the contest between former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru and Narc-Kenya Leader Martha Karua for the Kirinyaga gubernatorial race.
Such is the ferocity of the rivalry between the two iron ladies such that the incumbent Joseph Ndathi could be watching the action with glee, in the assumption that he is the main beneficiary.
Hardly a day passes without the two antagonists going for each other’s jugular as the clock ticks towards the August 8 election date when the wheat will be separated from the chaff.
Although the contest has previously been viewed as a two horse race between Waiguru and Karua, Ndathi is slowly creeping back into the scene after a humiliating show during the Jubilee Party primaries.
Ndathi has taken advantage of the feuds between the other rivals, to rejuvenate and repackage himself as “the only one who understands what Wanjiku wants,” as he is wont to put it.
But the ground is still torn between the two battle-hardened women who coincidentally come from Gichugu Constituency as does Ndathi.
Recently, Waiguru and Karua have traded barbs to the amusement of residents.
At one point, the former CS promised to appoint Karua as the village head. In another instance she cheekily offered to enlist Karua on the Older Persons Cash Transfer programme.
“I will assist her to ensure she gets the attention so she could be included in the cash transfer programme as she retires from active politics,’’ teased Waiguru.
But in a quick rejoinder while addressing her campaign rally at Kangaita village on Sunday, Karua dismissed the age as no reason to lock her out of the race.
“I did not wait for 50 years to establish and associate myself with my roots in Kirinyaga as Waiguru has done, since I was born here, I have served you right here and I am well versed with the geographical and political terrain of the county,’’ she said.
She added that Waiguru was claiming to be in touch with the reality on the ground yet she could hardly speak in the Gichugu dialect; that she only started coming to the area after her “unceremonial exit” from the Cabinet.
On the age question Karua was not shy about it.
“Yes I am a grandmother of these young children here but there is no way I can be Waiguru’s granny who has clocked over 50 years,” she said.
This means that the ultimate deciders would be the rest of the county that includes the populous Mwea, Ndia and the more moderate Kirinyaga Central Constituency.
The battle will likely be intense in Mwea, which is the largest region and has the numbers as compared to the rest of the constituencies.
Mwea is more of a cosmopolitan zone being a settlement scheme inhabited by people from diverse backgrounds.
On this front, Waiguru and Ndathi are banking on Mwea to swing the vote in their favour, having chosen running mates from the constituency.
Kirinyaga has over 360,000 registered voters and Mwea 130,000. Gichugu has 69,913, Ndia 61, 376 while Kirinyaga Central has 70,242.
Waiguru is pairing with Peter Ndambiri from the expansive South Ngariama settlement scheme while Ndathi has kept faith in his Education CEC Stanley Gachungo also from Mwea.
On the other hand, Karua is leaving nothing to chance and has chosen Kirinyaga Central MP Gitari Gachoki as her running mate going by the impressive result he posted during JP nominations. Despite entering the race at the eleventh hour, Gitari shocked many when he emerged an impressive second trailing Waiguru by about 30,000 votes during the JP nominations.
Going by the voting patterns in the party nominations, Gitari got solid votes from his Kirinyaga Central backyard and also Ndia Constituency. He had also notable showing in Mwea.
Ndathi, on the other hand, is fighting to reclaim the lead in the race after getting off to a poor start when he came a distant third in the nominations.
He is on record as describing the nominations as a little mock exam whose performance would do little to derail him that would do little to obstruct his progress.
“What we went through was a leaked mock examinations and I’m telling Kenyans to wait for the (Fred) Matiang’i’s final examinations on August 8. Kenyans will be surprised,” Ndathi exuded confidence.
The incumbent is fighting the perception that his political fire fizzled out and is keen to keep up the pressure on Waiguru.
However, he is facing opposition from within his own family and it does not escape notice that two of his brothers Mithamo Ndathi and his stepbrother Gicobi Ndathi have openly declared their support for Waiguru.
Eloquent and focused Waiguru has attracted a huge following from all corners of the county and come the general elections, the political weight is likely to tilt in her favour more so when she is in the right Jubilee party.