Gubernatorial candidates in Nyandarua County are making every effort to physically interact with the voters ahead of next week’s General Election.
The seat is being sought by four candidates — Mr Francis Kimemia (Jubilee Party), Mr Kanja Muchina of Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC), incumbent Daniel Waithaka as an independent candidate and Dr Kiarie Ndirangu Badilisha, also independent.
The contest, however, appears to be a two-horse race between Dr Kiarie and former Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr Kimemia.
The main contestants have, however, shifted from the traditional road shows and campaign rallies to door-to-door and meetings with common interest groups.
“We need to interact with the voters to fully understand their special needs,” said Mr Jeremiah Wamungu, one of Mr Kimemia’s campaign strategists.
“Our candidate is aware of universal challenges facing Nyandarua people but there are other unique challenges in particular areas or interest groups.”
The Nation has learnt that the candidates have adopted a similar campaign strategy — meeting the groups on weekdays, conducting roadshows on Saturdays and attending multiple church services on Sundays.
“Our manifestos are very elaborate documents that cannot be exhaustively discussed at open forums attended by thousands of people,” said Mr Wamungu.
“The door-to-door visits and meetings with special interest groups, therefore give voters an opportunity to critique the document and own it.”
Issues dominating the campaigns include youth empowerment, early childhood development (ECD) and the thorny farm produce markets.
While Mr Kimemia promises value addition to agricultural produce, Dr Kiarie’s strategy is to have an ultra-modern Africa market in Magumu, Kinangop Constituency.
“The challenge we have in Kenya is flooding of farm produce in markets,” said Dr Kiarie. “Most regions have similar rains and farming patterns.
“We, therefore, need to have external marketing systems. We feed Nairobi, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Nakuru and neighbouring regions yet farmers never enjoy the fruits of their labour.”
He said the envisioned market will be designed to attract Africa’s business community.
READ: Candidates to address graft, agriculture in Nyandarua
“With such a market and proper systems, the issue of exploitation of farmers by brokers will come to an end,” said Dr Kiarie.
“Strengthening the dairy industry and the co-operative movement will eliminate many of the challenges our dairy farmers face.”
On ECD, Mr Kimemia has pledged a free feeding programme and improved infrastructure in nursery schools while his competitor promises comprehensive free pre-primary education.
The key pillars in Mr Kimemia’s manifesto are good governance and social sector development in education, health, culture, peace and security.
Mr Kimemia has also promised infrastructural development in water supply, sinking boreholes for irrigation in all dry areas and improvements in energy, transport and communication services.
Entrepreneurship programmes targeting the youth, men and women are also elaborately factored in the manifesto, as well as revival of the pyrethrum industry.
Dr Kiarie has promised to ensure all top jobs and contracts are awarded to residents, who will be assisted to register companies.
“We have the potential and qualified persons to manage and implement the county development agenda,” said Dr Kiarie.
“Priority will go to Nyandarua people when it comes to awarding of jobs and contracts.
“To minimise the wage bill, my administration will have a lean Cabinet of 10 to be shared by all constituencies.”
He also promises to equip and make training free at polytechnics, at least one in every constituency, to empower young people who will get the contracts, as well as a special finance kitty for those intending to venture into business.
Other emerging issues are the candidate’s performance and contribution to the Nyandarua community in their former careers.
But even as Mr Kimemia gets credit for having created additional locations as the Minister for Internal Security and later Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr Kiarie’s running mate Kirika Mwangi accuses him of discrimination.
Mr Kirika claimed that Mr Kimemia’s Mirangine Sub-County got 14 locations while the expansive Kinangop got a paltry seven.
“Kinangop, with a third of the county’s population, got two districts — North Kinangop and South Kinangop — with seven locations,” said Mr Kirika.
“I pleaded with President Uhuru Kenyatta for 28 additional locations and directed the issues to be addressed but Mr Kimemia colluded with the Ministry of Interior to frustrate the effort for political mileage.”
Mr Kirika is tirelessly working to consolidate the Kinangop vote, where he has a near-fanatical following having served as area MP.
But then, Mr Kimemia’s running mate Cecilia Mbuthia also hails from Kinangop.
Further complicating the arithmetic, Mr Kimemia has a fanatical following in his Mirangine Sub-Location.
While Kipipiri Constituency might favour Dr Kiarie due to the incumbent Woman Representative Wanjiku Muhia factor, both candidates, however, have almost equal support in Ol Kalou and Ndaragua constituencies.
The other battleground constituency is Ol Joro Orok, where both are heavily investing to win the votes.
Mr Kimemia might, however, have an upper hand here, owing to the influence of Jubilee’s parliamentary candidate Michael Muchira, who is giving incumbent John Waiganjo (independent) sleepless nights.
Another factor likely to work in Dr Kiarie’s favour is the strength of independent candidates, who are the majority in the county.
Again, of late, Dr Kiarie seems to enjoy the backing of candidates from small parties, including MCC, who join him at his rallies — of course with the exception of Mr Muchina.
But whereas Dr Kiarie’s team accuses Mr Kimemia of neglecting the county when he was in a powerful position, his supporters defend him, saying he was in charge of a docket and not the entire government.