Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti and Maendeleo Chap Chap leader Alfred Mutua dance during their tour to popularise the party in Meru. (Photo: Peter Muthomi/Standard)
Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti’s defection from Jubilee Party (JP) to Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) has triggered political re-alignments that are likely to shape the outcome of the August 8 General Election.
Kivuti is in the race for the Embu gubernatorial seat.
His defection from JP and the widely rumoured looming defection of Governor Martin Wambora and development management consultant Kithinji Kiragu pave way for all the four top aspirants to be on the ballot come election day.
The fourth political heavyweight in the race is Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire.
Other contestants include psychiatrist Njagi Kumantha who is eyeing DP ticket, former Transport Permanent Secretary Cyrus Njiru who is eyeing PNU ticket and pharmaceutical drugs businessman who is seeking MCC.
These defections have raised political temperature in the county not only for the coveted governor position but also for the MCA, MP, senator and woman representative seats.
Kivuti decamped to MCC together with Embu Deputy Governor Dorothy Nditi, Mbeere North MP Muriuki Njagagua, 10 MCAs and tens of hopefuls.
He declared that they would campaign together as a team to capitalise on their synergy.
“I am planning to liaise with other aspirants so that we can form a transformational team that will jointly vie for governor, senator, women rep, MPs and MCAs positions in the county,” said Kivuti at Kanyuambora recently.
According to reliable sources, Kiragu who is popularly known as KK and was position two in 2013 elections will next week announce his entry to PNU.
He had ditched JP in December citing the shambolic election of JP’s interim officials but later reconsidered the move although he has remained non-committal on his next move.
Wambora is said to be considering joining Narc Kenya, but has reportedly been delayed by JP honchos fearing his move would hurt the party’s popularity.
Political scientist Tom Njururi posits that if Kivuti, Wambora, Mbarire and Kiragu all end up on the ballot, the win will be tilted towards Kivuti owing to the population dynamics of the county. This is because he hails from the Mbeere sub-tribe and can mobilise his backyard to support him, assuring him of majority of the votes.
But for the rest who are from Embu community, they will most likely split the votes among themselves.
“This scenario is very probable and is strengthened by Kivuti’s choice of former Manyatta MP Emilio Kathuri. Kathuri can help Kivuti gun many votes from Manyatta constituency,” said Njururi.
According to Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, in 2013 Embu County had 227,286 registered voters.
Manyatta constituency had 74,505 voters, Runyenjes 66,047, Mbeere South 50,141 and Mbeere North 36,593.
Even with the ongoing voter registration, the margins may not change considerably.
The county is cosmopolitan with Embu community having the largest population followed by Mbeere, Kamba, Kikuyu, Tharaka and others.
Njururi considers a different situation where Wambora sticks to JP and participates in its primaries together with Mbarire.
He says if whoever emerges the winner gets the support of the loser, then it will not be easy for Kivuti when the Jubilee flag bearer is assured of majority of Runyenjes votes.
In terms of resources, Kivuti, Wambora and Mbarire have an upper hand over the rest of the candidates which can enable them roll out an effective campaign machinery.
Kivuti is endowed with massive monetary resources, Wambora has the advantage of incumbency while Mbarire is likely to enjoy the JP machinery and the endorsement of President Uhuru Kenyatta if she will be the JP flag bearer.
Mbarire is also supported by Speaker of National Assembly Justin Muturi who hails from Mbeere.
Pundits have interpreted Kivuti’s defection to MCC as a strategic move to reach and endear himself to the Kambas who reside in Mbeere South.
Political analyst Mbogo Ireri, however, avers that Kivuti has to contend with the perception that he betrayed Mbarire even after promising to support her for the gubernatorial race, in effect dividing the Runyenjes vote.
Residents of Makima and Mwea (Mbeere South) have been unhappy with the sub-division of Mwea scheme land and consider Kivuti as having played a major role in the way it was done.
To his advantage, Wambora has the various projects he implemented as the Runyenjes MP when his CDF was rated among the best and now as the governor.
As the governor, he has successfully completed various projects with the most conspicuous being the tarmacking of Embu-Kibugu road, Dallas Ring road, Runyenjes town road and Embu town-Nairobi bus terminus.
Others include the water tanks for schools project, water projects for Mbeere through Ewasco, roads grading, street lights and floodlights, ECDE centres and vocational centres stand out among his achievements.
Mark Muriithi, a resident of Kibugu feels the electorate might sympathise with Wambora in that he managed to implement many projects despite his two aborted impeachments and incessant wrangles that rocked the devolved unit at its infancy stage.
According to Muriithi, Kiragu’s reputation as a management consultant could work for him as voters could see an experienced manager in him. He also has no scandals on his back.
The other contenders – Njiru, Kumantha and Muriuki – cannot be underestimated as their votes could affect the performance of the top contenders.
Whereas the defectors claimed JP had refused to listen to their concerns and thus were not assured of free and fair nominations, they maintained that they would support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.
Despite that, the defections have almost paralysed the otherwise dominant JP, with majority of its supporters seemingly appearing utterly confused at the turn of events.
Embu senatorial aspirant on JP ticket Geoffrey Kiringa sensationally claims those who have defected are driven by a desire “to position themselves strategically for the post-Uhuru 2022 political era and are not guided by truth or sincerity”.
He described it as utterly hypocritical, the assertions by those defecting that they support President Uhuru’s re-election while they have abandoned him at his time of need.
“I call upon the Embu people to see the hypocrisy manifested by these defectors and make the right decisions come the august elections’, he said.