Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua’s political career ended on Saturday when he bowed to pressure and withdrew his bid to defend the seat.
The former Commandant of Administration of Police (AP), who will go down in history as the first governor of the cosmopolitan county, had been cleared to defend his seat as an independent candidate.
Apparently, Mr Mbugua, who twice suffered open humiliation before President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, was unhappy with the way Jubilee primaries were conducted and described them as flawed.
But the visit by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto in the town on Friday seems to have triggered the change of heart.
While touring Molo yesterday, President Kenyatta announced that Mr Mbugua had stepped down in favour of Mr Lee Kinyanjui, who was declared the winner during the party primaries “for the sake of party unity”.
“Today I have good news because Governor Mbugua, for the sake of the unity of the party, has quit the race for Nakuru Governor to allow Mr Kinyanjui to continue the race,” said Mr Kenyatta.
He hailed the move by Governor Mbugua, saying it will save the party from a split ahead of the August 8 polls.
The two principals had all the reason to be worried with the entrance of Mr Mbugua as an independent candidate as this meant that the Jubilee party was not assured of the seat.
Nakuru is significant in the race to State House as, apart from his home county of Kiambu which gave Mr Kenyatta the highest number of votes in 2013, Nakuru was second in delivering the votes.
It is against this background that political analysts believe Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto intervened to stem the fallout between Mr Lee Kinyanjui’s and Mr Mbugua’s supporters.
On Friday, speaking in Subukia where Mr Mbugua was in attendance, the President said he would only work with Jubilee Party nominees and reward those who choose to remain in the party after losing in the nominations.
He had publicly praised Subukia MP Nelson Gaichuhie for choosing to stay in the party even after failing to get the party ticket to defend his seat.
The Nation learnt that Governor Mbugua was advised to step down just a day after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cleared him to defend the seat.
The entrance of Mr John Mututho and Senator James Kiarie Mungai, who are running as independent candidates, and nominated senator Paul Njoroge on a Kanu ticket, is still another stumbling block on Mr Kinyanjui’s road to the county headquarters.
Commenting on the development, Mr Mututho maintained that he was in the race to the end. “I am in the race. The interests of the people of Nakuru must be safeguarded,” he said.
The three candidates are capable of marshalling more than 100,000 votes and this does not augur well for the Jubilee ticket holder with Dr Peter Koros of Chama Cha Mashinani riding on the Nasa popularity.
Mr Mbugua’s withdrawal now leaves six candidates in the race.
Political novice Isaiah Gichanga is also running as an independent.
President Kenyatta broke the news of the governor’s withdrawal at a meeting with Nakuru leaders at State House Nakuru also attended by the Deputy President.
The President said the governor had voluntarily stepped down and will work with Mr Kinyanjui and support the party.
Sources close to the governor told the Nation that businessmen who had benefited from Mr Mbugua’s tenure and wealthy members of the influential Kikuyu Council of Elders were behind his decision to vie for the seat as an independent candidate.
CONSOLIDATE THE VOTES
The meeting at State House was attended by all Jubilee nominees led by Mr Kinyanjui and Nakuru County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika.
Although it is too early for Mr Kinyanjui to celebrate, analysts believe he now only needs to consolidate the votes left behind by Mr Mbugua.
“He must extend an olive branch to the supporters of Mr Mbugua to increase his chances of becoming the second governor of Nakuru,” said Mr Said Salim, a resident of Nakuru town.
“One cannot underrate the support of Mr Mbugua in the county because it now means the more than 150,000 votes he got in the nominations are up for grabs,” says Mr Joseph Miruka, a local political analyst.
BLESSING TO KOROSS
But it is also emerging that the popularity of Nasa in Nakuru may also have fuelled concerns by the two principals to intervene.
Mr Joseph Miruka, a local political analyst, says that by stepping down, Mr Mbugua has put Dr Koros’ bid on the sword.
“Mr Mbugua was relying on the split of the Kipsigis sub-community as both Mr Mbugua and Mr Kinyanjui had picked a Kipsigis who are the political king makers but with Mr Mbugua out of the race, the Kipsigis have a reason to support one of their own,” said Mr Miruka.
However, he said, the new development may as well be a blessing to Dr Koros as the members of the Nasa communities in the county will now throw their weight behind his bid.
“Dr Koros will now hope that the Nasa family in Nakuru will solidly back his bid and a considerable number of his Kipsigis community who will not be swayed by the Jubilee wave to vote for Mr Kinyanjui,” said Mr Miruka.
Governor Mbugua’s deputy Joseph Ruto refused to move with him as independent candidates choosing to stay in Jubilee.
According to the governor’s political adviser Ezekiel Kesendany, his decision to retain Mr Ruto as his running mate had cost him the Jubilee nomination ticket.
Before he bowed out, Governor Mbugua had picked Dr Peter Ketyenya as his running mate whereas nominated Senator Njoroge picked Mr Enock Nyanaro to deputise him.
Mr Kesendany claimed in an interview with the Nation that the governor had ignored advice to replace his deputy who is said to have lost touch with the populous Kipsigis sub-tribe in Kuresoi.
The region overwhelmingly voted for Mr Mbugua in the 2013 General Election. But results of the Jubilee Party primaries exposed a huge split in their voting pattern.
In Kuresoi North, Mr Kinyanjui had 20,217 votes while Mr Mbugua had 10,750 and in Kuresoi South Mr Kinyanjui had 16,133 against Mr Mbugua’s 12,189.
The governor also performed dismally in his strongholds of Molo and Naivasha which cost him the Jubilee ticket.