By Protus Onyango and Peterson Githaiga
KENYA: The race for the Kajiado County gubernatorial and Senate seats has literally been taken to the skies where multi-millionaire aspirants are displaying their massive resources from the air.
An official from Air Kenya explains it costs Sh779, 025 a day to hire a chopper from Wilson airport to Kakamega, Eldoret, Bungoma, Mumias and Busia then back to Wilson.
In a departure from the past where aspirants’ wealth used to be gauged by the number of cars in their convoy, some of the aspirants in Kajiado are now holding aerial convoys as they traverse the vast county.
Kajiado, which is the size of Central Province, is rated as the richest in the country and the aspirants want to live to that billing.
The governor’s seat has attracted people who are academic and financial heavyweights and are all promising to fix problems that face the county.
The residents were treated to a rare spectacle when Obadiah Kimani, one of the aspirants for the governor’s seat on The National Alliance party (TNA) recently went round the county in a convoy of six helicopters and 200 cars.
“We were shocked and thought the Kenya Wildlife Services were coming to punish us for killing the lions but were relieved when we saw campaign materials,” said Murusho Nkedilo, a resident of Kitengela.
He added, “We haven’t even seen this during the presidential campaigns. But it is good. It means the person we elect will not squander our money because he already has enough.”
Other aspirants on the TNA ticket are Simon Ole Meeli, Daniel Ole Nina, Francis Sakuda, Taraiya Ole Kores, Moses Ole Parantai and David Nkedianye who is vying on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket.
Ole Kores says he has enormous resources and has been consistently conducting aerial campaigns to woo voters.
He said this will not be the first time he will be hiring a chopper to reach far flung areas in his hunt for votes.
Dr Kimani says the use of choppers is not for showing how wealthy one is but just to change the way things are done.
“The world is changing and we have to be fast. Our county is big and I used the choppers as a marketing tool so that I create interest in my voters and reach them all,” Mr Kimani said.
“I thank my friends and supporters who are helping me with logistics. I promise the Kajiado residents to brace themselves for more surprises in the run up to the General Election,” Dr Kimani said.
He said he has a development agenda for the county and will do all in his power to make sure that he talks to all the Kajiado residents.
“We have challenges of underdevelopment, environmental degradation, untapped natural resources, poverty, dilapidated infrastructure and discrimination,” Kimani said.
Engineer Peter Ole Mositet, who lost to the current MP Moses Ole Sakuda during the September by election and is now a frontrunner for the Senate seat on an ODM ticket, uses a chopper in his campaigns.
“If you want to address many rallies in a day, a chopper is a must given the size of our county. It costs me Sh350, 000 a day to hire a chopper. It is so expensive to campaign but I thank my wife and friends who chip in to make me hire the chopper and campaign,” Mr Mositet said.
Daniel Ole Nina alias Livondo, another TNA hopeful also says he will soon join other aspirants in using choppers.
“People of Kajiado love me because I am not mean. Whenever I meet them, I give them something to take care of their immediate problems. That is why they nicknamed me Livondo after the Langata politician.
He added, “Before I talk to people I want to be sure that they are have something to eat so that together we can work on solving the problems that face Kajiado,” Mr Nina said.
He said he began his campaigns two years ago and is ready to win nominations. “So far I have used Sh30 million but I am happy because I am using it to campaign and listen to people’s problems,” Mr Nina said.
Darling of residents
The sole ODM candidate, Mr Nkedianye says wielding financial power does not mean one will win.
“The field of politics is quite dynamic at the moment. What is required is skills and knowledge to address the issues that affect us. I am happy that my friends are helping me so much in the campaigns,” Mr Nkedianye said.
The love for choppers in the county was sparked by Mr Moses Sakuda, the Kajiado North MP during the September by-election after the death of Prof George Saitoti in a helicopter crash in Ngong Hills.
“I used to spend Sh250, 000 a day to attend all rallies in Kajiado North constituency.
“I had more meetings in a day and it couldn’t be possible to use a vehicle,” said the Kajiado North MP.
In Nairobi, Gidion Mbuvi Sonko who wants to be a senator has made a name for splashing cash in the run up to the by election during which he trounced former Makadara MP Reuben Ndolo.
He has become a darling of Nairobi residents and does not shy away from showing that he owns real cash. He has been seen in public carrying millions of shillings to bail out his friend, Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu.
Well oiled machinery
He recently gave out his land title deeds to secure the release of MRC leaders who were unable to pay for their bail.
He occasionally buys cattle and goats and gives them out to residents as gifts and moves around in expensive cars like Hammers and Mercedes Benzes.
Another aspirant who wants to be the first Nairobi governor, Jimnah Mbaru owns an investment bank and has interests in real estate, insurance and other businesses. He is currently running many advertisements in print, electronic and outdoor media.
At the same time, former Mumias Sugar CEO Evans Kidero has mounted one of the most expensive campaigns in the city in a bid to secure the gubernatorial seat. He has billboards all over the city and says he has been to every corner campaigning.
He is one of the leading financiers of his party, the ODM.
In the same race, Timothy Muriuki, the chairman of the Nairobi Central Business District Association (NCBDA) says he has enough money to campaign and his friends have boosted his war chest.
And in Ukambani Wavinya Ndeti, The Youth Affairs Assistant Minister who made history as the first woman to be elected to parliament in Machakos County since independence now wants to be the Machakos governor.
The 43-year old MP wants to become the first governor of Ukambani’s richest county, and has literally crisscrossed it to the last village, selling her policies particularly to women groups, and branding herself as a self-made politician.
Former Government Spokesperson Alfred Mutua, who has joined the race for the Machakos County governor’s seat is among senior public officers who quit their positions to seek elective offices and has already established a well oiled campaign machinery.
Kangundo MP Johnstone Muthama, a gemstones dealer is widely considered a front runner in the Machakos County senatorial seat. He has deep pockets and has been one of the sponsors of ODM Kenya before it transformed into Wiper Democratic Party.
Muthama has the resources to make ripples across the county and he has already started making his own line up and seems to favour former MP, Mutua Katuku as the most ideal candidate for the Machakos county governor.
In Kitui, Defence Assistant minister and Wiper Democratic Movement chairman David Musila is expected to spend immensely to capture the senatorial seat. Musila is a wealthy politician having worked in the civil service for a lengthy period. He owns several businesses in Kitui, Mwingi and his Migwani home village. He also has huge agricultural plantation of rice in Mwea. The MP has several vehicles including fuel guzzling Mercedes Benz and Pajeros.
And Kiema Kilonzo, the MP for Mutito and diehard supporter turned critic of the VP, and now allied to Charity Ngilu is telling voters he will safeguard the region’s mineral wealth.
His supporters have painted walls, trees, rocks and signboards in the entire county with his and Ngilu’s graffiti.
The monied boss
Kilome MP Harun Mwau who is now aspiring to become the first Makueni senator is known for his pompous show off with money. He says he has so far sunk sh100 million in an electrification programme. In 2008, he purchased 300 motorbikes for jobless youth in a project dubbed Youth Empowerment Drive (YED). He has sponsored multi-million community projects in his Kilome constituency to uplift the standards of life in the constituency. He has vowed that before the end of his term, no grass-thatched house will be standing in Kilome. Prior to the 2002 election, Mwau offered his parliamentary salary for the constituents’ education.