Kiambu is not an ordinary county. It produced the founding President of the Republic of Kenya whose son Uhuru Kenyatta is the current President. From the same county hails Charles Njonjo, the first post-colonial Attorney General.
Other powerful names from the county, who dominated national politics from the 1960s include Mbiyu Koinange who served as minister for 16 years, James Gichuru, one of the founders of Kanu in 1960 and Njenga Karume, a proponent of the Change the Constitution Movement in 1976 meant to block then Vice President Daniel Moi from ascending to power in the event of President Kenyatta’s death.
Today, a new crop of politicians is angling for a place in the history of this ever-politically charged corner of Central Kenya. With 1,173,594 registered voters, Kiambu is the only county after Nairobi to hit the one million voter mark.
Being a predominantly Jubilee-powered county, Kiambu may get to know its next governor with the outcome of the Jubilee nominations, which start on Friday. The battle for the party ticket is between incumbent William Kabogo and Ferdinand Waititu, among others.
“Putting together a county government from scratch was not easy and took time but the structures are now in place, which is why I am seeking a second term to complete the development projects that I initiated but could not complete due to limited time,” says Governor Kabogo.
But Team Change led by Waititu says Kabogo deserves no other term in office, accusing him of denying the county the opportunity to attract investments, especially considering the President hails from the county. “Kabogo’s scorecard is poor as his dictatorial approach to the management of the county’s affairs has denied Kiambu the envisaged fruits of devolution,” says Dr James Nyoro who dropped his gubernatorial bid to be Waititu’s running mate.
In 2013, Dr Nyoro vied on a NARC ticket against Kabogo (TNA) and garnered 241,658 against Kabogo’s 487,631. President Uhuru appointed him government adviser on food security, but he quit for a continental position at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We are alive to the reality that once we remove Kabogo from office he will continue to nag us for the next five years, thus the need to have a polished politician in the name of Governor Waititu to continue engaging him as Gakuyo (David Ngari) and I drive the county’s development and economic agenda,” says Dr Nyoro.
Ngari, who is the founder of the land buying company, Gakuyo Real Estate, also shelved his gubernatorial ambitions to rally his supporters behind Waititu’s bid. But does this coalition scare Governor Kabogo?
“I am happy they are together now. It is easier to deal with one front and I am confident I will go through nominations after which my focus will be on improving the voter turnout in the August elections to benefit President Uhuru’s re-election bid,” says Kabogo.
He equates the Waititu-Nyoro-Gakuyo alliance to the Opposition’s NASA, dismissing the arrangement as inspired by selfish interests.
Kabogo regrets that the first days of his leadership were characterised by squabbles in the County Assembly, which at some point led to the removal of the Speaker and delayed legislation of critical laws.
“My lowest moments were when I was pulled back by the County Assembly from delivering on my promises to the people, yet I knew I had the capacity to do what I needed to do,” he says.
One of the issues that degenerated during his initial days in office was the push and pull about the location of county headquarters. The Waititu team has pledged to have the headquarters transferred to Kiambu town.
The Kabogo-Waititu duel has divided the elected leadership in the county down the middle. Whereas only three of the elected MPs are said to be on the side of Kabogo, the governor is said to control majority of the MCAs. “Kabogo’s fate was sealed the minute Waititu was elected the MP for Kabete and it will be hard for him to get a second chance,” said Karungo wa Thang’wa, one of the few MCAs opposed to Kabogo. The Ngewa MCA is vying for the Senate seat.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa says although the governor race appears to be a head-to-head battle, Waititu’s team presents the best combination to steer the county’s political and economic agenda.
Not well polished
“Waititu may appear not very well polished, but with his political experience boosted by incredible humility he has been able to put up a fantastic team that will show him how to implement his ideology of change for the benefit of Kiambu residents,” says Ichung’wa.
He says Kabogo will go down with every other leader who has been supporting his regime.
But Ruiru MP Esther Gathogo accuses her elected colleagues of dismissing Kabogo’s development record just for the sake of endearing themselves to voters.
“I admire Governor Kabogo’s style of leadership, especially his zeal to implement health projects, which I can assure you will earn him a second term in office,” she says.