Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria has opened a 38 percentage point lead over his closest challenger, Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, according to a new poll.
The survey by Infotrak Research and Consulting Ltd shows Wa Iria has the support of 58 per cent and Kamau 20.5 per cent.
Other aspirants for the governor’s seat, Dr Moses Mwangi and Raymond Matiba, are a distant third and fourth, polling 1.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively, according to the findings released yesterday.
The aspirants will vie for Jubilee Party’s ticket in Friday’s primaries.
However, the poll using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews showed that 19.6 per cent had not yet decided the candidate they would vote for.
The survey interviewed 800 respondents against a projected adult population of 544,525 covering all the seven constituencies and 35 wards in the county.
Senator Kembi Gitura and woman representative Sabina Chege are also tipped to retain their seats, polling 35.4 per cent and 60.6 per cent, respectively.
The race for governorship is drawing key interest of not only key aspirants but also the business community keen to cash in on the investment opportunities that abound in the vast county.
But while it was widely expected that the campaigns would have mainly revolved around manifestos and how to boost the county’s economic fortunes, the critical issues have taken a back seat as allegations and counter-allegations continue to dominate in the campaigns.
On one hand governor Wa Iria is on record accusing Kamau of “trying to manufacture chaos to get sympathy votes”.
Kamau on the other hand recently accused the governor of attempting to collude with the police to intimidate his supporters.
Nevertheless, tomorrow’s Jubilee primaries will be a do-or-die for both Wairia and Kamau, with the loser’s chance to get on the ballot being a likely shift to vie as an independent candidate.
“I am in this race to win. There is no turning back now,” said Kamau in relation to the Jubilee primaries, as the governor also expressed confidence to recoup the prestigious seat.
Only registered Jubilee Party members will participate in the primaries, and the top contenders will be keenly watching the turnout particularly among their presumed politically strategic zones within the seven constituencies in the county.
Deputy Governor Gakure Monyo, who hails from Gatanga constituency, has fallen out with the governor and has since joined Kamau’s camp.
The Kigumo MP will be banking on Monyo to bring him the Gatanga vote, which in 2013 largely went to Wa Iria.
The acquisition of a multi-million-shilling milk processing plant by the Murang’a County Government, is expected to bolster Wa Iria’s chances in the primaries, particularly among dairy farmers in the county.
But the milk plant is also a source of agony for Wa Iria, who has been put to task over its cost and why it has taken nearly three years to be delivered.
The Sh250 million equipment is already raising a storm within the county, on exactly how much the county paid for them, even as the ownership and qualifications of the firm that won the tender to supply them continues raising eyebrows.
Among the leaders who want the project probed are Kamau, Murang’a Senator Kembi Gitura and Maragua MP Peter Kamande. But Wa Iria has dismissed their queries as “lies being peddled by those out to sabotage the project”.
While Wa Iria appears to be winning the hearts of dairy farmers, in the coffee-growing Mathioya constituency, top aspirants are facing a storm over neglect of the once vibrant coffee sector.
Joseph Kamande, a former chairman at Karurumo Coffee factory in Mathioya, argues that while the national government has been on an all-out charm offensive on coffee farmers by recently writing off a Sh2 billion debt, the county government has not done as much.
Although Murang’a County has previously been on the spot over the alcoholism menace, Governor Wa Iria will be taking credit during the campaigns for leading a rehabilitation initiative of some 900 alcoholics.
But Kamau argues that the county government had not created adequate jobs to keep young people in the county from the drugs menace. He is supported by Senator Gitura, who agrees that the menace has reduced but could be reintroduced by leaders keen to manipulate the youth during the campaigns.
The greatest headache for Wa Iria appears to be his constant fights with the anti-graft agency and the office of the auditor general over queries raised within the past five years regarding county spending.
Wa Iria has dismissed the previous summonses as witch-hunt, arguing that the yearly auditor general reports were not the conclusive findings on county spending.
The governor argues that the audit cycle ends only after the Senate Public Accounts and Investments Committee has prepared a report, which has to be vetted by the county assembly.
Among key Wa Iria’s projects that were criticised by the auditor general was the one-household-one-cow project, under which his administration donated exotic heifers to residents.
Another key project was the Kimathi-Kithuri irrigation scheme where the Auditor General accused the county government of using substandard water pipes in the Sh218 million project meant to serve 5,000 people.
The Auditor General has attributed the pipe issue to lack of proper testing of the water supply system.
But with campaigns for Jubilee primaries on the homestretch, the audit queries raised in the past four years of Wa Iria's administration are already dominating Kamau’s campaigns, with the Kigumo legislator insisting the anti-graft agency and the Senate had not demanded the right answers from the governor.
Wa Iria and Kamau will be banking on impressive voter turnout within their backyards to win the primaries, and jump the first hurdle in the race for the Murang’a governorship.