The stage is set for an epic political battle as Jubilee nominees in Mt Kenya region prepare to face off with aspirants who ditched the party to vie as independents.
The two groups targeting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s stronghold comprising counties in Mt Kenya, Nairobi, Nakuru and Laikipia have already drawn plans for parallel strategy meetings.
President Kenyatta’s re-election is the only common agenda between the two groups. The camps are today holding simultaneous meetings in Nanyuki and Kasarani, Nairobi.
While they find unity in supporting the President’s re-election bid, their political differences stemming from the recent chaotic party primaries remain deep.
With the two camps holding parallel meetings, the timing is curious and points to a divided house. The Nanyuki meeting will be attended by a hundred Jubilee nominees from Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Laikipia, Nakuru, Nyandarua and Nairobi. Deputy President William Ruto will attend. Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu, who spoke to Saturday Standard, said: “We will be meeting as Jubilee nominees to discuss how to avert voter apathy out of the post-nominations mess.”
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria confirmed he would attend the meeting and said the key agenda would be to shore up voter numbers. “We want to work on a strategy of ensuring there is a huge turnout of voters in the backyard of the President,” Kuria said.
Other sources familiar with the agenda of the Nyanyuki meeting said the appointment of county mobilisers who will work towards shoring up voter numbers will also be discussed.
In Kasarani, emboldened after holding talks with Uhuru, independent candidates will be meeting to endorse the Jubilee Party leader as they plan their campaigns.
“We want to make sure the independents have unity of purpose,” said Tetu MP Ndung’u Gethenji, the secretary general of the caucus of independent candidates.
The two meetings come at a time some Jubilee nominees have been calling for rejection of independent candidates in favour of the infamous “six-piece voting”. Independent candidates have alluded to the possibility of voter apathy and disenfranchisement from calls to vote exclusively for Jubilee candidates.
“An election is a competition, it is not an endorsement. Voters need to have options at the ballot. One of the options might be the Jubilee Party ticket but we are the second option and there is nothing wrong with that,” Nyeri Women Rep Priscilla Nyokabi said.
To counter the calls for six-piece voting, independents are demanding they be involved in the presidential campaigns.
“In Central, it is about Uhuru for the presidency... Independents are deservedly a part of Uhuru campaigns,” Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando said.
Kiambu Governor William Kabogo said alienating them would subject Jubilee to the risk of losing a vital block that could provide Uhuru with votes to win a second term.
“Each of us has supporters who may not vote if we are not on the ballot and that is very big number to ignore,” Kabogo said. “Even the President has been endorsed by all the minor parties and independents. What script are they reading from that? We all have the duty of making sure that the turnout is high,” Nyokabi said.
Governor Irungu acknowledged the possibility of voters staying away but was quick to note that plans were underway to bring everybody on board.
“We will also develop a strategy to bring independents into the fold but we need to put our house (Jubilee nominees) in order first before we reach out to them,” Irungu said.