Diehard supporters of multi-party crusader Kenneth Matiba are remembered for coining the phrase 'voting three-piece'.
It is the trend in which if you choose to vote for a certain presidential candidate, you also vote for candidates vying for all other seats on his or her party ticket.
In the 1992 election, Matiba supporters didn't even care to know names of the candidates vying for parliamentary and civic seats on his party ticket. All they looked for was any slot with Matiba's electoral symbol - a two-finger salute - and ticked 'yes'. They came to know names of those they had elected once in office!
Then ruling party secretary-general Joseph Kamotho, well known for his sharp tongue harshly remarked that "even a dog vying on Matiba's party ticket would have been elected!"
Third President Mwai Kibaki never believed in three-piece blind vote and insisted that every candidate must give his or her own account, not merely joy-ride on a party ticket.
He referred to leaders elected merely on party wave as 'bure kabisa' (useless) and 'mafi ya kuku' (chicken droppings).
In the 1992 election Matiba party gave Nairobi a semi-illiterate mayor who said he wouldn't allow in the city "any [vegetation] taller than grass". He also vowed to "kirasi" (crash) any "kanjora" (councillor) who didn't "forow" (follow) him. During the reign of yet another mayor elected on Matiba party ticket, the official mayoral golden chain 'disappeared' only to be retrieved under the pillow of his bed!
And in Kinangop constituency was an elected a MP on Matiba ticket who was a self-proclaimed prophetess but who never opened her mouth on the floor of the House. It is councilors elected on Matiba's party who institutionalised exchange of fisticuffs as means of 'sorting' out matters at the City Hall.
Electing candidates merely because they have contested on ticket of the popular presidential candidate or political party is a trend that still lingers in Mt Kenya region and its diaspora. Immediate former Nakuru Governor Lee Kinjanjui is on record regretting that Mt Kenya region will keep paying the price for electing what he called in vernacular 'tugege' (zombies). His language may have been harsh but the substance of his statement was spot on. Without dropping any names, just compare calibre of leaders elected in Mt Kenya and say Nyanza region in terms of grasp of issues, track record and background. There is a clear difference.
Trial and error
I will use Laikipia County to illustrate my point. Though I reside and vote in the capital Nairobi, I have my roots in Laikipia.
Since the onset of multi-party politics, Laikipia electorate has played see-saw in picking their leaders. In 1992 election for instance, Laikipia West constituency voted a 'stranger' in Kihika Kimani as their MP.
Though owning a farm in Lakipia, Kihika's home was Nakuru where the daughter is today the area governor. As MP for Laikipia, Kihika was hardly seen on the ground and never uttered a word in Parliament!
At the end of his term in 1997. he unceremoniously bolted back to where he had come from.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
In 1997, Laikipia West electorate voted in Chege Mbitiru whose main 'credential' was that he was a home-boy unlike Kihika Kimani. The 'home-boy' never did much for those who elected him. For many years he was unable to complete a house he had started to build at his father's homestead in Tandare village. Voters threw him out claiming that that one who couldn't build his own house couldn't enable anybody else build theirs!
In 2002 Laikipia West retrieved from woodworks veteran GG Kariuki, a throwback from pre-independence politics who had been consigned to political dustbin on falling afoul with second President Daniel Moi.
Actually, it isn't GG who the electorate voted for. It is the party on whose ticket he vied. In Mt Kenya region - actually in the whole country - there was great euphoria to signify end of Kanu's 24 year stay in power. The opposition Narc was the party of the moment, more so in Mount Kenya and the Lake region.
It was another of those elections where JJ Kamotho would have said that anybody or anything vying on Narc ticket would have sailed through without a second thought. GG Kariuki, like many others, was merely a beneficiary of Narc wave, and not track record. Indeed, when Narc was no more in the 2007 election, he couldn't secure the nomination ticket of the PNU party which had taken over from Narc as the party of the moment in Mt Kenya. He lost to youthful Ndiritu Muriithi, then making his debut in electoral politics.
GG was to politically recreate himself in 2013 riding on the Jubilee wave. Again, it isn't him the electorate voted for. It is the TNA party in the Jubilee coalition which was the vehicle of the moment and all one needed was to secure the party ticket - through hook or crook - and you were as good as elected ahead of the voting day. Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper took away GG just before 2017 election so there is no knowing how he would have fared in the election that year.
Come 2017 election, Laikipia electorate made history by refusing to vote on wave of Jubilee that swept Mt Kenya with fury. Not so for Laikipia governor seat. Word in Mt Kenya region was that Jubilee had list of the 'chosen' candidates and who then Deputy President William Ruto vigorously campaigned for in his early campaign to be President.
Muriithi sought Jubilee ticket in the gubernatorial contest. He couldn't secure it because he wasn't in the favoured list. Not to give up, he contested as an independent. He went to the electorate with a plan of action which people liked and they gave him the winning votes.
True to his word, Governor Muriithi tried his best to live to his campaign manifesto and covenant with the electorate. Key pillar in his development plan was to build modern towns in Laikipia to be spring boards and catalysts for rural development.
For instance, in my home village Kinamba and Sipili were picked for the model. I have just been to Kinamba town and was greatly impressed by what it has become.
Before Governor Muriithi, the town was another of the dusty village trading centres. Today, it is a modern town with paved roads, electricity and piped water was just on the way before euphoria struck back and Muriithi was shown the door.
But last weekend, the many I talked to in my rural village said 'Kaba Muriithi!' (Better Muriithi) They have learned the hard way that if it ain't broken don't fix it, and that voting on euphoria is 'bure kabisa'.