Early campaigns: Poisoned chalice or blessing in disguise for country?

Governor Johnson Sakaja (right) is battling fires of discontent from Embakasi East MP Babu Owino
(left) and Senator Edwin Sifuna (centre). [File, Standard]

Several politicians have mounted early campaigns barely two years after the country went to polls.

The leaders have seemingly adopted the same route as President William Ruto long before the 2022 elections.

For the incumbents, it is a race against time to deliver on campaign promises.

The increasing political temperatures in some constituencies and counties could be a poisoned chalice, derailing development.

On the other hand, the heightened political pressure on elected leaders is likely to compel the incumbents to perform.

The early jostling is part of the reason for the persistent squabbles between governors, their deputies, senators, and a host of MPs across the country.

In Nairobi, Governor Johnson Sakaja is among the incumbents battling fires of discontent from a stream of leaders keen to send him packing in 2027.

He is facing intense criticism from Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and Senator Edwin Sifuna.

In Nyanza, several leaders have entered the fray to challenge the incumbents and are poking holes in the leaders’ work.

This is despite several attempts by ODM leader Raila Odinga to calm storms and stop his troops from early campaigns. However, Raila also appears to be reading different scripts. Recently, the ODM chief endorsed Suba South MP John Mbadi to unseat Caroli Omondi.

The move has escalated the competition between Mbadi and Caroli with the two intensifying their efforts to ring-fence grassroots support.

In Migori, Raila’s ally Governor Ochilo Ayacko is facing similar competition. MPs Peter Masara (Suna West) and Mark Nyamita (Uriri) are all salivating for Ayacko’s seat and have vocal in criticising his administration.

Nyamita and Masara have publicly declared their interest in the governor seat. Nyamita at a past function asked politicians to focus on their jobs, saying any non-performing leader would be sent packing.

“Anyone who does not work will go home,” Nyamita remarked.

But Ayacko maintains he knows what is expected of him.

“When I was elected, I knew what I could do. MPs also have their own functions and everyone should focus on their mandates. When you say some people will not be reelected that is your own. We have leaders who brought big projects but were not re-elected.”

Last week, Nyamita and Ayacko separately toured Migori town. This is after they had addressed residents at Migori Primary and Junior Secondary School where regional athletic games were being held.

Ayacko walked from the venue to Marindi market while Nyamita walked to Posta grounds.

The same was displayed when Nyamita conducted a groundbreaking ceremony at Sibuoche market on April 5.

On Friday, Masara also declared his interest to unseat Ochillo at a burial in North Kanyamkago ward, Uriri Sub-County. “Leaders will be rewarded according to the work they do,” Masara said.

Political analyst Mark Bichachi says the country has had early campaigns for decades.

According to Mr Bichachi, this has had every president complain about how they can’t get any work done because everyone is campaigning.

“Matters are made worse when sitting officials in public service do their work with campaigns in mind. Shifting time and resources away from a national outlook to his political base,” Bichachi says.

He believes such campaigns will not stop because Kenyans don’t choose leaders on merit.

Constitutional lawyer Joshua Nyamori says Kenya is a very political country and believes the ballooning political activities will only increase in the coming months.

“We should not cheat ourselves that we will stop politics and await for five years,”  Nyamori says.

He opines that those in leadership should be ready to chew gum and climb the stairs at the same time.

“At least that is what the president has demonstrated, that he is able to build his political empire and continue moving around and doing political meetings and also development meetings and supervising development across the country,” he says.

In Western region, governors are sitting on the edge of their seats as opponents begin to angle for their seats amid calls from the electorate to deliver on their pledges.

In Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia political activities have heightened.

In Kakamega, Senator Boni Khalwale has declared interest to unseat Governor Fernandes Barasa.

Barasa has consistently termed Khalwale a selfish leader with no track record to show to the people of Kakamega County.

“He (Khalwale) was an MP for Ikolomani for 10 years and he never brought any development, let alone constructing a toilet. It is through the current MP Benard Shinali that the people of Ikolomani are now seeing development,” said Barasa.

However, Khalwale accuses Barasa of failing to take Kakamega to greater heights than where his predecessor Wycliffe Oparanya left.

Analysts opine that the early campaigns in Western spells doom for the region and will scuttle development.

Political Analyst Barrack Muluka argues that the people of Western region are bound to miss out on development unless governors focus on fulfilling their pledges and desist from engaging their detractors.

“Barasa inherited a big show that was left by his predecessor Wycliffe Oparanya and he should focus more on doing actual development projects because many people feel that the governor is missing in action and he should stop engaging those trying to vie for the governor seat,” said Muluka.

Similarly, in Coast region, Taita-Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime has warned his opponents that it will not be easy for them to dislodge him from power.

Mwadime told his supporters that those campaigning for 2027 do not have the interests of the local community at heart and should be rejected.

“The county has lost a lot due to early campaigns and disunity among local elected leaders. I want to tell those campaigning now that they will not unseat me as the electorate will decide the destiny of the county,” Mwadime said.

Those eyeing the county top seat include Senator Jones Mwaruma and Wundanyi MP Danson Mwashako.

Recently when Raila launched the party’s recruitment drives in the region, Mwadime hinted at rejoining ODM, an issue that did not augur well with Mwaruma who is the party’s national vice chairman.

Mwaruma told delegates that they should never vote for any independent candidate in future.

In Rift Valley, the early jostling reared its ugly head as governors of Nakuru, Kericho and Bomet were heckled in front of President Ruto during his tour of the region.

The three governors were elected on UDA tickets, and the intrigues are instigated by members of their own coalition.

In Nakuru, Senator Tabitha Keroche, MPs Paul Chebor (Rongai), Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South) and former Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri have been at the forefront criticising Governor Susan Kihika’s leadership.

[Report by Harold Odhiambo, Benard Lusigi, Anne Atieno and Nehemiah Okwembah]