2017 polls: Politicians who bit off more than they could chew and lost big time

Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale's during the Senate Public Accounts Committee meeting to discuss Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya at Parliament Buildings on May 25, 2017 (Photo: Moses Omusula|Standard)

Kenya’s 2017 protracted political season claimed a few uber-vocal  giants of the political season.

Wrong party choices, popular waves and a host of blunders and egos played a huge part in holding these former powerful individuals behind.

This was the year that former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale bit off more than he could chew. The rubble-rousing bull fighting aficionado  started off the year in his usual garrulous fashion, making it clear that he would not be running for the senate any more and that his eyes were firmly set on unseating current Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

Khalwale’s attempt at becoming governor fell flat as Oparanya, in spite of the aficionado's his onsiderable display of political energy.

Quashed dreams

Khalwale’s involvement in NASA national politics did little to endear him to the electorate. With other non-elective political positions within the Opposition being fully shared, Khalwale might be staring at a hard and cold five years in political wilderness.

But unlike many of his former colleagues at the legislature, the medical doctor has a career he can fall back to.

The post-Kibaki years were not kind for Martha Karua and 2017 was sure to become the come back year for the no-nonsense veteran politician. All seemed to go according to plan until a spanner hit the works when Anne Waiguru decided to throw her hat into the ring for the Kirinyaga governorship.

In a region where Jubilee support is almost fanatical, Karua was brave enough to go it with her party Narc Kenya. It will be interesting to see whether she has any more lives to re-invent herself in the ever-changing political scene.

Dennis Waweru dreamt of occupying Nairobi’s top seat, too. A one time front-runner in the race to City Hall, Waweru is slowly discovering that although it is lonely at the top, life sure is lonelier at the bottom. Whispers that he was a favourite candidate for the Jubilee ticket wafted into his ears and he set out on an incredible campaign to get the nod from the party fathers.

He never got even a wink. By the time he realised it, it was too late. The investment banker tried to scurry back to defend his Dagoretti South parliamentary seat but the electorate had not forgotten a speech he once infamously made, telling them he was destined for greater things such as the governorship. They gave him the boot. Still, he could get a State job.

Ababu Namwamba flew too close to the sun and got burned. The wax, holding the feathers that made up his wings at a time when he was soaring high above many of his peers, slowly started to melt. And with that, the feathers came undone and he began his downward spiral into what seems like political oblivion. The young, flashy and eloquent former Budalangi MP looks set to be the next Eugene Wamalwa, shunned at home but eager to please the powers that be.

However, unlike many of those with whom he suffers the same fate, time is on his side. Ababu is young enough to mastermind a comeback of sorts that will perhaps raise him to the previous heights of political glory. A better 2018 must surely be on his list of resolutions.

Getting it wrong

He never seems to get it right and he finds himself clasping at the coattails of a political career dimming with every passing election. But from where he stands, Peter Kenneth’s political future has never been brighter and after being floored by the then unpolished, self-styled man of the people in the Jubilee Party nominations, and eventually coming third in the gubernatorial elections for Nairobi, PK still believes he has whatever it takes to prescribe an antidote to what ails his city and his country.

2017 is a year he will wish to forget. Unlucky for him, Kenyans will remember that he once was MP then wanted to be president, then wanted to be governor. Someone needs to tell him that sometimes, as John Ruganda said, too much ambition breaks a man. And when this happens, there might not be enough people around to pick up the pieces.

At a certain moment in history, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru was among the most sought-after politicians. She had appeal. Unquestioning appeal from her core group of supporters which included her church members and the small scale traders of the great city of Nairobi. The former assistant minister went to war for her party bosses and won the battles. But 2017 has been a year of losses for her. She aligned herself to the Mike Sonko camp, speaking out against alleged outsiders who wanted to take over Nairobi leadership.

When the gong sounded, she was not among those who did a victory lap. For yet another Sunday, the thanksgiving mass at the Jesus Is Alive Ministry did not have a session where members give thanks for her success in an election. A government appointment might be a prayer item on her 2018 wish list.

Maina Kamanda has been the proverbial colossus in Nairobi politics. A whole generation of Starehe residents have known no other legislator than him. It seemed almost treasonable to think of his ouster from the political scene. But the man, fond of talking down reporters, often dropping managing editor and editorial director names mid interview and who often said he had ears and eyes in all corners of his constituency, could not see defeat coming.

It might have taken the tears of Charles Njagua, his successor, on live TV for him to acknowledge defeat, but he finally did. Setting the sun on an era of political dominance. Jubilee however cushioned his fall by nominating him to Parliament. 

When Isaac Ruto started talking about the rain of devolution, he never thought his political career would be swept aside by the resultant storm. He prayed for showers in his famed ‘manyunyu manyunyu’ rallying call. Instead, he was hit by hailstones. After months of being on the NASA campaign trail, he suddenly became a no-show in some of the most important Opposition events.

Limping campaigns

Bomet might never look to him again. He spent the last quarter of the year looking after his dairy cows, sheltered a few metres from a helipad built as his reign came to a close.

2017 has been the year of the ill-fitting shoe for Hassan Omar. Ever since he publicly declared his interest in Mombasa’s top seat, he never seemed to walk right. Always wobbling. Unsure. Either miss-stepping or stepping on everyone’s toes. His campaign limped through the finish line, which he claimed was constantly being moved around by his main opponent Hassan Joho.

Days after the polls, he went on a full out assault on not only his competitor but his party and coalition as well. In Mombasa, it seemed his sermons never hit home, and perhaps, he has to work harder than he previously thought to make his mark in the coastal resort city. Already, there are pretenders to his position as probable successor. But like the youthful Ababu, time may be on his side.

Paul Otuoma ran the race of his life in Busia but when he got to the tape, it had already been cut. The vicious campaign cycle he had waged attempting to dislodge Sospeter Ojaamong as Busia governor fell short and he realised that winning a Kenyan election needs much more than donning military fatigues and looking dapper for the cameras.