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First-term MPs with eyes on governor seats face tough battle

By Ndungu Gachane | November 8th 2021


Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua speaks during the funeral service the late Richard Kaguchia father to Nyeri county assembly speaker John Kaguchia at Kiuu Primary School in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County, September 29, 2021. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

A crop of first-term MPs from Mt Kenya region have abandoned relatively safe seats to offer themselves for the governor positions.

While some may see them as being over ambitious and biting more than they can chew, the legislators have exuded confidence that they will trounce incumbent governors in next year’s General Election.

The MPs include Patrick Wainaina, alias Wainaina Wa Jungle (Thika Town) in Kiambu County, Kirinyaga Woman Representative Wangui Ngirici, Patrick Mariru (Laikipia West), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira in Nyeri) and John Muchiri (Manyatta in Embu).

There are also senators Enoch Wambua (Kitui) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru) who are aligning themselves for a bruising political battle against the incumbents to win governor seats.

Despite their little experience in politics, having ventured into the game in 2017, the legislators say they have heeded to the cries of the electorate who have seen their potential to work for Wanjiku.

Ngirici says she is not over-ambitious, adding that her political pillars from Kirinyaga County had wanted her to seek the governor’s seat in 2017 but she opted for the woman representative position. She says she has now heeded to “the people’s advice”.

Due to her decision to oppose her political friend turned foe Anne Waiguru, there is a build-up of fierce political battles in Kirinyaga, spiced up by the presence of Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua who will for the second time try to edge out the incumbent. The three women are political bigwigs in the county.

In a county endowed with leaders with huge financial muscles, Ngirici, who has brought in her husband Andrew to manage her campaigns, pegs her hopes on Deputy President William Ruto’s popularity and his affiliated United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

She has mounted billboards in the county popularising her bid under the ‘Kirinyaga Kwanza’ slogan.

“The electorate wanted me to vie for governor in 2017 but I stood with my decision. I have only heeded to cries and requests that I become the third governor of Kirinyaga,” she says.

Although she manages the National Government Affirmative Action Fund, Ngirici has introduced a parallel system to that of the county government through her Ngirici and Sons Rescue Team, a group that offers free services to residents, including the provision of water, healthcare and ambulance services.

Those opposed to her mode of operations accuses her of undermining Waiguru’s administration.

Her team has a fleet of vehicles, including ambulances and other service utility vehicles. In 2017, her flashy campaigns were characterised by helicopters and luxury vehicles.

Wainaina Wa Jungle says his track record in turning around Thika Town Constituency has informed him to look for a bigger seat to “transform Kiambu into a middle-income county”.

The soft-spoken MP, who won the seat on an independent ticket in 2017, says Sh100 million from the NG-CDF kitty has done wonders in his constituency and that with a Kiambu budget, which is 100 times more, he can change Kiambu into a “Kenyan Caanan”.

“I reflected on how we have been able to utilise NG-CDF and improved the state of schools in Thika by awarding the youth with registered self-help groups with contracts and this informed me to look for a higher office to change the status of Kiambu County,” Wainaina says.

He will be battling it out with the incumbent James Nyoro and former Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who is facing corruption charges in court.

In Laikipia, the race is taking shape, with Mariru and former Governor Joshua Irungu aligning themselves with UDA to unseat Ndiritu Muriithi elected on an independent ticket and ready to defend his seat on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket.

Mariru, a former County Assembly speaker, will also face Miriam Mwangi and Silvia Museiya who have also announced their plans to contest for the governor position.

In Nyeri, Rigathi is believed to be interested in the governor seat and is likely to fight fopr the UDA ticket. However, for now, the man who has declared his bid is Mathira NG-CDF Chairman Wahome Mwangi and former Family Bank CEO Peter Munyiri.

The newcomers are raring to get into an interesting race that may possibly include incumbent Mutahi Kahiga and Senator Ephraim Maina.

In Nakuru, Kihika, a close ally of Ruto, is on record saying she would vie for the Nakuru governor’s seat and that she is ready to stage an all-out political war against Governor Lee Kinyanjui.

The woman rep, who is a daughter of the late maverick former Nakuru North MP Kihika Kimani, is a first-term MP. Before joining the National Assembly in 2017, she served as Nakuru County Assembly speaker between 2013 and 2017.

Elsewhere in Kitui, Senator Wambua, a former senior editor and a foot soldier of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, has declared his intentions to unseat Governor Charity Ngilu.

Mt Kenya region returned a relatively high number of political debutants as the first crop of governors in 2013. They included Mwangi wa Iria in Murang’a, Joseph Ndathi in Kirinyaga, Kinuthia Mbugua in Nakuru, Joshua Irungu in Laikipia and Samuel Ragwa in Tharaka Nithi.

In the second post-devolution election, the only debutant who made it was Waiguru in Kirinyaga and the only first-term MP who became governor was Muthomi Njuki in Tharaka Nithi.

In Murang’a and Embu, governors Wa Iria and Martin Wambora will be exiting the scene after serving two terms. Among the debutants seeking to inherit Wa Iria’s seat in a crowded race are Water Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu and former Cabinet Secretary Irungu Nyakera. Former Minister Jamleck Kamau is seen as a front runner in the race.

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