Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua seems to be walking a tightrope in his quest to retain his seat following the entry of former Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti, who is threatening to upstage him on a Wiper party ticket.
Until recently, Dr Mutua, who was elected on a Wiper ticket but formed his own Maendeleo Chap Chap Movement (MCC) party, was largely seen to have the upper hand as Wiper dithered over choosing a strong candidate to replace him.
But with Ms Ndeti now in the race, which has also attracted Mutua’s deputy Bernard Kiala (independent), the race just got tough for the governor.
Mutua is however promising a campaign like no other to defeat his opponents, saying he is buoyed by his track record over the last four years.
Stephen Kilonzo, the MCC secretary general, says Mutua has done a commendable job and should be given a second chance.
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“Mutua is leading a model that envisages swift realisation of development and any well-meaning person would go for that. This explains why MCC is the only political party with the highest number of aspirants at 1,850 for various positions. Kenyans want to identify with us,” Mr Kilonzo states.
But the governor continues to face a barrage of criticism from some county leaders and residents, most of whom are note impressed by his leadership style.
Their distaste was manifested at the weekend, when angry residents of Mavoko and Mlolongo towns booed Mutua and chased him away amid chanting of Wiper and NASA slogans as he attempted to address them.
Mutua blamed the ugly incident, in which his convoy was also pelted with stones, on his political detractors.
Ms Ndeti has no kind words for Mutua, whom she accuses of enriching himself while impoverishing county residents and engaging in publicity gimmicks with little to show for development.
“Mutua has created an empire of deceit and publicised it to a level where gullible people started believing his narrative. He is an illusionist who does small things and hypes them to appear big,” says Ndeti, adding that “Machakos has actually lost five years to self-serving PR and personal glorification”.
The Wiper governor candidate claims Mutua lacks basic administration skills, which has led to a dysfunctional county.
She says if she is elected, she will prioritise water and health provision as well as support the agriculture sector so residents can enjoy food security.
And she has extended an olive branch to Kiala, whom she defeated in the Wiper party nominations.
“I want to urge Kiala to come and work with us in the interests of the people he wanted to serve. But he should not come with any pre-conditions,” says Ndeti.
Mr Kiala has laughed off the offer, asserting that his desire is to throw Mutua and Ndeti off the political cliff to pave the way for him to offer “serious and sound leadership”. He says they are two sides of the same coin and they both epitomise failure.
“Honestly, Mutua’s replacement cannot be Wavinya. Just like Mutua, who is neck deep in corruption, Wavinya has integrity issues, therefore the two cannot offer the kind of leadership desired by our people. I stand tall among the two,” Kiala says.
The deputy governor says ever since he fell out with Mutua, he has engaged in a robust civic education exercise he calls ‘Kiala na Ugatuzi’ through which he has been educating the public on good governance and their participatory role in the running of county affairs.
He says as an independent candidate, he stands to offer a people-driven government.
“If Machakos people want good and accountable leadership, one that will seek their views in development projects; one that will be totally answerable to them, let them give me a chance,” Kiala pleads.
On the Wiper nominations, Kiala says the initial pact between the Ndeti-led Chama Cha Uzalendo party and Wiper placed him at a disadvantage.
“Wavinya forged ballot papers to rig the nominations and this tells you she can compromise her integrity to achieve her own ends,” Kiala claims, while revealing that the Wiper party offered him the position of Speaker if he dropped his bid, an offer he says he refused “because there was no sincerity in it”.