Football star McDonald Mariga is among 16 aspirants who will be interviewed today for the Jubilee Party ticket — to contest the Kibra parliamentary seat — as focus now shifts to the elections board.
The exercise comes in the backdrop of reported behind-the-scenes infighting pitting President Uhuru Kenyatta's allies against Deputy President William Ruto's backers.
It also emerged yesterday that the 11-member National Elections Board (NEB), chaired by Andrew Musangi, was split into two rival camps.
But Mr Musangi has assured of a free and fair process, stating that they will remain neutral and will not play into politics of affiliations.
He was upbeat that the team will complete the process and submit its nominee to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) by tomorrow’s deadline.
The ruling party's nominee will later face-off with Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s ODM candidate, Amani National Congress’s Eliud Owalo among other parties in the by-election that is shaping up to be a major political battle pitting Raila, Ruto and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi.
But it is the report of an alleged split in the Jubilee elections board that has heightened political tension ahead of the interviews, with claims that the side with majority members was likely to influence the outcome.
Already two members of the 11-member board have indicated that they will not attend the interviews as they will be engaged elsewhere.
Musangi has, however, downplayed the claims that the split could influence the outcome.
“The board has 11 members but not everybody will be around. Two of our members have since said they will not be available. Our quorum is four members,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned, the body must be neutral. We are the referee and we cannot afford to play partisan politics. When somebody comes and says they are affiliated to so and so that is irrelevant to our exercise,” he said.
But a party official who sought anonymity told The Standard that a majority of the members were allied to one of the camps and were likely to influence the interviews.
The official, however, said they will not contest the outcome as it will fuel the wrangles within the party.
Mariga, Morris Kinyanjui, Walter Trenk, Ibrahim Said, Doreen Wasike, Oscar Kambona, Bukachi Chapia, Jane Githaiga, Jack Owino, Elli Rajab and Daniel Aden are some of the individuals to be interviewed.
Others are Daniel Orogo, Ramadhan Hussein, Frank Amollo, Timothy Kaimenyi and Geoffrey Mwangi.
Dr Ruto’s camp reportedly favours Mariga’s candidature and had sensationally claimed that their rivals in the ruling party, led by Secretary General Raphael Tuju, had hatched a plot to field a weak candidate to help opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM candidate win.
The Uhuru wing of the party, however, insisted that it was in charge of party affairs even as it accused Ruto’s side of pushing for Mariga’s candidature.
Musangi said the team will adhere to the procedures and constitution of the party in identifying the right candidate for the by-election. The Kibra seat fell vacant following the death of Ken Okoth.
Tuju said Jubilee was wary the contest would raise political temperatures and scuttle the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) agenda of the handshake.
“We were sensitive on the survival of BBI and the short lived involvement in the electoral process, especially within Nairobi after the divisive general election in 2017,” he said. Tuju also reckons that Jubilee Party has a bigger support base in Kibra, much more than they had in Embakasi South and Ugenya constituencies.
ODM, which has traditionally enjoyed fanatical support, had planned to have its primaries last Saturday but pushed it to this Saturday.
The opposition outfit had more than 20 aspirants but only submitted 11 names to IEBC after the others failed to pay nomination fees.
ODM opted for nomination to choose its flag bearer to avoid disenfranchising voters.
The party has announced it will conduct door-to-door campaigns once it has picked its candidate as it leaves nothing to chances following back-to-back defeats in the three by-elections in Ugenya, Embakasi South and Wajir West.
The Moses Wetang’ula-led Ford Kenya announced on Friday that it would field its own candidate.
Reports indicate that Ford Kenya candidate will likely be Butichi Khamisi, who just defected from ANC after Raila’s former aide, Eliud Owalo, was handed the party ticket.
Those who are seeking ODM’s ticket include Ken Okoth’s brother Bernard Otieno (Imran), Christone Odhiambo alias Kris Darlin, Peter Ochieng, Tony Ogola Sira, Reuben Ojijo and Stephen Okello.
Others are Eric Ochieng, Brian Owino, John Otieno, Benson Musungu and Patrick Lumumba Owade.
ODM opted for nomination to choose its flag bearer to avoid disenfranchising a section of voters.
Okoth’s legacy and style of developmental leadership are expected to weigh heavily on the candidates. The late MP invested in education to equalise the conditions but the average voter in Kibra still has no access to running water.