Former Gatanga MP, Peter Kenneth, has rocked the hitherto low key race for Nairobi governor’s seat and stirred supremacy camps in Jubilee.
‘PK’ kept tongues wagging for months on end before making public his bid for the Nairobi County’s governor’s mansion. But when he dragged seven Nairobi Jubilee MPs led by Starehe MP Maina Kamanda and Woman Rep Rachel Shebesh to Jesus Winners Ministry on Thika Road to declare support for his bid, he created a full-blown political storm.
Others with ‘PK’ were Kamukunji MP, Yusuf Hassan, nominated senator Beatrice Elachi, Embakasi North MP James Gakuya, Embakasi West MP John Omondi, Roysambu MP Waihenya Ndirangu and Kasarani MP John Njoroge, as well as several MCAs.
Never until now has a Jubilee aspirant excited such internal fury and ferocious attacks normally reserved for opposition side, Cord, as Kenneth did last week.
In a furious reaction, close allies of Deputy President William Ruto denounced ‘PK’, amplifying Uasin Gishu Governor, Jackson Mandago’s recent statement that the United Republican Party (URP) wing of the Jubilee Party, viewed PK’s entry into the high-profile Nairobi race with suspicion.
On January 15, Senate Majority Leader, Prof Kithure Kindiki, the point man for the URP axis of the Jubilee, was at pains to paint Kenneth as an ‘outsider’, urging Jubilee supporters to be wary of him. Kindiki used choice epithets to deride Kenneth, denouncing him as having betrayed Uhuru by running for the presidency in 2013.
At the core of the excitement Kenneth has elicited are demographic, cultural and political factors that will sway how things turn out.
For one, there are over 1.8 million registered voters in Nairobi according to the 2016 IEBC figures, with about over 800,000 of them being Kikuyus. The second largest voting bloc is from Western Kenya (Luhya), which explains the strategic reasoning behind former City Hall town Clerk Philip Kisia’s name being mentioned as a possible running mate for ‘PK’ if he secures the Jubilee ticket.
Two, Kenneth, like Kamanda, Gakuya and Njoroge, are from Murang’a County, which traditionally projected itself as a fulcrum of city politics more than any other corner of Kenya, owing to substantial presence of residents with roots in Murang’a in property, business ownership and numbers.
The Murang’a crowd in politics and business has also been grumbling that it would be ‘unfair’ to have a president from Kiambu County at State House, and a governor from Kiambu County calling the shots at City Hall, cheekily aimed at the candidature of both Dennis Waweru and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, who are from Kiambu.
Regardless of the fact that democratic processes are about numbers, not skin colour, ancestry, gender or religion, Kenneth’s mixed-race, light skin has been thrown at him as a supposed disqualifying factor. “Do not be impressed by his light skin,” charged Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. “Do you want Mike Sonko (Nairobi Senator) to bathe in sulphuric acid to change his skin colour so you can elect him? “He posed.
Present when these comments were made at Jesus Is Alive Ministries on the Sunday of January 15 were Nairobi gubernatorial aspirants Mike Sonko, Johnson Sakanja, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and Dagoretti South MP, Denis Waweru- who are rooting for a straight nomination to pick the flag-bearer.
But the political stimuli behind the spirited attack to abort ‘PK’s’ candidature has to do with URP’s axis’ apprehension that a successful Nairobi governor’s contest could give ‘PK’ both national profile and political clout ‘to become problematic’ in DP William Ruto’s 2022 succession scheme.
Although ‘PK’ has repeatedly insisted his concern was Uhuru’s 2017 re-election bid and not 2022, still, that is yet to calm nerves in the URP axis.
During a meeting in Karen where DP Ruto was introducing aspirants - MPs, MCAs, Women Reps and Governors - Kenneth received the most applause when he introduced himself despite having arrived alone and without backing of his supporters, a source intimated, adding that Sakaja, Bishop Wanjiru and Dennis Waweru hardly mustered the decibels Kenneth received.
“It’s that point keen observers apparently became aware the meeting had been convened to measure the popularity of various candidates for the gubernatorial race, but the reception Kenneth received was apparently not what had been expected,” the source revealed.
After the meeting, the narrative of ‘foreigners’ being imposed on Nairobians, and Kenneth being hoisted on the city emerged, although the DP did not introduce anyone as a compromise candidate, but instead ‘implored’ all the aspirants to find means to settle on one to fly the Jubilee flag through consensus.
Water Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa, did not attend, after his bid to launch himself as a compromise candidate flopped once he was painted as a project of the URP axis to expand its electoral fortunes inside Jubilee.