As the August 2022 General Elections draw near, stakes are high in the vote-rich counties, among them Nakuru, which played an integral part in President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory.
In 2017, the county had 949,618 registered voters, which surpassed the one million mark following the registration of 58,436 new voters by November 2, 2021.
While a majority of the incumbent elected leaders clinched their seats through the ruling Jubilee Party tickets, the battle to control a million votes is now between two new political outfits.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui recently formed a new political party Ubuntu People’s Forum (UPF), which he has embarked on a journey to popularize across the county.
However, Deputy President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) appears to be keen on countering Kinyanjui’s move if his recent forays are anything to go by.
On October 9 and 10, Governor Kinyanjui took his campaigns to Naivasha and Gilgil, where he hosted opposition leader Raila Odinga.
During the visit, Kinyanjui drummed support for Raila and termed him as the surest bet for Nakuru to find itself on the table for sharing the national cake after the next polls.
“I am glad that Raila is of the idea that we need more youth in the cabinet and other leadership positions. Nakuru must produce a cabinet secretary for the first time since the 1960s,” said Kinyanjui.
Raila assured the youth of inclusivity in his government if elected, adding that he would come up with policies promoting entrepreneurship among the youth.
“We shall address the restoration of Lake Naivasha and create an environment for investments in the county. The youth must get a share of the opportunities in the upcoming industrial park in Naivasha,” said Raila.
On November 9, DP Ruto toured the same areas during which he drummed support for his bottom-up economic model and dismissed claims that Raila had managed to make inroads in the region.
“In our bottom-up strategy, we shall empower the youth as planned in the Big Four agenda. My priority shall be allocating funds to sectors that create jobs for the youth,” said Ruto in Gilgil.
On November 18 and 19, Governor Kinyanjui took his campaigns to Njoro sub-County, where he made stopovers in Tipis, Mau Narok, Mauche, Naishi, Bagaria, among other trading centres.
During the tour, Kinyanjui launched Lari Vocational Training Centre, emphasizing the need to empower the youth with skills that would make them self-reliant and contributors to the economy.
He also campaigned for Raila and his new party, saying that UPF was a vehicle to place Nakuru on the negotiating table after decades of exclusion despite overwhelmingly supporting winning candidates.
“The next government, which we must be part of, will focus on youth empowerment by imparting skills on them. Nakuru County has established an enterprise fund aimed at helping the youth in business,” said Kinyanjui.
DP Ruto and his UDA brigade toured the areas on November 25, making six stopovers between Mau Narok and Njoro towns, during which they campaigned against UPF and Raila’s candidature.
“I have heard some people claim that Nakuru is now behind ODM and its party leader. Is that true? Let Kinyanjui know that Nakuru will not go that direction but is behind UDA,” said Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika.
Kinyanjui took his campaigns to Subukia and Bahati on December 14, where he reiterated his commitment to growing UPF into a national party.
“UPF belongs to Nakuru people. It is our small car that we should not dump for a bigger SUV that belongs to our neighbours. I will defend my seat on the UPF ticket. The party shall field candidates for all positions except the presidency for which we shall back Raila,” said Kinyanjui.
On December 18, Ruto returned to Nakuru, beginning his visit in Lanet, Bahati, before proceeding to Subukia town and Kabazi trading centre, where he called on the residents to vote for a UDA six-piece suit set of leaders in the coming polls.
During the tour, Ruto allies led by Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri lashed at Kinyanjui for forming a new party, which according to him, aimed at splitting the votes in favour of Raila.
“You have heard that our governor is now an affiliate of ODM with his new party. As Nakuru, we will not join ODM. We shall elect all UDA leaders starting from the top to bottom,” said Ngunjiri.
Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama has however come out to strongly defend Kinyanjui, terming Ruto’s campaigns as tracing Kinyanjui's footsteps out of fear that UPF is now a threat to UDA.
"The DP is frustrated by the new party, which threatens to take a share of the one million votes. He and his lieutenants are out to scuttle progress made by Kinyanjui. Nakuru is big, but they are choosing to campaign where Kinyanjui visits days later," said Arama.
The second-term lawmaker who is yet to declare which party he will vie on said he would back Kinyanjui for the governorship position.
"Although Kinyanjui has formed a new party, he is allied to Azimio la Umoja dream. For that reason and the development he has achieved, I will support him regardless of the party he will vie on," said Arama.