Political heavyweights staring at life in the cold after August duel

Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko and Governor Evans Kidero. (Photo: Courtesy)

The prospect of career-shattering election loss is stalking dozens of prominent politicians, retired senior civil servants and high riding private sector executives who have lined up to compete in the August 8 General Election.

Across the country, an uncertain future beckons for many aspirants, who range from washed out politicians seeking a come-back, incumbents eyeing bigger and lucrative seats and former civil servants craving the power associated with political seats.

Thousands of hopefuls have lined up for governor, parliamentary and county assembly seats. But there can only be one person for each of these seats. Losers will end up on the fringes of mainstream politics at best or suddenly find themselves at the end of their political careers at worst.

One-term governors

“This an election in which we are going to see giants fall with a thud,” said Javas Bigambo, a political commentator in Nairobi.

The August 8 elections may go down as the contest where the highest number of political supremos were sent home. Kenya’s political landscape is awash with heavyweights running against each other, with the governor’s position attracting the most.

In Nairobi, there’s Governor Evans Kidero, Senator Mike Sonko and former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth. If Kidero loses, he will hold the dubious record of being the first one-term governor of Kenya’s capital. If Sonko loses, he too, will end up on the fringes of city politics for at least five years, until the next election when he could try again.

Kenneth, who vied for the presidency in 2013 and lost, spent five years in the cold and is now gunning for the city’s gubernatorial seat.

“If Kenneth loses, that will be another five years. Can you imagine how hard it will be to come back after 10 years in the cold? The good news is that if the stars align, and he is picked as the heir apparent in the Uhuru succession in 2022 — assuming Uhuru wins — then he will have a good chance,” said Bigambo.

The danger of political oblivion for well known political heavyweights also beckons in Meru, Kiambu, Bomet, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kirinyaga, Kitui, Laikipia, Kisumu and Busia counties.

Political titans Kiraitu Murungi (senator) and Peter Munya (governor) are due for a face off in Meru. In Mombasa, outspoken Senator Hassan Omar will fight it out with Governor Hassan Joho for the top seat.

In Kiambu, incumbent William Kabogo, who is running as an independent, also faces the prospect of being a one-term governor. He is running against Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu, who whitewashed him in the Jubilee primaries.

The stakes are even higher in Bomet, where Governor Isaac Ruto is facing off with National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso. Ruto has spent the past four years criticising the Jubilee government, even though he was elected to office through it. He now has his own party, Chama Cha Mashinani, and is a NASA principal.

He will therefore be seeking to show his political clout on August 8. Beating Laboso and delivering the Rift vote to NASA is his ultimate test yet.

In Kakamega, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has outspoken Senator Boni Khalwale to hold off.  Only one of them can be governor, yet they both have some miles left on their political odometer.

It is a loyalty test for governors Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and Cornel Rasanga (Siaya). Both are facing seasoned politicians, Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o and Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.

Ranguma lost the ODM nominations to Nyong’o and will be vying as an independent. Rasanga secured his party’s ticket and will face independent candidate Gumbo.

In Kirinyaga, it is a three-way fight for the governor’s seat between former powerful Devolution Cabinet Secretary Ann Waiguru, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua and the incumbent Joseph Ndathi. In Nakuru, Governor Kinuthia Mbugua will square it out with former assistant minister Lee Kinyanjui. Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua is facing former Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti.

Political cold

In Busia, Funyula MP Paul Otuoma is seeking to unseat Governor Sospeter Ojaamong.

“Losers will be in the cold for five years. In a sense, they face possible political oblivion. It is not easy to jump-start a political career after five years in the cold. You need relevant networks, money and political goodwill, which you lose significantly when you are outside,” said Bigambo.

 But county bosses have in their political arsenal the power of the incumbency, a strong network of contributors and are in control of billions of public funds, which they can deploy to meet unmet pledges.

The high stakes surrounding the elections means there will be an avalanche of election petitions after the polls.

That, plus the likely escalation of appeals through the Court of Appeal, and even the Supreme Court, increases the risk for a cycle of by-elections post-2018.