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Peris Tobiko: 'Iron lady of Kajiado' now eyes governorship

By Peterson Githaiga | August 12th 2021
Kajiado East Member of Parliament Peris Tobiko. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

The woman angered some conservative Maasai elders so much that they invoked an ancient curse on her when she decided to run for a parliamentary seat in Kajiado County during the 2013 elections now wants to be governor.

Peris Tobiko, the Kajiado East MP, was accused of challenging the leadership of men. In the Maasai culture, which they have guarded so jealously, women are not expected to take up leadership roles in the society.

However, Peris would go ahead to scoop the seat and become the MP for Kajiado East, which was carved out of the larger Kajiado North Constituency.

Better known as "Iron lady of Kajiado", Peris faced many cultural barriers. Her opponents also capitalised on the fact that her husband comes from Narok and derisively told her to seek leadership in her husband's home county. The MP was labelled a foreigner.

However, the 'foreigner tag' backfired on her rivals as she used it to win over a huge number people who came from other regions and had settled in Kajiado, especially in urban centres. They had also felt alienated by the foreigner tag. Their votes, according to pundits, massively contributed to Peris' to victory.

Some analysts argued the MP was able to brave elders' curse because of migrant communities in Kajiado East, and especially in Kitengela, who made her feel she was not alone. Many of them, members of President Uhuru Kenyatta's The National Alliance (TNA) party on whose ticked she was elected, embraced her.

And her victory was not by fluke. Peris floored her seven male competitors to clinch the TNA nomination. Even then, the local elders maintained they could not accept a woman to lead them. The elders were accused of being used by the rivals of Peris to discredit her as all her male competitors supported their decision to curse her and any person who would vote for her. 

The elders went ahead to plan ceremony where they cursed the MP. However, local pastors and supporters of Peris would gather at the same venue later and made prayers to reverse the curse.

Peris continued to stand her ground which ended in victory. And now, some of the elders who opposed her are said to be some of her greatest supporters.

Among the rivals she beat was the ODM candidate Kakuta Maimai. Maimai lodged a petition in court to challenge her victory but lost.

Peris, who is serving her second term, now wants to supplant governor Joseph Ole Lenku in next year's General Election.

In a recent interview with The Standard, Peris promised her rivals, including Lenku who is keen to defend his seat, a resounding defeat.

She hopes things will be easy for her as opposed to 2013 when all odds were against her candidature. "The men have now understood women can also lead and this is an advantage to my quest," she said.

Peris said she hopes the development projects she has launched will endear her to voters. "I appeal to residents of Kajiado to elect a women governor this time round and I am ready. I urge them to give me a chance."

She added: "Our first governor was a man and so is our second county boss. Why don't we try a woman, for change?"

"Governor Lenku has been receiving more than Sh9 billion every year from the national government. What has he done with the money? I am receiving just Sh300 million for CDF and I have done so much with it. I am putting the governor on notice, to put his house in order or we will conclude he has failed in his duties," Peris said.

She accused the current administration of lacking transparency and respect for residents who elected it and pay taxes to sustain it.

"Residents of Kajiado are still grappling with poor roads, lack of sewer lines. At the moment I'm urging my supporters not to ask me about the political party I will vie on; we shall cross the bridge when we get there. All I know is that I will run for governor of Kajiado," she said.

Others said to be eyeing the seat include former governor David Nkedianye, Kajiado South MP Katoo ole Metito, former National Transport Safety Authority boss Francis Meja and former Olkejuado county council chairman Taraiya ole Kores.

But there are other factors that determine outcome of elections in Maasai land, including, clannism. Fights between a Jubilee factions allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto’s Tanga Tanga are likely to play a major role, not just in who becomes the next governor, but shape the battle for other seats as well.

The two major Maasai clans in Kajiado are Orok Kiteng’ (black cow) and Odomong’i (red cow). Here, the contest is hottest between Kaputiei and Kisongo sub-clans.

Metito is the only hopeful in the list currently supporting DP Ruto and his hustler slogan. The other candidates are allied to Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Lenku and Metito hail from Ilkisongo sub-clan while Peris and Nkedianye are from Ilkaputiei sub-clan. 

Meja and Kores belong to Ildamat and Irkekonyokie sub-clans respectively. 

Lenku says he is confident he will be re-elected based on his development record. "Among other things, we have improved health services. We have upgraded major health facilities including Kajiado County Referral Hospital and Oloitokitok sub-county hospital that are serving thousands of patients every day. The facilities are equipped with theaters," the governor said.

He added: "I shall defend my seat because my development record speaks for itself. I will be asking residents of Kajiado for a second term so I can complete several other projects I have initiated."

Those eyeing the county's top seat will also be cautious while picking their running mates, choices that may increase of lessen their chances of clinching the seat.

Those who settled in Kajiado from other regions are also expected to greatly influence the outcome of the elections. Kajiado is mostly cosmopolitan.

During the 2017 elections, Lenku garnered 174,982 votes to win the seat on Jubilee ticket, edging out the incumbent, ODM's Nkedianye, who bagged 146,634 votes. Lenku won most of the votes in urban centers while Nkedianye trounced him rural areas.  

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