Raila, Ruto factor to shape Nakuru governorship race

From left, DP William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Senator Susan Kihika and Governor Lee Kinyanjui. [File, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga's political influence is at play in the Nakuru gubernatorial contest pitting the governor and senator.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui who is seeking re-election will face off with Senator Susan Kihika in the 2022 General Election.

Mr Kinyanjui's political dalliance with Raila and Ms Kihika’s association with Ruto may be a big factor in the outcome of the governorship race.

They two are seeking to outdo each other and are banking on their growing influence to tilt the votes in their favour.

Speaking in Ngata, Rongai constituency on Saturday, the senator said she will not allow Kinyanjui to treat her like an underdog.

"The governor has the advantage that he speaks but I have no chance to rebut. You (governor) will sow the seed of discord in the country and I give you notice that we will not entertain those behaviours of ODM in the country. Stop using your friends to attack me," said Kihika.

"Stop lying to the people about the creation of new five constituencies proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). This is the role of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). When it comes to 35 per cent of resources to counties, again it can be achieved through a parliamentary process. We are not ignorant of the law," she added.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession race is also likely to influence how the voters of the cosmopolitan county will cast the ballot.

Two weeks after Kinyanjui hosted Raila in Elburgon, Molo constituency, Kihika played host to Ruto and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) brigade at her Ngata home.

The governor has also aligned himself with a group of Mt Kenya leaders who are spearheading the ODM leader's campaign under the leadership of President Uhuru.

The senator has been at the forefront of championing for Ruto to succeed Uhuru and marketing the UDA party in Rift Valley, with Nakuru county registering 243,000 members.

Senator Susan Kihika (left) and Governor Lee Kinyanjui. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

UDA secretary Genera Veronica Maina noted that the county has 1 million registered voters.

The Kikuyu are dominant in the county while other communities include Luo, Luhya, Kisii, Kamba and Maasai.

But when it comes to elections, decisions made in Mt Kenya largely affect how the people vote.

Nakuru politically associates with the mountain and this has seen Kinyanjui align the county development and political agenda with that of central Kenya.

To counter the UDA wave, Kinyanjui has decided to rally behind Raila; and twice in a span of two months, he has hosted the ODM leader.

The governor, an ally of Uhuru, hosted Raila on August 17 during the launch of the ‘Azimio la Umoja’ strategic plan aimed at uniting the country ahead of next year’s polls.

The ODM leader returned to the county last month for the burial of David Muchai, the founder of Mololine services in Elburgon, Molo sub-county. The governor used the platform to publicly declare support for a Raila presidency saying he has been close to the Head of State at the hour of need.

“You have been always too close to President Uhuru and your support to the Jubilee government won’t go unrewarded,” Kinyanjui said.

Nakuru is the political bedrock of the ruling Jubilee Party and the fallout between the president and his deputy has led to a political realignment.

Kinyanjui is crafting a new political party after expressing fear that the Jubilee Party that saw him win the governorship has fallen out of favour with majority voters in the region.

His allies have taken over the Citizen Convention Party and renamed it Ubuntu Peoples Forum.

“Nakuru politics has always been influenced by what happens at the national level. But this time around it will not be easy for either of them because the county is torn between support for Raila and Ruto,” said political analyst Prof Naituli Gitile.

Prof. Gitile Naituli. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Gitile noted that Kinyanjui’s dalliance with Raila may work for or against him, depending on which presidential candidate manages to win over the 949,618 registered voters (2017 IEBC data).

“In 2013/2017, Nakuru rallied behind the UhuRuto ticket, the outcome was evident,” he said.

“In 2022, Uhuru’s name will not be on the ballot but Ruto’s will. Ruto brought the Rift Valley vote in the past two elections and the repeat presidential poll, and it is highly likely that the region, including Nakuru, will vote for him almost to a man,” said the professor of management and leadership at Multimedia University.

The governor wants residents to reject leaders who have been criticising the president yet they serve in the same government.

"I want to urge the great people of Nakuru to reject leaders who hop from church to church criticising the President and also claim to be part of the same government," he said.

The senator was instrumental in the London ward by-election campaigns that saw UDA's Anthony Nzuki emerge victorious.

“I have no doubt in my mind that I am in the winning team. The people of Nakuru know that Ruto is the next in line for the presidency and they will not want to gamble with their votes,” she told The Standard.

Kinyanjui, maintained that Nakuru has a unique interest to safeguard the country’s socio-economic and political matrix.

“In Kenya, politics is essentially local. Any meaningful impact in national power conversation must-have home backing. Consequently, we are approaching the 2022 polls from a self-interest point of view. We shall work with those who value us," he said.

Kinyanjui has also hosted other presidential aspirants like Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.