Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui will have to fend off competition from five opponents, including Senator Susan Kihika, to retain his seat.
Kinyanjui had initially said he would defend the seat on his Ubuntu People’s Forum party before President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the patron of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance, convinced him to join Jubilee Party.
Jubilee is a key member of Azimio la Umoja, whose presidential candidate is ODM leader Raila Odinga. The coalition brings together 26 political parties, including Narc Kenya of Martha Karua, Raila’s running mate, and Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper.
Apart from Kihika of Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA), and who is considered his main challenger based on the rivalry between the DP and Raila, the governor has four independent candidates to deal with. They are the first senator of Nakuru James Kiarie, businessmen Elijah Chege, Stanley Karanja, and Nicholas Munyua.
All the six candidates have been cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to vie for the top job in the vote-rich county, where the battle, in essence, is deemed to be between Uhuru and Ruto. The DP leads the Kenya Kwanza coalition that brings together 12 political parties, including Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya.
Kihika has Ruto’s blessings to run for the seat. The DP has also tasked her with coordinating his campaigns in the South and Central Rift counties.
The candidates picked their running mates based on gender and ethnic affiliations in the cosmopolitan county.
Kinyanjui has dropped his current deputy Eric Korir, a former lecturer at the University of Nairobi, and replaced him with a woman running mate, Joyce Kiprop, a career banker.
“Joyce is a career banker and she is passionate about mentoring girls and young women in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector. Her skills are much needed in our second term,” Kinyanjui said when unveiling her.
The governor had earlier on picked Francisca Kamuren as his running mate but dropped her over legal concerns. Kamuren had been an independent candidate for the Nakuru Town West parliamentary seat.
“This is proof that we have space for women in government. I will support Mr Kinyanjui, especially on economic growth, so we can move Nakuru back to the industrial hub it was some years back,” said Kiprop.
Kikuyu and Kalenjin are the dominant communities in Nakuru. That may have been the reason Kinyanjui, a Kikuyu, chose Kiprop, a Kalenjin, in his effort to ring-fence support from the two major communities.
Kinyanjui campaigned on the platform of improving health and infrastructure while seeking his first term. This time round, the governor says his second term, if he wins, will focus on the development of agriculture and economic empowerment of residents.
“We shall work towards reviving our industries, empowering farmers to produce more at lower costs. We will also continue to develop our education sector as we seek to improve on what we have already delivered,” he said.
Kihika has, on the other hand, picked David Kones as her running mate. Kones, who is a cleric and an educationist, is from the Kalenjin community, and his selection could have been based on gender and ethnic considerations.
Kihika said she will focus on provision of clean water and an effective health system across the 11 sub-counties.
“I am not looking for support based on my gender and capacity to perform. It is my wish that once elected, we’ll provide water for all residents. I have the assurance of DP Ruto that once elected, we shall revive the stalled Itare Dam project and tap more water from Chemususu Dam,” she said.
She said the current health system was a letdown to people in the villages, adding that most of the hospitals are understaffed.
“Having infrastructure alone is not enough. We need to have resident doctors and nurses in our facilities to guarantee our people health services any time they walk into a health centre,” said Kihika.
Kones said in addition to duties delegated to him by Kihika, he will lead in improving the Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE), which only has a handful of employed teachers.
Mungai, the former senator, also went for a woman running mate, Sarah Kuonoi, from a minority community – the Maasai.
“I believe the people of Nakuru are ready for a change. We want every community to feel part of Nakuru. We don’t want a situation where certain communities feel entitled to certain positions and privileges than others. We are also committed to peaceful and respectful campaigns,” said Mungai.
He said agriculture, value addition for various types of farm produce, and building a cohesive community will be key among his priority areas if elected.
Karanja, another independent candidate, has picked a youthful running mate, Fredrick Amulaka, in the hope that this will attract the youth and minority groups to vote for them.
“Amulaka is an agronomist and with his skills, we shall transform our agriculture sector into viable agribusiness for our farming communities. We will also work towards achieving a peaceful county,” said Karanja.
Chege has picked Amos Njuguna, a 29-year-old Nakuru-based businessman, as his running mate.
“My priority areas shall be economy, health, and education. I believe Nakuru has great potential that needs to be harnessed for the benefit of the people,” he said.
Chege said he will also strive to create jobs for the youth and revive the local economy, “which took a beating following the collapse of major industries two decades ago”.
Munyua, who is an engineer by training, has picked Benjamin Akenga, a veteran surgeon and former lecturer, as his running mate with their main focus being improvement of the health sector and water provision.
Dr Akenga said poor health services and lack of clean drinking water are the major challenges facing the county. He said with his experience in the medical field, their administration would turn around the situation.
“I have been a senior lecturer at various public universities where we founded medical schools. I have invested in the health sector and I know what needs to be changed to make Nakuru a county that others will visit for benchmarking,” he said.