The talk about a two-horse race between incumbent William Kabogo and Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu for the 2017 governor’s seat in Kiambu is a bit premature. Currently the two are the most visible, but others of equal or superior political and managerial muscle, could be preparing to tumble into the murky waters.
James Karanja Nyoro was the runner-up to Kabogo in the last gubernatorial race and mainly lost because he was not within Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee wave. Many especially those who appreciated that the governor’s position needed a person with sound managerial skills, wanted Nyoro to become the first supreme manager of Kiambu county. However, the last minute plea by President Kenyatta that the region vote in people from his vehicle in order for him to have a say in parliament and in the counties, knocked him out.
Nyoro would later be engaged by the Jubilee administration as a food security adviser, a position many thought he had taken to consolidate and prepare for 2017. Then in apparent frustration, he left government employment to join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). As the former African region managing director for the Rockefeller Foundation is based in the US and travels widely in Africa and Asia, observers thought he had given up on politics.
However those who interacted with him in December and part of January when he was in the country for annual holidays, indicate that the bug is still firmly in place and he could be on the ballot for the Kiambu governor’s seat come August 2017. Although the people of Kiambu say they have learnt their lesson, it will not be a walkover for the agricultural economist, who might find himself answering unpleasant questions on the foundation he is working for, the same way he faced questions on the Rockefeller family during the last election.
(A recent newspaper report indicated that the BMGF had come under criticism for using its wealth to influence policymaking in Kenya and other African countries. The foundation was accused of championing the use of genetically modified crops by influencing the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) to adopt the use of Water Efficient Maize for Africa (Wema), which could be genetically modified)
Nyoro who has also been accused of keeping his distance from the electorate since his defeat in 2013, will face stiff competition from Governor Kabogo, Waititu and maybe Kenyatta University vice chancellor Prof Olive Mugenda. Mugenda has not publicly declared interest in the seat, but residents rooting for her, cite her exemplary and innovative development record at the Kenyatta University coupled with undoubted financial management skills. Rumours have it that she has been meeting residents in seminars and recently I read an interesting article she wrote in a grassroots publication known as ‘The Connexion’ on poverty eradication in Kiambu. Were she to throw down the gauntlet, the professor might dramatically upset the cart.
It is however not easy to fight incumbency and Kabogo a man of means, has dug his roots deep by recruiting political lieutenants and getting into the county employment former political activists. These are mainly people whose only source of income has been the handouts they extort from parliamentary and other political aspirants in campaign years and thereafter remained virtual beggars until another election was announced.
Kabogo has not only given them hope, but a future they could only dream of, the consequence of which is the creation of a sound and loyal support base in practically all wards of the county. His government has also benefitted many in form of contracts for the delivery of goods and services to the county. This is another group that would also be fiercely loyal to the governor and would intensely campaign and vote for him.
Then there are the simple, trusting folks who believe what they may have been told about the governor bringing ‘maendeleo’ to their backyard, a group that will vote for Kabogo again in accordance with his ‘track record’.
Waititu, the man who caused an upset by vying in uncharted territory and won the Kabete by election, also wants to be governor of Kiambu. Disillusioned by the Kabogo administration, many of those who voted for him one year ago and others across the county, believed he was the best bet to replace him. That conviction, could however be changing rapidly.
That said, Kiambu has many gifted sons and daughters.