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January 23, 2019

How Uhuru got re-elected in 2017

President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta giving his maiden speech at Catholic university. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta giving his maiden speech at Catholic university. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

It is August 29, 2017, 21 days after we voted. All the results are in and as expected yours truly is Nyeri Town MP and President Uhuru Kenyatta has been re-elected for a second term. What surprised most people was that Uhuru got 65 per cent of the votes! The other surprise was Raila Odinga conceding defeat, and congratulating Uhuru on his victory!

But how did Uhuru win so decisively?

First, he was the better candidate. Uhuru was better looking, more energetic and more charismatic than any of his seven opponents. During his first term we saw that being President was a public responsibility for him, not an entitlement. This humility, when contrasted with his competitors, who even whilst outside the presidency showed a distinct love of the perks that come with high office (including fussing over security, red carpets, cleared roads for their motorcades, etc), put him ahead of the pack.

Second, he ran a much better campaign. In 2013, the Jubilee campaign was scientific. It identified the number of votes needed for victory and went out and got them. In 2017 they stepped up their game by first managing to keep their vote blocs in Central Kenya and Rift Valley intact (even rebels in the Rift Valley were not willing to vote outside UhuRuto). The formation of the Jubilee Party was a master stroke because of how it affected Coast and Kisii-Nyanza votes. Then there was the strategic partnership that brought in the Lower Eastern vote bloc, which was brilliant. Finally, supporting a Westerner as Nairobi governor helped consolidate the Western bloc superbly.

Third, the competition was lost. Cord’s disintegration a few months to the elections was interesting to watch. As early as 2015, I predicted that the coalition would not last till the 2017 elections, but even I had not foreseen how brutal the fallout would be. The idea of making Mudavadi a compromise candidate was really not well-thought-out. However, how Mudavadi dealt with it was also quite odd. I also found it amazing that Mudavadi seemed to have learnt absolutely nothing from his experience with Uhuru towards 2013. How else does one explain that exactly the same thing happened with Raila in 2017!

Fourth, Uhuru surpassed our expectations in his first term. He not only built Kenya physically (SGR, Last Mile Electricity Connections, Huduma Centres, security installations, etc), he also built Kenya ‘emotionally’. It was good to watch world leader after leader, delegation after delegation, troop to Kenya. It also felt good to read about all the youth and women whose lives had changed because of AGPO (Access to Government Procurement Opportunities). It felt terrific when the banks did not make more money than me from my business. That moment he took the side of Kenyans against big banks sealed it for most of us. Which other candidates would have agreed to pass a law that adversely affected them at a personal level, for the greater good? Uhuru’s first term made us realise he ‘felt’ us.

Finally, Uhuru made us feel safer. JP nominations were peaceful (as compared to the violence in ODM). His campaign was not angry, desperate, or insulting. By the time we went to the ballot, we knew who would keep us together, and who would not. We voted accordingly.

Congratulations, Mr President. I look forward to working with you. Special thanks to Raila as well. Your concession speech was excellent and helped Kenyans move forward together after the bruising elections.

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