JUBILEE NO LONGER VIABLE

WAIKENDA: Truth is ground has shifted in Central

In politics, perception is everything and the belief the party no longer enjoys popularity in Central Kenya has damaged its reputation

In Summary

• For a party that previously held both seats, the close margins are devastating for Jubilee, especially coming just weeks after the party lost another Kiambu seat in Juja.

• The Jubilee Party cannot ignore what is happening, as it is clear the ground has shifted and political dynamics have changed.

A family of mice was living in fear because of a cat. One day, it came together to discuss possible ideas to defeat the cat.

After much discussion, one young mouse got up to suggest an idea. He suggested they put a bell around the cat’s neck so they can hear it whenever it approaches. All the other mice agreed, apart from one wise, old mouse.

“Who will put the bell on the Cat?” the old mouse asked.

Last week, there were two key by-elections in Kiambu county that captured the attention of the country. They were in Kiambaa constituency and Muguga ward. The two elections, which were dubbed as a battle between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, drew a lot of interest nationally.

Despite the two being the leader and deputy leader of the Jubilee Party respectively, they were supporting different candidates. And two things are now clear: Ruto has completely shifted his focus to UDA and Jubilee must look inwardly and think critically about its future.

Despite the razor-edge results from the two by-elections, it is hard to ignore the lessons coming from the contest.

In Kiambaa, UDA’s Njuguna Wanjiku beat Jubilee’s Kariri Njama by just 510 votes, while it was even closer in Muguga where Jubilee’s Joseph Githinji won by only 27 votes against UDA’s Kamau Thumbi.

For a party that previously held both seats, the close margins are devastating for Jubilee, especially coming just weeks after the party lost another Kiambu seat in Juja. The Jubilee Party cannot ignore what is happening, as it is clear the ground has shifted and political dynamics have changed.

Just about a month ago, I opined here that Jubilee is dead, and much must be done to revitalise the party.

I argued that in politics, perception is everything and the belief the party no longer enjoys popularity in Central Kenya has damaged its reputation. In fact, it is now hard to sell Jubilee as a party of choice because people are seeing it as dead.

Kiambaa was a vote against the system, not for UDA. Wanjiku wanted to send a message, and unless someone listens, then this ripple effect will continue. Jubilee must go back to its members and talk about what is happening politically.

We may have to look back at history to mirror why Jubilee must either reform or close shop. In 2007, Kibaki’s team formed PNU, which was the party he was re-elected on.

Like Jubilee, PNU lost to a newcomer party just before Kibaki left office and has never recovered since. It was the 2012 by-election in Murang’a where PNU lost the seat that was held by the late John Michuki to Uhuru’s new party TNA with the candidate being Tiras Ngahu.

It also lost in Kajiado North when Moses Sakuda replaced the late George Saitoti, who had been elected on PNU ticket. TNA also went on to replace Mutira and Ikinu wards in Kirinyaga and Kiambu counties respectively.

What followed was a large number of defections to TNA, leaving PNU as a shell of its former self. By the time the election came in 2013, PNU was a party that no one wanted and from a ruling party, it now has only one MP and 27 MCAs.

The lessons here for Jubilee and the entire Mt Kenya political system is that the ground has shifted, dynamics are different and Wanjiku is tired. There must be an honest conversation around why the most popular party continues to lose in by-elections in the President’s backyard.

In my opinion, Kiambaa was a vote against the system, not for UDA. Wanjiku wanted to send a message, and unless someone listens, then this ripple effect will continue. Jubilee must go back to its members and talk about what is happening politically.

You can expect a wave of mass defections, realignments, re-strategising, and perception moving towards Ruto as most influential in Mt Kenya. Let’s be honest. What happened in Kiambaa, and Juja cannot be ignored and it is time to bell the cat.

In addition, it is also interesting to note that misinformation dominated the election. Unless clear mechanisms are created to counter this, then this could be explosive in highly emotive results tallying like the presidential election.