Noah Cheploen and Kennedy Gachui @PeopleDailyKe
Commonly referred to as the melting pot of Kenya’s politics, Nakuru County is bracing itself for high-octane politics, especially concerning the race for governor which is shaping up to be a battle of titans.
Governor Kinuthia Mbugua, whose candidature drew support from nearly all the corners of the populous county in 2013, is facing a stiff challenge from former Nakuru Town MP Lee Kinyanjui, former Nacada chairman John Mututho and Senator James Mungai.
Observers say the former Administration Police commandant is facing the biggest hurdle of his political career. The governor has an uphill task defending his administration against claims of corruption and poor development record among other issues that are being used to frustrate his re-election bid.
Two incidents which happened in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto could be a pointer to how Mbugua’s popularity ratings have dropped in the last four years.
On March 17, last year, Mbugua was booed at his backyard in front of President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. The saying that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice doesn’t seem to hold water for the former top cop after he was again booed recently at the same spot — Mburu Gichua-Kenyatta Avenue roundabout — in the presence of the Deputy President.
Ruto, who was on a voter registration campaign with aspirants, had extended the microphone to Mbugua but before the latter could speak, the crowd started to boo forcing him to cut short his speech.
The microphone was handed over Kinyanjui, who is seen as a major threat to Mbugua’s second term bid. In contrast, the crowd cheered the former MP. Mbugua’s and his three challengers are said to be in the process of rolling out well-oiled campaigns.
“Time has come for the people of Nakuru county to make their stand. This is the time to say no to corruption and incompetence. We need to get serious this time around by electing the right people,” says Mungai.
By appointing Maureen Chebet, 26, as his running mate, Mututho appears to be killing three birds with one stone. The move is seen by political observers as aimed at attracting votes from the populous Kalenjin community, the youth and women.
It is also seen as a counter strategy against Mbugua who is expected to retain his deputy and long time friend Joseph Ruto as his running mate, although his advisor for Special Programmes Ezekiel Kesendany is said to be eyeing the position.
Mbugua’s critics accuse him of adopting a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to many problems besetting the county, particularly corruption in his administration.
Staff recruitment at the county is said to have been turned into conduit for bribes. Last year, County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika formed an ad-hoc committee to investigate alleged illegal recruitment of workers in the Executive. The report recommended the sacking of two top county officials.
Apart from County secretary Joseph Motari and Public Service Management Chief Officer Philip Sigei, the committee also recommended the sacking of about 200 workers found to have been irregularly hired.