Kirinyaga is engulfed in a unique sense of euphoria ahead of Jubilee party nominations with big question being whether they will maintain the status quo or choose the path of history by nominating and eventually electing the first female governor.
With just three weeks to the nominations, the contest, which has attracted several aspirants, has narrowed down to a two-horse race; between Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru and the incumbent Joseph Ndathi.
Ordinarily, the incumbent should be better placed to win such contests but Ndathi’s imperfect development record, dotted with allegations of corruption and unfair allocation of resources have seemingly tilted the race to Waiguru’s favour.
Ndathi’s tenure has been dogged by several allegations with the governor still at pains to explain the loss of Ksh3.4 billion in his government, as reported by Auditor General Edward Ouko in his report for the financial year 2014/15.
His political clout also seems to have waded following the defection of some of his key lieutenants and ardent supporters, including his deputy governor Julius Njiiri.
Njiiri reportedly ditched Ndathi over his apparent mismanagement of county affairs and underdevelopment.
Political analysts have seen the defection as a blow to Ndathi’s re-election bid, since Njiiri was instrumental in his election in 2013, coming from vote-rich Mwea constituency.
In 2013 elections, Mwea had the highest number of registered voters at 86,759 out of the total 265,290 in the county.
Kirinyaga County added 60,142 new voters during the mass voter registration exercise that ended on February 19.
And to show their dissatisfaction with Ndathi’s administration, residents of Kirinyaga did not shy away from booing the governor while applauding her opponent (Waiguru), during a recent visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Is this therefore an indication that the ground has shifted under Ndathi’s very own feet?
Waiguru on the other hand has been perceived by locals as a breath of fresh air with many looking at her achievements as Devolution Cabinet Secretary as a reflection of what she can do for the county.
The former CS is hailed for launching Huduma Centres in 40 counties that have helped improve service delivery, the rebranding and relaunch of National Youth Service (NYS), introduction of Uwezo Fund and Youth Fund and slum upgrading programmes among other projects that were top on Jubilee’s manifesto.
Waiguru’s resigned from her CS position following calls by Opposition leaders led by Raila Odinga over a scandal that rocked the NYS.
Investigations into the scandal have however absolved Waiguru from any wrongdoing with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) clearing her of the allegations.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also failed to link Waiguru to the scandal with the focus shifting to businessman Ben Gethi, Josephine Kabura and Deputy President William Ruto’s aide Farouk Kibet who have been named as suspects in the scandal.
Waiguru has, in her past addresses, said the Waiguru-NYS narrative was crafted by Opposition leaders who were displeased by her stellar performance in helping Jubilee achieve its promises to Kenyans and therefore sought a way to push her out of government.
She also blamed her predicaments on cartels who were angered by her move to report the fraudulent transactions at the Ministry to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) thus stopping further theft of public money.
Should Waiguru win, Kirinyaga will be guaranteed a female governor since the contest will be between her and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua in the August 8, 2017 governorship race.
Karua has insisted that she will not dissolve her party for Jubilee which may work to her disadvantage.
Her links to CORD leader Raila Odinga and open condemnation of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government may also be
detrimental to her political push in a region that is perceived to be President Kenyatta’s base.
In 2013 elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta got 231,868 votes against Raila’s 3,471.
So which way Kirinyaga? That is the question.