The recent zero-rating of imported maize by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich during his budget speech last week has put aspirants for the Cherangany parliamentary seat in a tight spot.
They will now have to decide whether to support the directive to curb shortages in the region or fight for local farmers, who are likely to be the biggest losers because of the anticipated influx of cheap maize from abroad.
Cherangany is one of the constituencies in Trans Nzoia boasting of large maize farms.
Elections are usually determined by how the aspirants address the plight of grain farmers.
The area is represented in Parliament by Mr Wesley Korir, a former Boston Marathon champion, who vied in 2013 as an independent candidate.
The MP is now seeking the Jubilee Party’s nod to be its flag-bearer in the August 8 poll.
He is however facing a stiff challenge from a number of aspirants eager to unseat him.
While farmers reckon that Agriculture is devolved, they feel that their representative in parliament should chip in through other services like empowerment of farmers’ groups and search for local and international markets for their produce.
“The current MP has tried his best to boost dairy farming through acquisition of milk coolers and establishment of a Sacco, which will provide a platform to market their products,” says Mr Andrew Rotich, a farmer.
Mr Rotich however says the main challenge maize farmers in the region face is poor prices that have been occasioned with impassable roads in some parts of the constituency.
“Those who deliver their maize to the nearby Moi’s bridge NCPB depot have been incurring high transportation costs. We have approached the MP to no avail,” he said.
Another farmer, Mr William Kimosong, says there was need to have clear initiatives that will see the promotion of diversification to ensure farmers don’t rely solely on maize farming.
“We should be assisted to engage in alternative agricultural practices apart from maize and dairy farming. Tea growers say they want somebody to fight for their woes,” said Mr Kimosong.
While most of the Luhya community voters are keen on electing a flag-bearer from the Ford Kenya party, those from the Kalenjin community and Kikuyu communities have placed their bet on the Jubilee party.
All the candidates have however coined the tool of cohesive politics in their campaigns, as each of them seeks to scoop votes from either political or ethnic side to get a competitive advantage.
A recently negotiated democracy deal within the Jubilee Party gave the green light to candidates from the Kalenjin community to be the ones who will battle it out at the party’s primaries.
Those from the Kalenjin community who have declared interest include the incumbent Mr Korir, his immediate predecessor Joshua Kutuny, Julius Tunduria, Sammy Melly, and Kiprop Barno.
Another aspirant, Mr Kororia Simatwa, who hails from the Sabaot community, is battling the move to have his sub-tribe excluded on grounds that they have Endebess constituency reserved for them.
“I am opposed to this negotiated democracy deal because it is a reflection of views of few individuals. I want to face it out with my competitors at the nominations,” said Mr Simatwa.
Meanwhile, MP Korir has put up a spirited fight as he gears up for a second term arguing that his competitors have nothing to offer the region.
“I am not belittling anybody but I feel that the electorate should give me a second term to complete all the projects initiated in my first term. I am not keen on politics of rhetoric,” he said.
His predecessor, Mr Kutuny, who is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s political advisor, feels his successor has failed the region by plunging it into a state of stagnation in developmental matters.
“Most of the tangible projects in the constituency were initiated during my reign as the MP. He promised a lot but has failed to live up to his so-called sweet promises,” said the former lawmaker.
Each of the other three aspirants – Julius Tunduria, Sammy Melly and Kiprop Barno – feel the electorate should ignore all leaders who served in the past saying they have nothing new to offer them.
Ford-Kenya is keen on “taking back” the seat held by its founding father Masinde Muliro.
The party is however facing a major headache of ensuring they don’t repeat mistakes that have cost them the seat in the last elections.
Trans Nzoia Ford-Kenya Secretary Martin Waliaula says candidates will be subjected to a free and fair nomination.
“We realised that past shambolic nominations left us with candidates who were not our members’ choice,” said Mr Waliaula.
The party has so far attracted three aspirants. They are Mr Patrick Simiyu, who works as the head of security at the Trans Nzoia county government as well as Mr Ben Milimo and Mike Kibebe.
“I know all the pitfalls that I went through the last time. I have mastered a new strategy that will see me sail through easily at the polls if handed the ticket,” said Mr Simiyu.
Mr Kibebe, who contested on an ODM ticket in the last general election, says Ford-Kenya can win the seat if it commits itself to a free and fair nomination exercise, that will see only the best handed the ticket.
Mr Milimo, afresh entrant says he is the best bet as he can effectively compete against their opponents in Jubilee.
Ford-Kenya’s aim to regain the seat faces stiff competition from its Nasa affiliate partner Amani National Congress.
Nominated rep Milcah Nangekhe, who was in Jubilee is so far the only candidate who has expressed interest to vie using the Musalia Mudavadi-led party.