The emergence of former Interior minister Joseph Ole Lenku as the Jubilee nominee in Kajiado County politics has thrown in new dynamics that are expected to shape the August poll outcome.
Mr Lenku, a newcomer, beat former Kajiado County Council chairman Tarayia Ole Kores for the Jubilee gubernatorial ticket, garnering 88,105 votes against Mr Kores’s 37,690 votes.
The ticket now puts Mr Lenku at pole position to battle with Governor David Nkedianye, a now entrenched political operative in the county.
Dr Nkedianye has retained his Deputy Paul Ntiati as his running mate while Mr Lenku chose 32-year-old Martin Moshisho, gaining traction with local youth. Mr Moshisho is a former president of the Maa University Students, and a tough campaigner
Mr Lenku outmanoeuvred experienced players such as Mr Kores and other gubernatorial hopefuls, including Daniel Nina Livondo and George King’ori.
It is not yet clear if the nomination losers are now fully behind Mr Lenku, but there is an advanced plan to incorporate them so as to ward off Dr Nkedianye’s overtures to them.
Yesterday, Mr Kingori said, “The Jubilee family has not healed from the nomination bruises. To win, everyone needs to be brought on board. Jubilee must move fast, otherwise, the overtures by the incumbent can easily convert those aggrieved.”
Of the four challengers, only Moses Parantai has faded off quietly. Mr Kores has been sulking, with his supporters vowing to reconsider their gubernatorial choice.
Mr King’ori has vowed to run as an independent, while Mr Nina had earlier decamped from Jubilee to PNU.
“The Jubilee family will be united against the outgoing governor. [Including] those who participated in the primaries is paramount for our win. No one should feel like they lost. The bigger battle is ahead,” Mr Lenku said.
It seems Dr Nkedianye and Mr Lenku have each sought to outmanoeuvre each other on the tricky clan matrix, a key determiner of poll outcomes.
Dr Nkedianye hails from the Odomong’i clan while Mr Lenku is from the more populous Orokiteng’ clan. Mr Ntiati comes from the same clan as Mr Lenku in Kajiado South while Mr Moshisho is from the populous Matapato section in Kajiado Central.
The Matapato section belongs to the Odomong’i clan, meaning both candidates have picked their running mates from their opponent’s strongholds.
Although Dr Nkedianye and Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery hail from the Odomong’i clan, the influential minister has thrown his weight behind Mr Lenku.
In the recent past, Dr Nkedianye has come under fire from some sub-clans in the Odomong’i clan over accusations that he has “over-rewarded” his Ilmokesen sub-clan on employment and other county goodies.
“Both candidates have sought to consolidate specific clan interests in Kajiado before venturing out to seek other votes,” confirms Kajiado Senator Peter Mositet.
Mr Mositet avers that although the clan matrix will largely influence how the community votes, other factors such as the sizable migrant populations will matter.
The Lenku scare has re-energised the hitherto docile governor, who is now more visible and seems to go for Mr Lenku’s jugular.
To counter Mr Lenku, Dr Nkedianye’s first point of call was in Loitokitok on May 13 where about 3,000 people defected from Jubilee to ODM during a huge rally.
But clan dynamics aside, the significance of migrant communities that dot the fast-growing satellite towns is likely to determine the winner.
The communities are split in a ratio of one to 3, where the Jubilee leaning are the majority.
When Mr Kores, the TNA candidate, was barred from running in 2013 over questionable academic papers, most of these voters, mainly the small-holder traders, went to the URP candidate, Mr Livondo, who eventually polled 95,526 votes against Dr Nkedianye’s 125,526.
The two candidates are currently fighting for this segment of the voters, although Mr Lenku seems shoulders higher on this front.
Dr Nkedianye has been unable to shake off the tag of being “anti-migrant”, due to punitive measures against small-time investors in the county.
A key area of concern was the allocation of market facilities in Kitengela, where locals were favoured, leading to bloodshed.
The notable lack of developmental action plans in the towns of Kitengela, Ongata Rongai, Ngong’, Kiserian and Isinya could affect the governor’s performance.
Failure to deal with the sewerage systems and collection of garbage has irked the business community even as they accuse the governor of ignoring their plight.
“These towns have rapidly grown without a commensurate attention to infrastructure. Traffic jams, flooding and heaps of garbage portray a leadership that has focus elsewhere,” says John Kinyua, a businessman in Kitengela.
The county government also rubbed investor communities the wrong way when they put brakes on the sale of land in the county.
“The land mess in Kajiado has a political angle that can’t favour the governor,” says Simon Ole Kipury, a land merchant.
To counter Dr Nkedianye’s sour relationship with traders, Mr Lenku has been capitalising on his accommodating nature and adopted the slogan that he is “a safe pair of hands”.
“It is about balancing the interests of investors and protecting the local communities. All this can be done through inclusivity as both groups are important to each other,” Mr Lenku told the Saturday Nation this week.
The Kitengela market is a particularly emotive issue that will have a huge bearing on voting patterns in the town, which carries the bulk of votes in Kajiado East.
Towards the end of 2015, Maasais engaged local traders in a fierce battle over ownership of the market. Residents saw the governor’s hand in the skirmishes, a thing he strenuously denies. Kitengela is about the only urban centre in Kajiado without a market built by the county government.
Mr Lenku seizes on such grievances to paint Dr Nkedianye as being hostile to non-Maasais and by extension investment.
However, the governor has awakened to the reality of a possible political cost and has embarked on an aggressive campaign to issue new tamper-proof allotment letters, effectively lifting the ban on land sales.
James Sapuro, an environmental expert and Kajiado opinion leader, however, says the missing link has been lack of a concrete partnership between the county and national governments.
“The governor worked from the minority side of the county assembly. He had only two MCAs out of 25. This was not a conducive performance environment,” says Dr Sapuro.
He adds that the satellite towns are part of the Nairobi metropolis and the anticipated projects would require massive resources from the national government.
“Drainage, water provision and road infrastructure would cost billions of shillings. Support from the national government would be the key to unlock tangible development in these towns,” opines Dr Sapuro
The governor takes every opportunity to tell voters how he would have achieved more had he been surrounded by friendlier (ODM) MCAs.
He has been asking the electorate to “give” him at least 15 ODM ward reps so that he can finish his development agenda in his second and final term.
Mr Lenku has no illusions that the battle ahead is an easy one; on being declared winner in the Jubilee nominations at Maasai Technical Training Institute in Kajiado town, he urged his opponents to back him as they are faced with “a formidable opponent”.
For now, Mr Lenku appears to have practically sewn up the Jubilee-supporting communities, mostly Kikuyus, who dominate Kajiado North. The constituency had 101,275 voters, representing a whopping 33 per cent of all the county’s registered voters.
Kajiado East, where Dr Nkedianye comes from, had 71,482 voters. Combined, the NASA-supporting communities of Kisii, Luhya, Kamba and Luo outnumber Kikuyus.
However, Dr Nkedianye will have to explain the disillusionment the communities suffered after the ODM primaries as they wanted to elect one of their own as MCA. They accuse the governor of locking their choices out in favour of his preferred line-up.
Mr Lenku is expected to reap from his Kajiado South home area while Kajiado West, which borders Narok, could favour Dr Nkedianye as the county’s two ODM ward reps come from this area.
The only consolation for Mr Lenku is Kiserian, which is largely inhabited by Jubilee supporters.
Kajiado Central, represented by ODM’s Kachori Memusi, is another battleground. The ODM influence is quite big, but Mr Lenku is hoping his running mate, who comes from there, will shore up support.
While the two candidates appear to be evenly poised to capture Maasai votes, the deciding votes will have to come from the settler non-Maasais.
Thus, whoever comes up with policies that are more attractive to them is likely to carry the day.