The latest decision by former Ruiru MP Esther Gathogo to join the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) is yet another acid test for the party in the upcoming party primaries.
Already nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura has been traversing the vast constituency to woo locals to join the wheelbarrow party. But from all indications it is clear the battle for the party ticket is going to be a fierce contest given the two politicians’ mobilization skills.
Seven months to election fever is already sweeping across the constituency as new and old aspirants seek to unseat current MP Simon Kingara. While Gathogo and Mwaura are seeking for their comeback through correcting the mistakes in the last elections, the vehicle they are going to use will either send them to the National Assembly or spell doom for their political careers.
Gathogo is seeking to use her past networks to mobilize her supporters to back her bid. Already she has assembled her campaign team in all the seven wards in the constituency.
Nominated Senator Mwaura who has been traversing the vast constituency in the past few months did not see Gathogo joining UDA until last week when she threw her hat in the ring and declared she will be contesting for the seat on UDA ticket.
Mwaura popularly known as Muthungu Wa Ruiru is no pushover going by the campaign he mounted in 2017. But as he appeals to various segments of voters in Ruiru he will have to navigate the constituency with caution given the growing popularity of ODM leader Raila Odinga. The constituency is home to huge pockets of Raila supporters who Mwaura will have to woo to support his bid.
Gathogo is credited for a number of development projects when she served as the first MP for Ruiru for one term after it was hived off from the larger Juja constituency in 2013. She cried foul after the loss in Jubilee party primaries but went ahead to concede defeat and promised to make a comeback in 2022.
However, the manner in which the wheelbarrow party will conduct its nominations will determine whether it will wrestle the seat from Simon Kingara who was elected on Jubilee ticket in 2017.
Kingara has remained largely non-committal on which party he will defend his seat. It remains to be seen whether he will join Azimio La Umoja or UDA when the time comes. Political pundits opine that Kingara’s continued silence is likely to ruin his chances as an indecisive leader while his supporters say it is a tactic that he is using to listen to ‘the ground’ first before making a decision on the party he will use in the August 9 polls.
Gitothua resident Agnes Njeri told News Today that either way Kingara will defend his seat given his track record since 2017. “We really appreciate his contributions through the Kingara Foundation which has helped children from poor families get education. But it is time he comes out and states where he belongs whether it is Azimio or UDA since his competitors have hit the road in trying to dislodge him amid claims that he is slow in making political moves and this is likely to affect his chances in 2022,” she said.
If Kingara decides to join UDA then the party primaries will be a fierce contest before the eventual winner is declared to face off with other aspirants keen to win the seat.
The ongoing reorganization of Jubilee is also likely to be attractive once the party gains its foothold in the Mt Kenya region. Whoever bags the ruling party’s ticket also stands a better chance of getting the seat and that is why Kingara is in a catch 22 situation.
According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 2017 register Ruiru constituency has 159,337 registered voters in the seven wards. That is Gitothua (13,960) Biashara Ward(37,686), Kahawa Sukari (10,458), Kahawa Wendani (15,928), Kiuu(23,758) Mwiki Ward(31,867) and Mwihoko (12,402).
It will be a case of familiar faces since during the 2017 Jubilee primaries Mwaura emerged a distant third in the contest after garnering 4,632 votes against King’ara’s 10,900 votes while Gathogo who was then the Incumbent MP was second with 7,340 votes.
According to political observers this time the contest is likely to be a titanic battle given the changing dynamics in the Mt Kenya region where it appears any of the three candidates can win. Jared Moturi, a Wendani resident says given that the Jubilee wave that swept Kingara into power is no longer a party to watch, the manner in which he will play his tactics will guarantee him victory or drive him to political oblivion.
“It is a pity that for the last five years as Wendani residents we cannot be able to identify our MP if a parade is conducted. For the two (Gathogo and Mwaura) their party of choice is likely to give them support in some areas and absolutely lock them out in others,” Moturi told News Today.
Given the fact that Ruiru constituency is slowly becoming a cosmopolitan constituency according to Andrew Makokha a lecturer at Zetech University, the three candidates and others must work hard to appeal to ‘diaspora’ voters.
“Most of our constituency wards are predominantly cosmopolitan areas. For instance, out of the seven wards six of them are predominantly cosmopolitan and you cannot rule out such voters who are likely to lean towards Azimio La Umoja. So whoever appeals to these voters is likely to carry the day since I believe the majority do not subscribe to UDA ideals,” Makokha said.
Jackson Njuguna a resident of Biashara ward warns that the manner in which both Jubilee or UDA conduct its nominations will either kill or revive the chances of its candidates.
As the clock ticks towards the August 9 polls more candidates are joining the race for Ruiru constituency seat making it a contest to watch in 2022.