Kibra poll presents Ruto opportunity to challenge ODM
The declaration of the Kibra MP seat vacant by the Speaker of the National Assembly this week has set in motion an exciting political battle in the constituency once represented by ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The immediate former MP Ken Okoth died last month.
Although Raila, who served as MP of the original Lang’ata constituency for two decades before it was split into two in 2013, enjoys unparalleled support, the opportunity presented by the by-election is to inviting for his political rivals, especially Deputy President William Ruto, to be ignored.
Whether or not Jubilee Party fields a candidate, the prospect of humiliating the Orange party leader is tempting. Since the symbolic Handshake of March 2018, Ruto and Raila have been locked in a supremacy battle with pundits predicting a 2022 presidential contest between the duo.
In the latest by-elections held in April, Jubilee opted not to field candidates but claimed credit for the victories of Movement for Democracy and Growth’s David Ochieng in Ugenya and Wiper’s Julius Mawathe in Embakasi South, against ODM candidates.
Ruto allies claimed they had quietly campaigned for the two candidates, a claim Ochieng and Mawathe denied. Ruto’s backers may well take on ODM again, and by extension Raila, by proxy.
In the last election, Ruto’s man Nixon Korir won the wider Lang’ata seat. The possibility of another Ruto ally taking over Kibra, the second constituency of the original Lang’ata, would be quite fulfilling for opponents of the former PM.
Victory for a Ruto candidate would amount to a complete replacement of Raila, which would send a pregnant political statement.
Yesterday, Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju was unavailable to confirm whether or not the ruling party would field a candidate in Kibra.
But speaking during late MP Okoth’s requiem mass, Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja said he would plead with President Uhuru Kenyatta and party officials not to field a candidate against ODM “as a sign of honour to our departed colleague”.
Conceding the party faltered in the April by-elections, ODM’s director of elections Junet Mohamed said the party will leave nothing to chance in the Kibra by-election.
“We are on top of the game this time and people should not think because Ugenya and Embakasi South went the way they did, the same will be repeated in Kibra. Every day is not a Sunday,” he said.
Since Okoth’s death, social media has been awash with stories on who is eyeing the seat, complete with unverified opinion polls.
Dismissing the reports as propaganda, Junet and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna question the efficacy of the alleged opinion polls.
And there are concerns the propaganda is taking an ethnic angle. Part of the information being circulated is the claim that Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi and Makadara’s George Aladwa are spearheading a campaign to block aspirants from the Luhya community from succeeding Okoth.
Explaining he has no authority to dictate to the mother party on who to nominate or not for a parliamentary seat, Wanyonyi dismisses the claim as unfounded.
“I am neither a top official of the party nor have I been charged with the responsibility of identifying a candidate. This is solely a matter of the people of Kibra constituency,” Wanyonyi told People Daily.
Junet says the candidate will not be picked on account of ethnicity but rather on their capabilities and acceptability by the people.
“We will not discriminate against anyone on the basis of tribe, age, religious faith, gender or race,” he said.
Sifuna concurs saying Kibra is “a cosmopolitan constituency and we cannot approach its campaigns in a tribal way”.
“I am aware my name is being floated on social media and other forums as a probable candidate. However, I cannot respond to such information. Once I find it prudent to vie, I will call a press conference and declare my interest,” Sifuna told People Daily.
Former MPs allied to ODM, including Elizabeth Ongoro and Irshad Sumra, have also been named as possible contenders.
Efforts to get confirmation from the two were, however, not successful.