Kihika, Kinyanjui duel to flavour Nakuru race
Often regarded as the epicentre of Kenya’s politics, Nakuru is steadily firming its position with the battle for political supremacy between Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Senator Susan Kihika taking shape ahead of the 2022 General Election.
In fact, the bare-knuckle tackles and exchange of barbs between the two political heavyweights mirrors what is happening at the national arena where the top guns are jostling for political power amidst shifting of positions.
Matters came to a head two weeks ago during a church event, in Nakuru town graced by Deputy President William Ruto when the duo’s rivalry played out in the open to the consternation of the congregants.
Outside the church, a small group of about 20-50 people—mostly women—were chanting anti-Kinyanjui slogans and this irked him.
When he rose to speak, Kinyanjui accused Kihika of failing to respect the church. He apologised to the church saying some leaders had failed to distinguish between political rallies and church events and political rallies.
This was during the consecration of Bishop David Macharia as the General Overseer of the Full Gospel Churches of Kenya at the Langa Langa Full Gospel Church.
“I want to apologise on behalf of our leaders who do not distinguish between a church function and a political function.
You cannot bribe people to cheer you in a church function. This is wrong,” the governor said.
Kinyanjui also hit out at Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa who had in her speech earlier asked the church to pray for Kihika so that she becomes the governor next year.
“We do not mind your prayers for your friends, but let Nakuru people choose their leaders because we cannot come to Malindi to tell the people there who to elect,” he said.
The bitter rivalry between Kinyanjui and Kihika has been simmering since the 2017 General Election when they were both elected on a Jubilee Party ticket.
While Kinyanjui has remained steadfast in Jubilee, Kihika has been a vocal supporter of Ruto and the face of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) not just in Nakuru county but also nationally.
In a bid to understand the two leaders better, People Daily spoke to residents, political pundits and other players in the political environment.
Moses Esekon, a youth leader and key supporter of Kinyanjui, described him as a sober and development oriented leader “whose development record speaks for itself” adding that although he is a level-headed leader, he had been pushed to the wall. He said the governor had taken a middle-ground in country’s politics because Nakuru county is cosmopolitan.
“He is always at hand to receive the Deputy President but it’s the senator who is trying to drive a wedge between them,” he said.
Asked whether Kinyanjui could join Ruto’s camp, Esokon said: “He has no problem with DP Ruto. There is nothing impossible in politics, anything can happen.”
For his part, Nakuru Street Traders and Hawkers Association chairman Sankale ole Nasieku described Kinyanjui and Kihika as two people with distinct personality traits.
“The governor is a very good manager but a poor politician while the senator is a very good and aggressive politician,” said Nasieku.
He added: “Kinyanjui is very sharp and intelligent,” he said noting that his grasp of issues is top notch but added that his biggest undoing is failure to manage politics properly.
“He has done a lot in terms of development and that is one of his strong points but he has failed to align himself politically and this might cost him dearly,” he explained.
Nasieku said recent revelations by Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju that the party is crafting a coalition agreement with Raila Odinga’s ODM might not work well for jubilee in the region.