Mariga caught off side in Kibra by-election contest
Jubilee Party nominee McDonald Mariga’s quest for the vacant Kibra constituency seat yesterday appeared to have hit a dead end after being rejected by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
In what was seen in political circles as a blow to Deputy President William Ruto, the celebrated footballer was informed by IEBC returning officer Beatrice Muli, that he is not a registered voter, having only registered two weeks ago at the Kariokor centre in Nairobi’s Starehe constituency.
According to Muli, Mariga’s name was yet to be captured in the register IEBC was using for verification in the Kibra by-election exercise.
The development led to a standoff between IEBC and Mariga’s team led by former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, Langata MP Nixon Korir and Nairobi county nominated MCA Ann Thumbi.
Khalwale said it was up to IEBC to update its register to avoid such last minute hiccups and embarrassments.
Mariga and team said the anomaly was an administrative mistake by IEBC and vowed to appeal against the decision.
“We still have seven days from today to launch our complaint with IEBC’s tribunal after which we can move to court if we are not satisfied with their ruling. So there is no cause for panic,” Khalwale told journalists.
Yesterday morning, Ruto had twitted: “Jubilee’s Mariga is among 20 others. How can anybody contemplate our party leadership and machinery supporting any other candidate?
The media should spare us these ugly shenanigans. The narrative is not funny let alone being newsworthy. Credit Kenyans with some intelligence.”
The DP was reacting to media reports that Jubilee was divided on whether to support Mariga’s candidature or ODM’s flagbearer in line with the Handshake.
Mariga’s candidature was jinxed right from the word go. Initially, some Jubilee allied legislators had given indications they would not field a candidate in Kibra out of respect and in honour of their late colleague, Ken Okoth.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja particularly promised to implore his party leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta, not to field a candidate in Kibra but instead support Raila Odinga’s ODM candidate, “so he can continue to accomplish our brother’s development projects”.
Sources in Jubilee said Ruto had pushed Mariga through by ensuring that Jubilee did not hold party primaries.
Jubilee’s secretary general Raphael Tuju eventually declared the party would participate in the polls.
And on August 26, 2019, IEBC confirmed it had received a letter from the party with names of nominees for the Kibra parliamentary seat, among them Mariga.
However, Tuju swiftly disowned the letter through the party’s official Twitter handle. It turned out the letter was a fake document.
Mariga was, however, included on the list of those interviewed and was identified as the best applicant to fly the ruling party’s flag in Kibra.
But this too faced an impediment as Morris Kinyanjui, who was among the 16 aspirants interviewed by Jubilee’s National Elections Board (NEB), claimed the footballer’s selection was “not only unfair, deceptive and shrouded in secrecy but also contrary to the provisions of the party’s Constitution”.
Although the petition was resolved and Mariga given the ticket, his humiliating moment would follow yesterday when his candidature was rejected by IEBC.
Earlier in the day, Mariga had been one of the aspirants cleared by the three leading political parties, namely Jubilee, ANC and ODM in the race.
Bernard Imran Okoth, the brother to the late Kibra MP will fly the ODM flag while ANC, an affiliate of Nasa, will be represented by Eliud Owalo, former Raila’s strategist.
ODM, which is determined to retain the seat, saw its party leader convening a crisis meeting with disgruntled candidates who had lost in the nomination exercise for a truce and united front.
“We did the nomination where Imran won and other candidates have agreed to support the winner,” said Raila yesterday at Orange House.
In June 2013, Nairobi-based lawyer, Kethi Kilonzo’s bid to replace her late father Mutula Kilonzo as Makueni senator, was similarly rejected on account she was not a registered voter.
In April, ODM was beaten for the Ugenya seat and the Embakasi South by-elections.
Meanwhile Wiper Democratic Movement party leader Kalonzo Musyoka said he would not front a candidate in Kibra.
Unveiling musician Jackson Komotho Ngechu aka Prezzo to the party, Kalonzo said the musician was preparing for the 2022 elections. - Bernard Gitau and Alvin Mwangi