Stakes high as MPs place bets on Kibra by-election

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 00:00 |
Opposition leader Raila Odinga (left) introduces ODM candidate Imran Okoth at a past rally in Kibra. PD/FILE

 By Seth Onyango, Anthony Mwangi and Mercy Mwai

Stakes are so high in the upcoming Kibra by-election that Members of Parliament from the ruling Jubilee Party and opposition ODM are placing bets over which candidate will win the race.

People Daily has learned that already, two MPs John Waluke (Sirisia) and Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay), have placed a bet of Sh1 million each, for what is being dubbed the “Kibra Challenge”.

But Deputy President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga are not playing any game of chance in the contest and have assembled formidable machineries to secure votes for their respective candidates. 

According to sources, the two political rivals are separately engaged in last-minute efforts to marshal support for Jubilee’s McDonald Mariga and ODM’s Imran Okoth.

On political betting, Waluke and Kaluma confirmed they had placed the bet, with each bragging that their candidate will win the vote in the city largest slum.

While Waluke is rooting for Mariga, Kaluma is confident Imran will carry the day in the mini poll slated for November 7. 

The Kibra seat fell vacant following the death of former MP Ken Okoth.

“Unlike what the ODM leaders are telling the country, the situation on the ground is different; Mariga is wining this one. I have placed my Sh1 million bet to prove how confident I am,” Waluke bragged.

However, Kaluma laughed off his colleague’s challenge, terming Jubilee’s win in Kibra a pipe dream. 

“I have placed my Sh1 million on the line to demonstrate the confidence I have in my party retaining the seat. Kibra is our own bedrock and Jubilee or any other party should not imagine dislodging us from there,” Kaluma boasted.

Series of events

The challenge by the two has thrilled other MPs who have also placed bets but do not wish to make them public.

“I and a colleague from the ODM side have placed a bet but cannot make it public as this will not augur well with our constituents who might see it as a waste of money. The rivalry between our parties has driven us to this extent,” said an MP from the Mt Kenya region.

At Orange House, sources told us that Raila, a former area MP, has lined up a series of campaign events in a bid to shore-up Imran’s chances of victory in the hotly contested by-election.

He is said to have mobilised his troops in the National Assembly and the Senate to mount a charm offensive to ensure the ODM candidate wins the poll.

As part of the strategy, MPs in the Orange party will campaign on a rotational basis, including mounting door-to-door campaigns.

Raila has tasked MPs Junet Mohammed (Suna East), John Mbadi (Suba) and Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) to lead the campaigns.

Wide margin

“The question about Kibra is not about winning. This one we are sure about winning. The issue is by what margin. What we are aiming at is about widening the margin between us and our opponents. My appeal to everyone is to conduct their campaigns in a peaceful manner devoid of violence and bribery,” Junet told People Daily on phone.

ODM legislators have been urged to contribute resources to oil Imran’s campaign.

Meanwhile, Ruto has tasked Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir and Dagoretti South’s John Kiarie to ensure Jubilee carries the day.

Ruto’s handlers said the DP plans to hold a major campaign rally in the constituency, deemed the stronghold of the opposition at an appropriate time.

The DP will hope to repeat what happened in the Ugenya by-election in Siaya county where a candidate linked to him trounced ODM.

Yesterday, Korir said they had put in place mechanisms to ensure they grab the seat from ODM.

“We have done our homework and we are sure of taking the seat as long as our competitors are not engaged in violence the way we have seen in the last few days,” Korir said.

On his part, Kiarie urged voters to evaluate candidates on their pledges and shun leaders who are using Ruto’s and Raila’s names to stir emotions.

“The race for Kibra is not a Ruto versus Raila fight, but about development for the slum dwellers. People are very bright and that is why we are certain Mariga will carry the day, “ Kiarie said.

Pragmatic leader

Defeat for Imran would jolt the opposition and boost Ruto’s image ahead of the 2022 election battle for control of city politics.

It will also come hot on the heels of ODM defeat in the Ugenya by-election where the party’s candidate Chris Karan was trounced by MDG’s David Ochieng’.

Late last month, Ruto attracted fury from the ODM brigade when he said he was going to teach Raila a political lesson in Kibra by wrestling the seat from the opposition party.

In a veiled attack on the ODM leader, Ruto said Kibra constituency was wallowing in poverty and that it needed a pragmatic leader to turn its fortunes around.

The DP made the remarks in Kapseret in Uasin Gishu county during a harambee for 10 interdenominational churches.

“I was shocked when an individual laid claim that Kibra is their political bedroom and the region did not even have toilets and locals are grappling with dire sanitation challenges. It is the Jubilee government that built roads and public toilets in Kibra,” he said.

The ODM camp and Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC have both accused Ruto of using money and other State resources to bribe voters in Mariga’s favour. 

The ANC candidate Eliud Owalo, is mainly banking on the Luhya vote to win the poll. 

The seat has attracted 24 candidates.

More on National