Nkedianye in Jubilee: Genius strategy or trouble for Azimio?

NOMINATION: Former and incumbent governors will now face off in party contest

Whereas Lenku has not openly responded to Dr Nkedianye’s move to Jubilee, it will be back to the drawing board for him now that he will have to face strong opposition from within the party

The defection of Orange Democratic Movement leading candidate for the Kajiado gubernatorial seat Dr David Nkedianye to the Jubilee Party has disrupted campaign strategies and forced contestants to reconsider their strategies.

The ramifications of that decision are yet to fully unravel, even as ODM appeared to pour cold water on the perceived reason for the defection, namely that Kajiado County had been zoned off as a Jubilee zone within the Azimio coalition.

Raila Odinga’s ODM outfit is in a coalition with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party as the principal partners of the Azimio coalition, which has also welcomed a range of smaller outfits. It is yet to be confirmed whether the apparent “zoning” of Kajiado County and potentially other areas around the country will test the resolve of ODM and Jubilee to field joint candidates in the August polls.

What is certain is that Dr Nkedianye will have to fight it out with incumbent governor Joseph ole Lenku for the Jubilee ticket. The contest will also involve a third candidate, Tarayia ole Kores, and whoever between the three wins the Jubilee candidate will then face UDA candidate Katoo ole Metito, who is likely to emerge winner in the race for the UDA gubernatorial ticket.

Pundits believe the reason for bringing the two Kajiado giants together has to do with the realities on the ground. It was feared that if both Dr Nkedianye and Lenku contested the gubernatorial seat using the ODM and Jubilee tickets, respectively, they would split the votes cast in favour of Azimio and give an edge to ole Metito. The way to avoid such a scenario was therefore to bring the two candidates together in one party, with whoever garners more support at the nomination stage to fly the Azimio flag at the General Election.

Whereas Lenku has not openly responded to Dr Nkedianye’s move to Jubilee, it will be back to the drawing board for him now that he will have to face strong opposition from within the party. Whatever strategy he adopts, it will put him in a difficult spot should he fail to clinch the nomination. Having been the Jubilee and Azimio pointman in Maasailand, it will not be easy for him to disown the party and contest as an independent candidate.

Speaking in January at the funeral of Mzee Mositet Korinko, Azimio la Umoja presidential contender Raila Odinga had said the coalition intended to use either consensus or nominations to pick the Kajiado gubernatorial candidate on an Azimio ticket.

“We do not want confrontations among our aspirants in Azimio,” Raila was reported as having said at the time.

But the latest rumour appears to have caught the orange party flat-footed given the denial by officials that the coalition parties had agreed that Kajiado be zoned for Jubilee. A statement by ole Kores also said the party had held a consultative meeting and that there was no zoning in Kajiado “contrary to the assertions, speculations and pontifications of some quarters”.

Already, several politicians and multitudes of supporters are said to have decamped from ODM and are headed to Jubilee as a result of the perceived zoning of the county as a Jubilee zone. They include Joseph Simel (MP aspirant Kajiado West), his Kajiado South counterpart John Parit, Women Representative aspirant Simaiya Rakita and several MCA aspirants.

Nkedianye’s team has tried to come up with strategies to obtain the votes of the non-Maasai bloc in Kajiado County. In 2017, the former governor defeated incumbent Lenku in the tally of Maasai votes, but lost in the overall tally because he performed poorly among non-Maasai voters. He has therefore teamed up with Kajiado North MP Joseph Manje as his running mate; being a Kikuyu, it is hoped that Manje’s presence will galvanise non-Maasai voters in favour of Dr Nkedianye.

The danger, however, is that Dr Nkedianye stands to lose a chunk of the Maasai vote for appointing a non-Maasai as running mate.

The cosmolitan Kajiado East and North constituencies have the highest numbers of voters in the county, with a significant non-Maasai presence. While Kajiado East — which is Dr Nkedianye’s stronghold — has 102,804 registered voters, Kajiado North has 127,953 voters. Manje has been the MP for Kajiado North since 2013.

The other three majority Maasai constituencies have between 54,000 and 64,000 voters each. Whether the numbers game will pay off for Dr Nkedianye remains to be seen.

It also remains uncertain whether the loser between Dr Nkedianye and Lenku will graciously accept defeat and rally behind the winner, or seek election as an independent candidate and thus deny the Azimio candidate their own support base to the potential benefit of the UDA candidate.

What is certain is that within the Azimio coalition, these two are the towering candidates, with the third candidate only mentioned in passing.

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