- Political analyst JM Waiganjo, a former MP, said the political clout displayed was expected to shape the opinion of ordinary voters.
- A Jubilee Party win would be a perfect opportunity for Dr Ruto to water down Mr Odinga’s influence in Nairobi politics.
That the Kibra by-election is turning out to be one of the most hotly contested in the country’s recent history is not in doubt.
The race for the seat has shaped up into a fierce battle between Deputy President William Ruto of Jubilee Party and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the ODM leader.
This is not without reason. The outcome of the contest will have huge ramifications on the 2022 race for State House. It has led to new alliances and regrouping of political leaders.
And on Sunday both Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga were pulling out all the stops to ensure their candidates bag the seat in polls set for Thursday.
The seat was left vacant following the death of former MP Ken Okoth.
Although Kibra is largely perceived as an ODM and Raila Odinga bastion, the party appears to have been rattled by the massive campaigns launched by the Deputy President.
Being the penultimate day for campaigns, the two criss-crossed the city constituency in a desperate appeal to residents to vote for their preferred candidates.
Mr Odinga is fronting Mr Okoth’s brother, Imran Okoth, while Dr Ruto is drumming up support for former footballer McDonald Mariga.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula have also hit the campaign trail for their parties’ candidates.
ANC’s flagbearer is Eliud Owalo, a former ally of Mr Odinga, while Mr Khamisi Butichi will fly the Ford-Kenya flag.
And for the first time, Kibra residents who spoke to the Nation said they had witnessed an oily campaign and huge promises compared to previous polls.
The battle for the seat has been dominated by promises of development, party politics, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s handshake, tribal arithmetic and the 2022 General Election.
While Dr Ruto attended church events in the constituency before addressing a rally at DC grounds, the ODM brigade was joined by Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat, governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and James Ongwae (Kisii), and nominated MP Maina Kamanda at Joseph Kang’ethe grounds.
Mr Odinga’s children Raila Jr, Rosemary and Winnie also threw their weight behind Mr Okoth.
Political analyst JM Waiganjo, a former MP, said the political clout displayed was expected to shape the opinion of ordinary voters.
“The stakes are high. If a party wins in cosmopolitan Kibra, it would increase its command of Nairobi which is crucial in control of the country,” Mr Waiganjo said.
The mini poll has resulted in new alliances, mainly of those backing the Building Bridges Initiative fronted by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, against those opposed to it, with the alliances likely to continue up to next General Election.
“If you lose in Kibra, you must go back to the drawing board,” Mr Waiganjo said.
The Kibra campaigns, Mr Waiganjo noted, also saw the return of tribal mobilisation, with leaders urging their communities to vote for their preferred candidates.
The Ford-Kenya brigade, led by Mr Wetang’ula was at Lindi grounds, where he expressed confidence the party’s candidate, Mr Butichi, will win the Thursday poll. Both Jubilee and ODM had electrified crowds.
The DP, who was accompanied by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and other leaders, said the Kibra seat is a must win for the party and warned against any form of violence that may disrupt a smooth running of the election.
“It’s now or never. I want to warn anyone who is planning to stir violence in this area that if they dare they shall know that I am the Deputy President of this country,” said Dr Ruto.
The leaders who accompanied Mr Odinga, mostly delved into the 2022 succession politics, saying the Kibra by-election was only a platform to forge their unity ahead of the next General Election.
Mr Odinga said the presence of the governors demonstrated that Kenyans want unity.
He said the gathering was the first of its kind since his handshake with President Kenyatta in March last year.
“We said we will not turn back until Kenya changes for the better. We want reforms that will kill tribalism, corruption, election violence, youth unemployment and instead bring peace and unity of all Kenyans,” said Mr Odinga.
Dr Ruto accused the Opposition of having done little development in the constituency despite having controlled its leadership for decades and urged Kibra residents to vote for Mr Mariga.
He also accused Mr Odinga of duping his followers by not revealing to them that the Canaan he was promising to take them was the Jubilee government.