Battle of the titans in Mathare by-election
Political temperatures in Mathare are beginning to rise as residents anticipate a tough contest between Cord and Jubilee coalitions in a possible by-election.
The seat is yet to be declared vacant by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, due to a Supreme Court petition filed by ousted MP George Wanjohi.
But both TNA and ODM are laying strategies to capture the seat.
ODM has made Governor Evans Kidero head of the party’s campaign team, while TNA has named Starehe MP Maina Kamanda the link person between the voters and the party. He could be helped by Senator Mike Sonko.
The battle lines are not yet clear but the sprawling constituency could see Dr Kidero and a retinue of ODM MPs face off with Mr Sonko and his TNA brigade.
Mr Wanjohi lost the seat at the Court of Appeal which overturned an earlier ruling by the High Court which declared Mr Wanjohi winner of the March 4 election.
Dr Kidero will be helped by MPs Tom Kajwang’(Ruaraka), Irshad Sumra (Embakasi South), Omondi Ogutu (Embakasi East), Ken Okoth (Kibra), Nairobi majority leader Elias Otieno and ODM politician Reuben Ndolo.
The TNA team will see Mr Kamanda helped by Mr Sonko, and MPs George Theuri (Embakasi West), Mwangi Gakuya (Embakasi North), Ben Mutura (Makadara) plus former Kamukunji MP Simon Mbugua and several Nairobi TNA politicians led by Mr Francis Mwangi .
Racing against time
Mr Mwangi is being co-opted because of his grassroots network in Kiamaiko.
On Monday, Mr Mwangi and several TNA activists embarked on a fact-finding mission in Mathare to get views of party members on who they would want to carry the coalition’s flag.
Speaking to representatives of 18 women’s groups, Mr Mwangi said, “The party cannot afford to lose this seat. As President Kenyatta’s supporters, it will be embarrassing to lose it. We shall mobilise ourselves and we know how.”
The only TNA MCAs in Mathare constituency, Andrew Macharia (Mlango Kubwa) and James Kinuthia( Kiamaiko) are also key in the campaigns.
“To win the seat, all the party machinery must support the candidate. We have reconciled our earlier differences,” said Mr Macharia.
While Dr Kidero is the overall chairman, MP Irshad Sumra will chair the team of city MPs.
He said on Tuesday, “This is our seat. We have our strategies. If you look at the figures, you can tell this is an ODM seat.”
Mr Sumra said coalition parties had agreed to shelve their ambitions to field one candidate.
“Our candidate is K1. He is the most capable to win it this time round,” he said, alluding to Mr Kariuki’s nickname.
Mr Kamanda exuded confidence that TNA would keep its seat.
“We have our grass-roots systems and they are ready to roar. We are just waiting for the whistle. We are not just giving our opponents a field day,” he said.
Mr Kamanda said the campaign team would be made up of all TNA MPs in the city.
“My work will be to coordinate activities. We have an idea how the ground looks like and we shall know where to penetrate,” he said.
Although ODM has settled on Mr Kariuki as its potential candidate, TNA is still grappling with whether they will give Mr Wanjohi a direct ticket or subject him to nomination with other candidates.
The duel was expected to ignite old rivalries. Dr Kidero, for example, will be supporting Mr Kariuki in spite of a vicious war with his mother, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, in the last election where both wanted to be Nairobi Governor.
Dr Kidero had Bishop Wanjiru blocked from the race due to a lack of academic papers. The party offered the Bishop the ticket to run for Senator but there she lost to Mr Sonko.
On the other hand, Mr Kamanda will pick his battles with Bishop Wanjiru as he fights off her son in Mathare.
Mr Kamanda and Bishop Wanjiru fought over the larger Starehe constituency from which Mathare was carved.