The Juja parliamentary seat which fell vacant following the death of Francis Munyua Waititu ‘Wakapee’ has attracted at least 13 aspirants.
Among those angling to succeed the fallen lawmaker, who succumbed to brain cancer last month, is his widow Susan Njeri Waititu and previous contestants for the seat as well as new entrants.
Most of the hopefuls are eyeing the Jubilee Party ticket, but others are likely to vie on former ruling party Kanu, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and United Democratic Alliance (UDA) associated with Deputy President William Ruto.
They include Lukas Mwaura, George Koimburi, Anthony Kirori, Ken Gachuma, Dorcas Wanjiru Chege, University don Naftaly Muiga Rugara, J M Kariuki, Eunice Wamugo, Joseph Gichui, Zack Nderitu and Moses Mwenda.
Former Thika MP Alice Wambui Ng’ang’a who hails from Juja was expected to be in the race but she is said to be quietly supporting Mrs Waititu’s candidature.
Koimburi, Mwaura, Kirori and Ms Chege were in the race in the last General Elections in which they lost to Waititu. They had earlier sought the Jubilee party ticket before decamping to other parties.
Also in the race is James Marungo, a newcomer and businessman in the area who even before the death of Waititu was on the ground implementing various projects among them construction of bridges and dilapidated roads.
The by-election slotted to take place on May 18 is likely to be a platform for a show of might between politicians supporting President Uhuru Kenyatta and those associated with the DP.
Jubilee will be going all out to retain the seat, given that the constituency is in President Kenyatta’s home turf and hence the party’s perceived stronghold.
UDA is widely expected to field Gachuma, a former NG-CDF chairman for the constituency who worked under Wakapee before he resigned to consolidate his political base.
Mrs Waititu will rely on her husband’s popularity and his development record to capture the Jubilee ticket during the primaries, if the party does not go for direct nomination.
Initially, there were reports that Waititu’s first-born son Michael Munyua, an ICT employee of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology would be seeking to succeed his father but he has since withdrawn.
During Waititu’s burial attended by President Kenyatta, local leaders led by Kiambu Town MP Jude Njomo drummed up support for his widow to take the constituency’s mantle and complete what her husband had started, noting that she has been behind implementation of NG-CDF projects during his prolonged ailment.
Kanu leaders drawn from the Mt Kenya region are backing Ms Chege to go for the vacant seat on the cockerel symbol.
Their caucus chairman Joseph Mukirai who chaired a meeting of party stalwarts at Jogoo Kimakia hotel in Thika announced that Ms Chege will get a direct nomination.
Kiambu County Assembly Jubilee caucus chairman Elijah Njoroge, who is the Biashara Ward MCA in Ruiru, said the party will easily retain the seat and dismissed UDA as inconsequential.
“We cannot let the people of Juja be led by any other party or an independent candidate. We are not ready to subject the constituents to opposition while their MP was from the ruling party. We want a person who will work with the President to deliver all the development projects he promised Juja people,” said Njoroge.
Rugara, who is also the Universities Academics Staff Union (UASU) national organizing-secretary, hopes to secure the position for his sustained community service to Juja residents.
“I initiated establishment of sub county offices which are currently in operation, I have been safeguarding JKUAT to have a good relationship with the community, I have also been sponsoring students from primary to the university level alongside my other known community programs which I do through my foundation,” he said.