Entertainment / Celebrities
Thursday, 02 Mar 2017 18:54 EATnmuthoni@kenyafreepress.com
While the attention of most Kiambu residents this election cycle is focused on the gripping gubernatorial race between incumbent William Kabogo and Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu, some races for ward representatives in the vast county are so hotly contested that they are stealing the flavour from parliamentary contests.
The Kiambu County Assembly has emerged as one of the most vibrant in the country. Kiambu is among the top six recipients of devolved funds along with Nairobi, Mandera, Turkana and Nakuru counties, and it has substantial local revenues. As Nairobi's 'bedroom', Kiambu's politics are closely linked to Nairobi's, and its assembly is confronting challenges such challenges as refuse management, urban planning, unemployment and insecurity that Nairobi is grappling with.
To be an MCA in Kiambu now calls for highly dynamic individuals, and the current MCA for Limuru East ward John Kariuki Kaniaru is having sleepless nights, facing tough opposition from opponents questioning his performance at the assembly and the local level. Among the MCA's challengers are businessman Paul Macharia Wambui who is making his second stab at the seat, and Anthony Gitonga, Karuga Ngige, Peter Kamau and Waweru Njiru.
Four of the aspirants are running on the Jubilee Party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, while Mr Gitonga is in the Maendeleo Chap Chap party associated with Machakos governor Alfred Mutua. All the aspirants are relatively young, with Mr Ngige and Mr Kamau being in their twenties. Mr Njiru and Mr Macharia (or Ka Wambui as he's popularly known) are in their mid thirties.
Among the issues facing the incumbent is poor representation at the Kiambu County Assembly, where he has not participated effectively in tabling Bills or contributing to the development of legislation guiding various aspects of life in his ward. Locally, he's been blamed for the poor state of key roads, such as the St Lwanga Road Kiawaroga, and the one from Kirathimo to Misiri village, which are under the county government mandate.
Other critics say Mr Kariuki has been unable to disburse school bursaries fairly, and that he has on occasion failed to attend to the needs of some constituents who seek his assistance on various issues.
Among the aspirants, Ka Wambui has emerged as the undisputed front-runner. He has instant name recognition, having plunged into politics at a young age in 2007 when he campaigned for Samuel Ndung’u Wanjiku, who lost seat. In 2013, he joined the race for the Limuru East seat on the TNA ticket, running in a crowded race that included two incumbents (the ward had merged the old Limuru East and Limuru Central wards).
In that race, Ka Wambui beat the councilor from his Limuru East side but emerged second behind Mr Kariuki, who had represented Limuru Central since 2007, losing by only 23 votes (834 to 811). With his supporters displeased, he defected to NARC, and in the main election received over 3,000 votes, even though the TNA wave enabled Mr Kariuki to beat him by slightly under 1,000 votes.
Speaking to correspondents of the Kenya Free Press this afternoon, the aspirant exuded confidence that matters were in his favour. He believes that he's the right candidate to correct the people’s disappointment, a task he seeks to achieve by focusing on three main constitutional mandates of the MCA.
"Top of these is representation. Our voice has been absent in the Kiambu assembly," he said. Recognising that the Kiambu assembly already has some transformative legislations, such as the Biashara Fund which helps the youth establish businesses, he said more was needed, and the MCAs should play their oversight role more effectively. Among his plans is to introduce a law on healthcare service delivery.
His second goal is to ensure that Limuru East gets its fair share of devolved funds. "The budgeting process can be complex, and it is the role of MCAs to ensure that their areas are catered for at the level of budgetary allocation. It is so sad that we have been promised some services for so many years," he said.
Among the services were water and infrastructural projects. He wants to establish a dispensary at Kiawaroga so that poor people who can't afford medical charges at Nazareth Hospital can access medical services. He said many workers at the nearby tea farms fear going to the hospital as they can't afford the cost. He also wants water projects implemented in areas such as Riara Ridge and Kiawaroga.
But his main goal is to work with agricultural producers in value addition. He says that Limuru has the capacity to produce small amounts of edible oils, spices, detergents, and commonly used by-products of farm produce that residents buy expensively at supermarkets. "The future of our area is cottage industry.
"Many people assume that industries have to be big plants established somewhere in the big towns. But I believe that, just like the small milk plants that have flourished in Central Kenya, we can build small projects in food processing, milling and generally value addition in order to create jobs, technologise our production and reduce the money we spend on goods we can make locally," he said.
Ka Wambui's other priority is to build on the role he has been playing in the community as a role model and mentor to the new generation. Having grown in a humble background, he has assisted many people from the area in accessing education or settling medical bills. He believes that, given the high rates of poverty in the Kenyan countryside, these are responsibilities of any leader.
"As a leader you need to be accessible, to listen to people's problems and try to address them where you can as you work on the policy and legislation that will address the problems at their root," he told this writer. In this regard Ka Wambui has sponsored a number of students through secondary school. He currently has five scholars in various schools in the school, with the latest one being a Form One at Muna Secondary School.
Born in 1982, he attended Gatatha Primary School where he sat for his KCPE, and Tigoni High School for his KCSE. He also has a certificate in clearing and forwarding and a diploma in purchasing and supplies from the Technical University of Kenya. His clearing and forwarding firm has offices in Mombasa and Nairobi. A family man, he is married and has two daughters.