Magazine / Gender Matters
Tuesday, 25 Apr 2017 21:47 EATjmwihaki@kenyafreepress.com
Kiambu Governor William Kabogo’s overwhelming defeat by Kabete MP Ferdinard Waititu this evening carried deep symbolism for the power of women in Kenya, with the once maverick politician conceding the election after only around 12,000 votes had been counted. Kiambu has over one million registered voters, and a big number of these were believed to have turned up for the Jubilee Party nominations.
A foremost supporter of President Uhuru Kenyatta and a rich man with instant name recognition, Mr Kabogo was a sure candidate for re-election until at least a year ago when Mr Waititu happened on the scene upon transferring his political base from Nairobi to Kiambu. However, it is a series of missteps, specifically slurs on women, that cost the governor immense goodwill and in recent months put his political career on the line.
Mr Kabogo's career dreams came tumbling down in the last few days when a vibrant campaign machinery by Mr Waititu released a video collection of his slurs against women (some unprintable) against which he expectedly defended himself but from which he could not recover. The last two days in particular saw a surge in women voters committed to beating Kabogo. This writer, who is registered to vote in Kiambu, took the afternoon off to contribute to dispatching him from office.
Mr Kabogo has repeatedly uttered abusive words at Kiambu women since his becoming governor in 2013. At one time he stated that women vying for leadership should first be married. This statement came after Thika Member of Parliament Alice Ng’ang’a emerged as one of his fiercest critics in 2015. Later in the same period, the governor claimed sensationally that the political problems in Kiambu (where most MPs were critical of his leadership) were being caused by the election of 'uncircumcised women'.
The statements were widely condemned, with Nairobi women representative Rachel Shabesh saying categorically that Mr Kabogo’s statements were at variance with the Jubilee government's manifesto that protected children and women. Mr Kabogo, however, did not stop, and as late as in this campaign season he was still uttering abusive words at women.
At one time during his rallies, he arrogantly dished out wands of notes to women and urged them to use the money for buying underpants. He alleged that the disturbance in wind speed from his landing helicopter had left the women naked. "I don't want to see these things again," he said.
With womenfolk getting mad at the governor's ways, what lacked through most of the season was a strategy to catalyse the women's opposition to him, and Mr Waititu's campaign seems to have got its grips on the issue in the last days to today's repeat elections, igniting a momentum by women young and old to teach Kabogo a lesson. In the last three days, the governor was only defending himself about his relationship with women.
But his constant denials, including on television interviews, made his positions only more recognised, something the governor's team took note of. After the shambolic Jubilee nominations last Friday, he came out castigating the party, saying the cancellation was a mistake which would never happen again.
Recognising his hemorrhaging support, Kabogo said Jubilee underrated the number of people who would come out to nominate their preferred leaders. But even before the vote was cancelled, some results in some Kiambu constituencies had shown that Waititu was heading for a resounding win against the governor.
His defeat today therefore comes as no surprise as it was seen coming due to his abrasive style. His route started getting tough and rough as the nomination in the county began early today, many a woman voter were cursing the governor and praising his opponent on their way to polling stations.
While the Kiambu vote should carry lessons for women activists on how a catalysing event can be deployed to animate the women vote, it shouldn't be taken for granted that Mr Waititu was also very popular after being supported by all of Kabogo’s opponents who include Gakuyo real estate CEO David Ngare and agricultural economist James Nyoro.
Opinion polls lately propelled Mr Waititu to a magnitude that Kabogo could not match. However Kabogo rubbished the opinion tallying saying they are just only polls but not the elections, believing in his old strength when, beneath his feet, a revolution was taking place.