June 25th 2017

Top Stories / National

From Peter Kenneth's Nairobi bid, lessons on how not to run a national campaign

Instead of campaigning in Jubilee, he spent his energies on attacking Governor Kidero by highlighting how Nairobi had collapsed due to the bad leadership and unfulfilled promises. It was a general election pose that assumed he already had the Jubilee ticket in his pocket.

By Julliet Mwihakijmwihaki@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 27 Apr 2017 17:37 EAT

Peter Kenneth.

With the Nairobi Jubilee Party nominations done and senator Mike Sonko winning the governorship ticket, political analysts were pouring in with views on the miscalculations that undermined the captain of former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.

Mr Kenneth does not take his loss on a good note, especially after all the effort by the Jubilee Party machinery to ensure his win over Sonko flopped. In the dying days to the nomination, he confidently told Citizen TV that he would never lose to Sonko. Now that he lost, the former Gatanga MP has appealed against the result, claiming massive rigging.

Mr Kenneth is a newcomer to Jubilee and did not get much support from the Nairobi leaders apart from MPs led by Maina Kamanda, who knew he was being pushed by President Uhuru, presumably as part of the president's succession plan. After keeping his hand secret for months, President Uhuru Kenyatta finally endorsed Peter Kenneth during the funeral of the former MP Gatanga David Murathe’s father in Muranga.

That Kenneth still couldn't win reveals how much the former assistant minister has exaggerated his popularity. When he launched his governorship campaign, he vaingloriously claimed that voters in three counties (including Muranga and Nakuru) had appealed to him to lead them and he was only consulting on which county to pick.

He had never thought then that he could lose due to his having won twice in the Gatanga MP elections against little-known politicians. In his first main electoral contest, he was an also-run for the presidential in 2013, winning under 72,000 votes, approximately half a percent of the votes cast.

While Mr Kenneth has always claimed to be above tribalism, in the race for Nairobi governor he ran an explicitly tribal campaign supported mainly by members of his ethnic group. At the height of the campaign, his opponent and presumptive winner Sonko accused him of importing voters from Kiambu and Muranga counties for registration as Jubilee members.

As it happened, during the actual primaries, Jubilee Party like the others discarded the register of members in conducting the nominations, and the use of IEBC register opened the primaries to all registered voters, including those from rival parties. If any voters had been imported from the neighbouring counties, they couldn't match the scores of thousands who got reprieve to participate in the primaries despite not being Jubilee members.

The Jubilee Party machinery was also seen as exerting its influence to make it impossible for Senator Sonko to win the seat. During the selection for the county elections board members at the Bomas of Kenya, top Jubilee members in Nairobi tried to fill the board with Sonko’s opposers, but the senator's supporters rose against the machinations, sparking violence that scuttled the election.

Thereafter, the party subjected Sonko to a disciplinary process that he ignored and died a natural death, party leaders having no guts to punish him any further. He was charged Sh7 million for alleged damages to property at the Bomas which he refused to pay. Instead, he responded by a public statement declaring that he would quite Jubilee should he be denied the ticket since he knew how popular he was.

At no time throughout Sonko's troubles with the party did Mr Kenneth call for a level playing ground as a democrat would be expected to do. He was happy to ride on the back of a lopsided process provided he was benefitting. Due to the endorsement and support of President Uhuru and the seeming Kikuyu dominance in Jubilee's Nairobi basket, he felt the confidence of winning the nominations.

Instead of campaigning in Jubilee, he spent his energies on attacking Governor Kidero by highlighting how Nairobi had collapsed due to the bad leadership and unfulfilled promises. It was a general election pose that assumed he already had the Jubilee ticket in his pocket.

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