Politics

Inside Tharaka Nithi’s 2022 gubernatorial race: How the numbers will work out in the hotly contested 3-horse race

A vicious fight for the control of the Governor’s office is shaping up in the stronghold county. Tharaka-nithi is a small county tucked between Meru and Embu counties with approximately 200,000 voters. The county is made up of 3 constituencies of Maara, Chuka-igambangombe and Tharaka constituencies. These three constituencies form the sub-tribes of the region and it is along these three tribal lines that the voters are known to vote.

Registered voters per constituency as at 2017 elections

Each of the constituencies has 5 wards, the registered number of voters in each of the wards are:

Maara constituency

Registered voters per County Assembly Ward:

  • Mitheru; 10,220 registered voters
  • Muthambi; 11,935 registered voters
  • Mwimbi; 14,364 registered voters
  • Ganga; 11,679 registered voters
  • Chogoria; 20,531 registered voters

Total: 68,729 registered voters

Chuka/Igambang’ombe constituency

Registered voters per County Assembly Ward:

  • Mariani; 9,429 registered voters
  • Karingani;16,236 registered voters
  • Magumoni;20,951 registered voters
  • Mugwe; 14,762 registered voters
  • Igambang’ombe; 15,108 registered voters

Total: 76,486 registered voters

Tharaka constituency

Registered voters per County Assembly Ward:

  • Gatunga; 12,618 registered voters
  • Mukothima; 12,021 registered voters
  • Nkondi; 8,816 registered voters
  • Chiakariga; 17,392 registered voters
  • Marimanti; 17,092 registered voters

Total: 67,939 registered voters

The current governor is Muthomi Njuki, and truth is, many residents agree that the governor has performed considerably well compared to the first governor Samuel Ragwa who for five years oversaw the theft, plunder, and wastage of county resources with no meaningful development to his name.

The 2022 race has shaped up to be a 3-horse race between current governor Muthomi Njuki, Current senator Prof. Kithure Kindiki, and the outgoing Chuka University VC Prof. Erastus Njoka.

Who among these three is the frontrunner?

Both the current governor and prof. Njoka comes from Chuka-igambangombe constituency, while Prof. Kithure Kindiki hails from Tharaka constituency. On paper, though many may not realize it, Prof. Kithure Kindiki has the upper hand of being the next governor of the county. The people of Tharaka are known to vote unanimously for one of their own, and for years they have used that unity to bargain for more resources within the County, thus if they are united for a cause of making their son the Governor, the Professor of law will easily trounce his competitors to win the coverted seat.

But it can’t be so easy for the senator, those close to him accuse the senator of being selfish and visionless. To prove it, they argue that his 5 years as the majority leader in the senate brought no meaningful development for the county and accuse him of the stalled construction of the Chuka-kaareni road, a major road that has remained dusty since independence. Yet what frustrates most about the status of the road is that the Jubilee government allocated money for the project, and after just 3 km were constructed, the road construction stalled. Others point to the senator flying all the way from Nairobi to his Tharaka to build a mud house as an example of how visionless and ambitionless he is. Others note that in all his years, he is never known to have helped anybody in his locality apart from small-time handouts during election campaigns. His biggest strength in the coming elections will lie in his ability to unite the entire Tharaka constituency votes behind him, and get a considerable number of votes from the other 2 constituencies. Why this may play in his favor is the fact that the Tharaka people are residents within the county, whereas, for Chuka and Maara, most of the voters reside out of the county, and hence their voting is never a guarantee.

The biggest challenge that Kindiki faces is the political and developmental activities being championed by the Governor as well as the Chuka University VC. Prof Njoka. If these two are able to scrub a part of the Tharaka voters to their side, the battle for the Gubernatorial post will shift completely from Kindiki to a 2-horse race between the current Governor and Prof. Njoka?

It is said that people don’t vote for leaders in Kenya on the basis of development, so who between Prof. Njoka and Gov. Njuki will control the Maara and Chuka Vote?

Many factors will determine this, but as of now, we can reliably argue that Prof Njoka by a slim margin is the most favored in the Maara constituency while Gov. Njuki controls a big chunk of the Chuka vote. The single biggest factor that will determine the voting patterns will be the choice of the running mate. The current running mate Mr. Kagwima hails from Tharaka, if Njuki sticks with him as the running-mate and Kindiki vies, Njuki will lose the elections early in the morning. For Njuki to have a shot, he will have no alternative than to change his running mate and most preferably, get a running mate from Maara Constituency.

But Njuki remains a cunning politician, his ability to marshal people on his side and pull political cards against his opponents is a strength that is unmatched by his opponents. He is up to now the only true politician in the race, and the fact that he is the incumbent governor gives him the power and resources to galvanize much support for his campaign. Even more, he is believed to have enough financial backing to run his campaigns smoothly. His only challenge remains the corruption case in court, if he is able to have his case cleared before the next election, then perhaps his win for the second term will be a walk in the park. all the same, his opponents will do all they can to exploit his corruption allegations to their advantage.

Prof. Njoka has made his name as development conscious and somebody who really has a vision for the county. In 15 years, e has been able to establish Chuka University and build it to one of the best in the Country. With that, he has breathed life to a once-drying town of Chuka. More to that, the establishment of a constituent college in Tharaka has been transformative to the economy of the county, and the ongoing construction of a Maara Campus of Chuka university has gone down well. Residents agree that Prof. Njoka is the best man to take over the Kathwana office, but most also agree that prof. Njoka is not a politician but a leader, meaning that unless people decide to vote for him based on his development record, his political ability may weigh down on him. He has been able to win many hearts within and outside the county, if he is able to craft a political message that augurs well with the electorates, come 2022 he will be the Governor. Prof. Njoka also has to win the Maara constituency vote, thus, just like Governor Njuki, he will be forced to get a running mate from Maara. For years, the people of Maara feel left out of the county leadership, and with an MP who is never there for them, hence the coming election, their push is to have one of their own close to power.

The best chances for Prof. Njoka lie in his ability to marshal and win the Chuka and Maara constituency voters as well as get a sizeable vote from Tharaka constituency, that way, he will have an unquestionable lead in the next election. He is a respected elder in the County, a Churchman, incorruptible as well as softspoken, and not known to hurl insults at his competitors. His push to make Tharaka-nithi a technological, educational, and medical hub in the country resonates well with the people, and with that, he could be the man to beat in the race for Tharaka-nithi county.

All the same, the race for the county governor remains so close, and as we head to the home stretch, every vote will count, every political move for each of the three will be of great significance to who becomes the next Governor of the stronghold. However, for any of the candidates to improve their chances of winning, Both Prof. Njoka and Gov. Njuki will have to get a running mate from Maara, while Prof. Kindiki will be forced to get a running mate from Chuka-Igambangome. May the best candidate win

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