The dust has finally settled in the hyped Kibra by-election after ODM’s Bernard Imran Okoth was declared winner with 24,636 of the 41,984 votes cast.
Jubilee’s McDonald Mariga came in second with 11,230 votes followed by ANC’s Eliud Owalo who garnered 5,275 votes.
Deputy President William Ruto, who was seen as Mariga’s primary sponsor, hailed the results as a big success for Jubilee – despite the relatively large losing margin.
Many have wondered why Ruto spent so much time and resources in a constituency where, by all indications, he was going to lose.
His supporters have labelled him a genius for taking on ODM Leader Raila Odinga in his stronghold and managing to come second.
Odinga’s supporters, understanding the potential embarrassment that would come with ODM losing Kibra, did not take anything to chance and rallied their base with a message to protect the party leader’s bedroom.
Contrary to the narrative that Ruto is the first man to enter an opponent’s bedroom- observers of Kenyan politics will recall that the DP was only following an old trick in the Kenyan political school book.
President Daniel arap Moi heavily funded Benjamin Stanley Maina Kahihia in the 1997 general election to face off against Mwai Kibaki – his main challenger for the presidential seat. Kahihia emerged a millionaire as he rarely used the funds to campaign but managed a few hundred votes.
Perhaps the most daring coup attempt on an opponent’s bedroom was in 2007 when Odinga was facing then President Mwai Kibaki for the presidency.
Odinga was then the Lang’ata MP and the Constitution at the time required one to first be elected MP to qualify to be President.
Kibaki’s strategist groomed a flamboyant businessman Stanley Livongo Livondo – to take on Odinga.
The choice of Livondo, in many ways mirrors Ruto’s choice of Mariga – he was a Luhya – a community who comprise a significant population of voters in Kibra, then part of Lang’ata constituency.
Livondo was also flashy, with a special affinity for drama, and a bottomless budget from the PNU mandarins.
He would occasionally carry notes of low currencies, say 50 bobs, and drop them to his supporters from the air – literally making money rain and earning him the nickname – Mr Money Bags.
In late 2006, Odinga received a special gift in the form of a Hummer, a flashy and domineering SUV that greatly attracted attention for its size – earning Raila the nickname, Nyundo (Swahili for hummer).
Livondo went ahead to get not one, but three Hummers. The Hummer has also been Mariga’s choice of campaign vehicle in Kibra.
In a preposterous stunt, Livondo went as far as to get a lady named Ida and passed off her as his wife by the name Ida Livondo in apparent mimic of Raila’s spouse Ida Odinga.
For all his efforts, Livondo got 23,919 votes (28.1%) against Odinga who had a comfortable win with 59,416 votes (69.7%).
Kibaki’s strategists had not intended for Livondo to win, just like Ruto was not keen on winning the Kibra seat.
The strategy is to create the perception that your opponent is under siege and two, draw his attention to local politics at the expense of national politics.
During Kibaki’s time, the use of Livondo did not quite pay back as Odinga went ahead to get a comfortable win in Lang’ata and even more parliamentary seats than the President’s party.
In Mariga’s case, Ruto managed to create a perception, at least in the eyes of his followers, that Odinga was under siege in his stronghold.
As for the second reason, it is a matter of speculation on the national political issue Ruto would have wanted to distract Odinga from – and if indeed he managed to distract his opponent.
If the target of distraction was BBI, then it is likely a miss goal because Odinga has used the Kibra election to energize his forces – even scooping key allies in Jubilee and Wiper.
It could be that the distraction was in the NASA coalition relationship which has been adversely affected by the divisive Kibra by-election.
It is unlikely that ODM would have taken a strong position against ANC if it were not for the fact that Jubilee had a relatively strong candidate in the race.
The Orange party has announced it would terminate the coalition with NASA after the Kibra by-election. Odinga is likely to remember that his deputy in NASA, Kalonzo Musyoka, did not come to help him at a critical point.
Musyoka will also not take kindly Odinga’s working relationship with Ukambani Governors, Kivutha Kibwana, Charity Ngilu, and Alfred Mutua – who are all spiteful of the Wiper Leader.
If Musyoka, Wetangula, and Mudavadi fall out with Odinga and form a partnership with Ruto – then the DP’s efforts in Kibra would not have been in vain.