Do you think that the current member of parliament for Westlands is unpopular? Is the question from me and Jonathan’s response is: Of course! “Gumo wins solely through violence.” Jonathan argues. “He (Gumo, the sitting MP for Westlands) has no ideas, fresh or otherwise to offer this constituency and neither does he have a vision, stated or else, nor a development record. If you counter Gumo’s violent tactics, he has no legs to stand on”
So is Jonathan intimidated by Gumo’s purported history of violence and political impropriety? “Absolutely not,” is the young man’s speedy response. “I am prepared for Gumo’s political shenanigans, I have in place a strong grassroots security team.”
Is this team tried and tested? At this point Jonathan gets animated and responds with a wry smile- almost a politician’s leer- as though he is attempting to invite me into his confidence. “You know on June 6th, at the time of my launch at the Office Park, there were attempts to disrupt the event. But I didn’t even know about it until the next day. A normal day on the campaign trail is what I had had, in fact better because I had appeared on the breakfast show on (Nairobi’s) Kiss FM that morning. Anyway, know what…? My security detail is fully functional and effective, the attempts (by Gumo’s goons it is implied) to block my launch were dealt with swiftly and efficiently. My security team prevented access by these hired thugs into our well attended meeting… they dealt with the disruptive elements!”
So security is an issue? “Indeed!” Jonathan is exasperated. “This campaign’s biggest budget item is security. Look at Betty (Betty Tett, nominated MP and perennial loser in Westlands), her she is always crying, ‘Gumo beat me, Gumo let his thugs loose on me…’ but what is she doing exposing herself? What is she doing without a sufficient security detail at the polling station? It is not the way I think it should be done but right now it is imperative that I keep a strong security detail. I insist though that it is a defensive one. What I find appalling though, is all this having to pay for security. Spending money on security is double taxation. The government, even though in this parts it has done a good job of acting like it doesn’t, has the responsibility of ensuring my safety, your safety, the safety of every Kenyan. I would hope for, (…as part of my campaign platform, I am working for…) a government that is responsible for the security of its citizenry. The truth is that when government shirks its duty, absconds on its mandate to secure not only its territories from external aggressors but also internal ones, the population rises to defend itself. What do you suppose this mungiki thing is anyway? It is a response to a need to secure; to police the urban space. Mungiki thrives on ‘protection,’ and everywhere you look in Nairobi you see people coming together to secure their neighbourhoods, to keep their taps running, to keep the garbage off their front yards- basically all those things that you pay taxes for- they are doing these things for themselves because the system has failed. Everywhere!. Look at all these posh neighbourhoods in Westlands and their Residents’ Associations… Residents’ Associations are the mungiki of the elite.”
So if the incumbent is not a threat, or seeing that Jonathan has a strategy for him in place, who does he think is the person to beat in the crowded field that is Westlands? The poll, that placed him second in the race was by a team- Independent Analysts- from the university of Nairobi which is, incidentally, in Westlands. The study put Betty Tett at the lead with support from 32% of the respondents, Jonathan had 26%, Fred Gumo 16% and that maverick businessman of Goldenberg infamy, Kamlesh Pattni was fourth with 10%.
Betty Tett? “She has never won an election, why should she win now?” Jonathan spurts out. That coming from an aspiring politician who believes that second place- almost won- doesn’t count, makes sense yet word on the street is that Betty Tett won the NARC party nominations in 2002; that she was the people’s choice but was rigged out. That though is word on the street and Jonathan and I momentarily digress into the politics of that vanguard of democracy that is America and the lessons that emerging democracies like Kenya learnt from Al Gore versus Bush. Gore versus Bush, what a beautiful analogy we could serve out to all those advocates for the will of the people: the will of NARC headquarters (or any other faceless politicos be they Directors of Elections or Electoral Colleges) prevail. But Gore Versus Bush is America’s politics and not Kenya’s and that, just like Jonathan being a founding member of Kenyans for Obama in 2004, is not a thing we can dwell on.
Jonathan, though believes that Betty Tett has proved to the people of Westlands that all she ever wanted was a parliamentary seat. He feels that she hasn’t used the nominated seat that NARC gave her, subsequent to the contentious Gumo win in party primaries, to advance the way of life of her constituents. “She has served in two key ministries: Housing and Local Government, yet Kangemi- where most of Westlands’ voters live- goes on as though slum upgrading never happened. There have been kiosks demolitions in the constituency, which is within reason, but what happened to the owners of those kiosks- what fall back alternatives were they offered?”
Beyond the incumbent and Betty, Jonathan feels that the rest of the crowd are spoilers. “In Kenyan politics there will always be that candidate, or group of candidates who have been paid to split a particular vote or are in the race hoping to be paid to step down in support of another candidate. There are too many decoys being served out at all times in our politics… Do you even know that there are people out there who keep inviting you to stage-managed harambees designed by your opponents to erode your campaign’s kitty? ”
The posers, the petulant and the petty players of Kenyan politics not withstanding, talking to Jonathan Mueke reveals that he is not taking Pattni’s declared candidature for granted. “No matter what you may think of him, Pattni draws crowds and a good politician can work a crowd to his advantage, the hard part is always in getting the attention of the masses. Besides, Pattni remains enormously wealthy and he has the ability to use his vast financial resources to manipulate the vote. What is interesting, though, about Pattni, is that he hasn’t been seen anywhere on the ground since he announced his candidature. I see him as an individual whose sole intent is to protect his wealth. What exactly does he have to offer the people of Westlands; which of their interests does he have at heart?”