How Ngilu, Waiguru and Laboso proved ‘politics isn’t a man’s game’
An aggressive civic education that included calls for women’s empowerment during the electioneering period is credit for the high number of women who were elected.
Three of the six women gubernatorial candidates romped home in the just concluded General Election.
The three who have joined their 44 male counterparts as members of the distinguished Council of Governors, are former Cabinet Ministers Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and outgoing Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Joyce Laboso in Bomet County.
The trio not only broke the glass ceiling by right but did so by trouncing their male rivals with a huge margin in their first attempt despite the odds against them at the party primaries where most of their colleagues lost.
It was even tougher for them during the gruelling campaigns where their male opponents used every dirty trick and violence to frustrate their dream of emerging victorious but all their efforts were in vain.
Some of the male rivals were questioning the women candidate’s marital status, ethnicity, and ancestral homes among other sideshows that could not deter the voters. Issue of their leadership potential, development record and manifesto as well as academic and work performance was not a big issue.
Among them, Ngilu is a seasoned politician who first entered the fray over 20 years ago as an opposition MP for Kitui Central. She first vied for presidency through Social Democratic Party in 1997, being not only the first woman presidential candidate in Keya but also the entire sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2002 she joined the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) and joined Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki to remove then President Daniel Moi from power.
In 2013, Ngilu lost her attempts to clinch the Kitu County senatorial position. However, she was appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to serve as Cabinet Secretary in charge of until 2014 when she was asked to step aside over graft allegations.
She decided to lie low and fight the case and won before turning to politics and campaigning against Kitui County Governor Julius Malombe in the just concluded General Election.
Waiguru was a long-serving technocrat at the Treasury who came to the limelight after the 2013 General Election when Uhuru Kenyatta appointed her as a Cabinet Secretary in charge of Devolution and Planning. She served for barely two years before she too was asked to step aside due to claims of corruption. She decided to lie low and emerged to claim she would be going for the Nairobi gubernatorial position. This was met with a lot of resistance ad may who were not happy with her brought up the issue of the graft case. She later dropped the bid for Nairobi and decided to vie for the Kirinyaga County Governor’s seat.
Unlike her Ngilu and Laboso, Waiguru’s main challenger was not the outgoing governor but Narc Kenya chairperson Martha Karua, who is also a former Constitutional Affairs Minister and the only female presidential candidate during the 2013 General Election.
Laboso landed into politics on technicality after her eldest sister, Lorna Laboso, was killed together with former Cabinet Minister Kipkalya Kones, in a plane crash shortly after the 2007 General Election.
She resigned from her job as a lecturer at Egerton University and successfully vied in the Sotik by-election. In the 2013 polls, Laboso successfully defended her parliamentary seat and got the support of her political party to be elected as National Assembly’s Deputy Speaker. Laboso faced a huge challenge from the incumbent Isaac Ruto and especially for the fact that she is married in a different county.
The three were among six tough-talking women politicians who emerged victors in the gubernatorial race through their respective political parties’.
The others who fought the fight but lost at the polls are: Jubilee Party’s Atieno Otieno in Kisumu County; Wiper Party’s Wavinya Ndeti and Karua.
Other women who put a spirited fight but lost at the party nominations in the hotly contested gubernatorial race in Nairobi, Embu and Migori were Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, Cecily Mbarire and Anne Omodho Anyanga respectively.
Now that the three pioneers have been sworn-in and are fully in-charge of the powerful office of governor in their respective counties, all eyes will be on them for the next five years to see how they perform by translating their manifestos into actions for the betterment of their electorate.
Meanwhile, the eight female Deputy Governors will no longer be lonely in the corridors of power in the Council of Governors’ meetings where decisions are made on how to use the billions of shillings from the exchequer, as was the case in the last five years.