Dilemma: Which way for second-term governors?

Monday, August 24th, 2020 00:00 |
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. Photo/PD/Bernard Malonza

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

Revelations by Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago that he will seek a third term if proposals in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report are adopted have lifted the lid on the various options that second-term governors are exploring ahead of the 2022 polls.

Mandago has been consistently hinting through his aides of the possibility of seeking another term if the BBI proposes removal of term limits for gubernatorial chiefs which is currently capped at two.

A total of 22 governors are set to finish second terms in 2022, triggering debate on their political future.

Mandago is also said to be considering swapping seats with Senator Margaret Kamar with local leaders, among them Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut, pushing him to go for senatorship.

Yesterday, Mandago’s spokesman Cyrus  Tarus in an interview with People Daily  suggested his boss would not retire from active politics.

Tarus said Mandago at one time during a public event warned his competitors including Kamar, businessman Jonathan Bii , Kenya’s ambassador to Pakistan Julius Bittok and businessman Zedekiah Bundotich (Buzeki) who have declared interest in his seat that they should not write him off, noting that he might be in the race in the 2022 polls.

Proposed abolition

“The governor has severally said, though on a lighter note, that if BBI passes, he might seek another five years. During a public event attended by Bii who campaigned for his candidature, Mandago told his competitors not to ignore him.

He said if this BBI thing is aligned properly, you think I will go anywhere? I might be in the governor race,” Tarus, who is also the county head of communication quoted his boss in a phone interview.

Speaking on a local TV on Wednesday, Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku dismissed the proposed abolition of term limits as myopic and a sweetener for the county chiefs to support BBI.

Lenku, who is serving his first term as governor, said there was a need for term limits for the positions of governor and president.

“It is an incentive to have the governor support the BBI…I think it is important in leadership that you learn to hand over the baton or you learn to work within a certain timeframe,” he said.

Another second-term governor from North Rift who sought anonymity also said that he was supporting BBI because he hopes it will remove the term limits.

“With this BBI, do you think I am going anywhere? We are waiting for the term-limit to be removed so that we can go for third terms,” the governor said.

Though some of the governors have not gone public on their next course of action, their supporters have indicated that a section of county chiefs in their final terms will retreat and contest smaller positions such as parliamentary seats in their home constituencies if term limis are not scrapped.

Three-tier system

Those linked to parliamentary seats include Joseph Chepkwony (Kericho) reportedly planning to swap with Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Embu’s Martin Wambora (Senate) Sospeter Ojamoong of Busia who is said to have confided to his ministers that he will contests the Teso South parliamentary seat with his Kisii counterpart James Ongwae said to be interested in the Kitutu Chache South seat currently held by Richard Onyonka.

Equally, Governor Okoth Obado has been linked to Uriri parliamentary seat while Narok ‘s Samuel Tunai could fight it out with Gideon Konchellah in Kilgoris.

The governors were yesterday not available to confirm or deny the claims but Wambora has denied the claims saying he intends to retire from politics.

Some of the governors have announced plans to contest the presidency or registered political parties with pundits saying they could be eying either the deputy presidency or the two posts of deputy prime minister proposed in the BBI report.

Besides, the county chiefs hope for the adoption of a three-tier system of governments so that they can take up the posts while others may be keen to be appointed  CSs in future governments.

Two former governors Peter Munya (Meru), Ukur Yatani (Marsabit) and former aspirants Najib Balala who lost to Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Samuel Chelugui who lost the Baringo contests are serving in Cabinet positions.

Governors who have declared intentions to seek the presidency include Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Hassan Joho (Mombasa) Mwangi Wa Iria (Murang’a), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi).

However, pundits opine that some may not even be interested in competing for State House, their declarations could render them available for key candidates who could invite them to possible alliances.

“If we have more than 10 governors even is they don’t have the clout, it might be a tall order for the main contenders to get the required threshold of winning and so, the governors will have to approached to form alliances with promises for CS positions or other top jobs,” lawyer and political analyst Danstan Omari told People Daily.

Oparanya, Joho and Mutua have made it clear that they will not retire from active politics.

Last terms

 “I have served the people of Kakamega for two terms. I am not interested in anything that is not national.

Let’s square it out at the national arena,” said Oparanya, who prior to the BBI was on record saying that he would not mind if Kenyans decide to extend the term limits.

But Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia discouraged the idea of extending the term limit, but left it to the discretion of the voters. 

 “There is a reason as to why there is a term limit. I believe in mentoring young leaders to take over positions but the decisions (of extending terms) depend on Wanjiku.

If Kenyans feel that they will extend the term limit, it will be upon them to decide through a referendum,” Kimemia said.

Other governors who are serving their last terms include Josphat Nanok (Turkana), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) who has been warming up to Baringo Senator Gideon Moi who is also after the presidency, Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Patrick Khaemba (Trans-Nzoia), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), John Nyagarama (Nyamira) and Ali Roba (Mandera.

Joho and Kingi are major proponents of the BBI initiative, the brainchild of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

On the other hand, Kingi, who has said that he would form his own party, has been seeking to mobilise a political base outside his home county which viewed as a plan to create a strong launch pad for his presidential ambitions.

In July last year, Kingi held a strategy meeting which was attended by two senators and 19 MPs from the region and towards the end of the year held a follow up meeting attended by several Taita Taveta, Tana River, Kwale, Mombasa and Lamu MPs and Ward Reps.

Coast governors also recommended the introduction of a three-tier system to create regional governments in what was seen a calculated plot to create positions for second term governors.

 “The people of the coast are urging that there be an established federal system of government where there will be a regional government while retaining the county governments.

Funding allocation for regional and county governments should take up 70 percent of the national revenue,” read their recommendations in part.

Kibwana, who has been at loggerheads with his Wiper Party boss Kalonzo Musyoka, has declared that he will contest the presidency.

“I wanted to go back home (retire) and look after goats but people said, ‘no we want you to be our president’. So, I will be on the ballot,” said Kibwana.

Wa Iria, the only county chief in central Kenya service a second term has also announced that he will seek the presidency and is said to be behind the Civic Renewal Party. 

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