Intense lobbying ahead of CoG meeting to pick new leadership
There was intense lobbying yesterday ahead of today’s Council of Governors (CoG) elections, whose outcome is likely to reflect the widening rift between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Though Jubilee Party has the numbers to bag the post of the council chair, currently held by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (ODM), its greatest hurdle is the political discord in the ruling party. Allies of the President and those of his deputies have been pulling in different directions.
Whoever the President’s allies back will have an upper hand, with the assured support of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), thanks to the rapprochement between Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
A statement from the CoG said the election will be part of the agenda of the council’s full meeting today at the Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi’s Westlands.
“The Council of Governors will hold a full council meeting on Monday January 20 where it will deliberate on the critical issues concerning the council and thereafter conduct its annual elections,” reads a statement from the CoG secretariat yesterday.
Oparanya will be seeking re-election, and will battle it out with his colleagues Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Ali Roba (Mandera) and Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a).
Oparanya, who is also the ODM deputy leader, on Saturday hosted a Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) forum in Kakamega and will be keen to project himself as a leader who can rally majority of his colleagues to back the Uhuru-Raila reforms agenda.
Roba is an ardent Ruto supporter while Wa Iria, the current CoG vice-chairperson, has also been in the DP’s camp, but seems to have changed tune following strong signals by the President who is pushing for the BBI.
Last evening, governors were trying to reach a consensus on the new leadership to avoid what they termed as a “sporadic war.”
In today’s election, the county chiefs will also elect CoG vice-chairman, council whip and chairs of committees.
Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and his Uasin Gishu counterpart Jackson Mandago are expected to battle it out for vice-chairman’s seat.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, whose term as the council whip has come to an end, faces a tough competition from his colleagues Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Stanley Kiptis (Baringo).
Oparanya has exuded confidence in retaining his seat, saying he has no formidable opposition.
He, however, said there might be a surprise candidate for the chairman position. “You never know,” he said, adding, “you know, the only people opposed to me are Tanga Tanga faction of Jubilee Party.
However, they cannot face me or confront me, they can only backbite me, because I can tell them off.”
Oparanya has been the face of the BBI in the council. The pro-BBI meeting he convened in Kakamega was attended by Raila, Amani National Congress(ANC) chief Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula and a host of governors, senators and MPs.
On Wednesday, Oparanya led 27 governors to a meeting with the President at which the Head of State is said to have sought their support for the BBI.
Should there be no consensus by today, then the county bosses will have to go to the ballot.
The team picked will take over at a defining moment when some county chiefs are under active investigations by Directorate of Criminal investigations (DCI) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over mismanagement at the devolved units.
Governors who have been pressing for timely disbursement and increased allocation of funds, see such an opportunity in BBI document.
The county chiefs are also expected to give their position on the BBI report recommendation, key among them the proposal for an executive prime minister.
The report has recommended the expansion of the Executive to create the position of prime minister. It has also proposed the opening of the Cabinet to elected leaders.
The governors, most of who would be retiring after serving two terms stipulated in the Constitution, are persuaded that an expanded Executive and openings in the Cabinet would accommodate their future political ambitions.
The incumbents, it would appear, have limited options for their next course of action in the run-up to the 2022 election, with the only “superior” seat to the one they currently hold being the presidency.
The council has also been trying to revive the stalled regional blocs through which partnerships among neighbouring counties are intended to help drive economic growth. BBI is a product of the March 2018 handshake.
Resolutions of a meeting of western Kenya leaders and stakeholders meeting held at Bukhungu stadium pledged to establish regional economic blocs under the Constitution and provide a framework for funding of the economic blocs.