Rush against time for 20 governors to decide fate

Friday, January 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Raila Odinga.

Hilary Mageka and Eric Wainaina

With 19 months to the 2022 General Election, 20 governors serving their last terms are running against time over their next move as they seek to remain relevant in the country’s politics.

Their high profile positions have returned to haunt them as they weigh options on whether to go down the ladder to serve as MPs and Senators at the end of their tenure or take a gamble with a stab at the presidency.

Governor’s seat comes with trappings of power and control of billions of shillings, with the incumbent enjoying 24-hour bodyguards, chase cars, company of the who’s who, hefty perks and several privileges.

With the law barring them from defending their seats, and with the clock ticking fast, the county chiefs are now in a rush to find options to remain afloat.

While some are still crossing their fingers and praying for the success of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which is likely to open doors for more plum positions that they could clutch on, others have already announced their intentions to go for parliamentary seats.

Others, like Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) have decided to vie for the presidency on their one-man political parties with the hope of using that as a political bargaining tool after the elections.

Highest seat

Outgoing Council of Governors chair and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya insists he is fully in the race.

“My resolve to make a stab at the highest seat in the country is final. At the moment, I am putting my papers in order to submit them to the ODM elections board for the party ticket,” Oparanya told PD yesterday.

He dismissed claims that he is trying to use his presidential candidature for political survival, insisting he is a strong candidate.

But political analyst, Dr Oscar Otele, a political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi says some governors are only making the declarations for strategic reasons.

“Some are positioning themselves for the lucrative positions that could be borne out of the constitutional changes, while others would like to use their candidature for political bargaining purposes,” says Dr Otele.

Dr Otele believes some lightweights are declaring their intentions to vie for the presidency in order to propel their political fortunes and thus be considered as “serious individuals” in the eyes of their people.

BBI, which is a product of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s March 9, 2018 “handshake”, is proposing the return of the Prime Minister and two deputies, which offers yet another lifeline for exiting governors come 2022.

Joho, who is also the ODM deputy party leader and Kingi have announced their intentions to join national politics while Mvurya, who ditched ODM for Jubilee in 2017, has been warming up to the DP as he seeks to outshine his Mombasa counterpart in the regional politics as part of his strategy to join the national league.

Last month in a media interview, Joho, who according to sources, is being touted as a candidate for the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) position should BBI pass, said he may consider seeking a parliamentary seat in 2022 which is a requirement for the DPM appointee.

“I have declared my candidature for the presidency. In politics, people talk and some have to sacrifice their ambitions.

And at that point what needs to be done must be done. I have laid ground as the governor of Mombasa and I think I can vie in any constituency and win,” the governor said.

Joho, a key ally of Raila and coast’s de facto kingpin has been supportive of the intention to expand the executive.

Yesterday, Joho, through his political adviser Job Tumbo, said he was in the race for the ODM presidential ticket.

“I will definitely submit my application for the ODM party ticket for the 2022 presidential race,” Joho said without elaborating what would happen if he fails to clinch the nomination.

On the other hand, Kingi plans to create a strong launch pad for his presidential ambitions: “My major plan at the moment is to launch a formidable party for the Coastal region on whose platform I will bid my presidential ambition,” Kingi said.

While rejecting the invitations to contest for the position of CoG chairmanship in the Friday elections, Kibwana, Wa Iria and Mutua, maintained their focus is on the national league, with the presidency the ultimate goal.

They say holding a CoG post will interfere with their respective candidatures.

“I will not be a candidate for the Council of Governors elections. As a 2022 presidential candidate, I have been advised by my team that serving in the next CoG executive can constitute conflict of interest,” Kibwana, who has been at loggerheads with his Wiper Party boss Kalonzo Musyoka, said.

His Murang’a counterpart, who is said to be behind the Civic Renewal Party (CRP) and has been serving as the CoG vice-chair said he intends to take a break from the council’s tasks and focus on strategising for his presidential contest in the next General Election.

“My objective and ambition is bigger and goes beyond being the head of the council… I want to have freedom of movement in every part of the country as a presidential aspirant,” Wa Iria, who is the only second-term governor in Central Kenya, said in an interview. Others are angling to contest constituency seats with the hope that they will be appointed Cabinet ecretaries.

Those linked to parliamentary seats include  Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Madango who has indicated he may go for the senate seat, Joseph Chepkwony (Kericho) reportedly planning to swap with Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, Busia’s Sospeter Ojamoong, who is mulling contesting for Teso South seat, Governor Okoth Obado (Uriri) and Narok’s Samuel Tunai  and Elgeyo Marakwet’s Alex Tolgos.

Tolgos is targeting a position of Cabinet Minister, and with the BBI having proposed that the half of the minister will either be Members of Parliament or professions who will sit in the National Assembly, he intends to support a presidential candidate who after winning will appoint him.

National level

“I am looking at the national level because from the way things are, at the county level, one can only go for the senate seats. But for men, since BBI has proposed that ministers will be MPs, I could go for a parliamentary seat while working with a presidential candidate. My focus is a ministerial post as an MP or better still be nominated as one of the professionals,” the governor who is supportive of BBI told People Daily yesterday.

Indeed, Tolgos, the only governor from the North rift who has been supportive of the BBI process, has been warming up to Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who is also seeking the presidency, and who has been working with Raila and Uhuru’s allies to craft a succession plan.

But some like James Ongwae, have decided to wait as they monitor the political unfolding.

“The politics of this country tend to have varying permutations towards the end. I am still keenly watching the developments before I decide on the next course of action,” Ongwae told the People Daily.

Ongwae said he is ready to serve the country in any position, given the fact he has wide experience of public service management.

“Having served as a Permanent Secretary in the Directorate of Public Management and Agriculture and having been in a position where I was responsible for dealing with IMF and World Bank on behalf of the government, I am better placed to serve in any position in the country,” he said without elaborating.

More on News