•The powers and the privileges that come with the office of governor are the key drivers behind the sudden push for senators to vie for governor. But no doubt the most important factor is the desire to help the people.
•Some senators have seen an opportunity in the exit of governors after their second terms. Some want to dislodge first-term governors.
Fierce political battles are looming in the counties after at least 20 senators declared they want to occupy the lucrative and powerful governors' seats.
The lawmakers have publicly expressed their intentions, effectively setting the stage for epic political battles barely two years to the 2022 General Election.
Naturally, their burning desire to help the people is the primary motivator.
They are either seeking to dislodge governors currently serving their first terms or succeed those serving their second and final terms.
Kenya has 67 senators, 47 elected, 20 nominated by parties based on their seats in Parliament.
Governors are vastly more powerful than senators, who earn Sh621,250 monthly, plus sitting allowances and other benefits.
Twenty-six county chiefs are serving their first terms, while 21 others are running their final laps in the influential posts.
Among those winding up their terms are Council of Governors boss Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Okoth Obado (Migori), Josphat Nanok (Turkana) and Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu).
Senators Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Fred Outa (Kisumu), Ochillo Ayacko (Migori), Irungu Kang'ata (Murang’a), James Orengo (Siaya) and Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) have all set their sites on the prize.
Others are Steward Madzayo (Kilifi), Ledama Olekina (Narok), Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Enoch Wambua (Kitui) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru).
More are eyeing the positions but do not want to go on record, saying it was too early to disclose their intentions to their competitors.
The Star has established 2022 politics is partly to blame for the current stand-off in the Senate over the proposed revenue sharing formula among the 47 counties.
Senators whose counties would losing have rejected the proposal on grounds it could lead to a backlash in their areas and hurt their chances of getting elected..
According to political analysts, the powers and the privileges that come with the office are behind the sudden push by the senators to vie for governorships.
“Money and power are motivating factors. Everybody is fighting for where they see money. Even in the last elections, very few people were interested in the Senate because there is no money there. Senators don’t control any money,” analysts Martin Andati observes.
“Money comes with power, so most of them are rushing where the money is. In counties, there are allocations [from the Exchequer] and the local revenue. That comes with power because you are able to employ people,” he adds.
Lawyer Danstan Omari said while some senators are being driven by selfish interests of controlling billions and enjoying the trappings of power, others have seen an opportunity created by the governors exiting the scene at the end of their second terms.
“Most of the senators are now angling because there are governors who have served two terms. It almost became impossible to fight governors who were sitting last time [in 2017],” he said.
“The governor operates like a semi half-president. The driving factors are the power such as employment, allocation of resources, billions being sent to the counties from national government, the collection of revenue within the counties and partners – county, national, multinational, Omari said.
Besides earning Sh924,000 gross monthly (like Cabinet secretaries), the governors control county bacon running into billions of shillings and enjoy round-the clock police protection.
They have tens of armed body guards. They traverse their counties with a fleet of cars complete with a chase car.
In addition, the county bosses have a team of advisers and other handlers whom they pick at will, making for a mouthwatering position.
Senator Sakaja, who bowed out of the city governor race at the last minute in the run up to 2017 election, said he would not mind vying for the gubernatorial position
“It is my constitutional right. If the people of Nairobi feel I will serve them better as governor, I will go for it,” Sakaja said.
Sakaja’s interest in the Nairobi governor seat has put him at loggerheads with Governor Mike Sonko, who has constantly accused him of fighting his administration with the sole aim of unseating him.
In Kisumu, Senator Outa has declared an all-out war with his erstwhile friend and campaign mate Governor Anyang Nyong’o.
“I am no longer in control of my bid for governor. It is beyond my control now. Let’s wait for 2022,” he told the Star.
Outa has constantly raised concerns over what he calls rampant corruption, neglect of some parts of the county in development and initiating projects without consulting residents.
The attacks have been viewed as among his tactics to discredit Nyongo’s administration in the eyes of the voters.
Outa was a key member of Nyong’o’s campaign bandwagon in 2017, playing an integral part during the announcement of the governor as the ODM nomination winner.
“This time round, I will not announce anyone. I’ve done this for some time and have decided to wear the coat myself. I must go with the girl,” he said last year.
Migori’s Ayacko, a seasoned politician who gave incumbent Governor Obado a run for his money in 2017, said he is ambitious and will grab any opportunity for a higher position.
“I am ambitious, if opportunity and probability are favourable, I will go for the governor’s seat or even a higher position,” Ayacko said.
Ayacko ran as an independent candidate in 2017 but lost to ODM’s Obado. He made his way to Parliament following a by-election afteer the death of Senator Ben Oluoch.
In Kitui, Senator Wambua aims to dislodge first-term Governor Charity Ngilu.
He has kept Ngilu’s administration on its toes, constantly criticising her for impropriety and perpetuating malpractices.
“When that time comes and I decide to run for office, the only seat I won’t be able to compete for is that of Woman Representative. Otherwise, I am qualified for all the other positions,” he said.
In Nandi, Senator Cherargei and Governor Stephen Sang will lock horns in 2022.
Cherargei and Sang are among the youngest elected officials They have had a frosty relationship since their election.
In Nakuru, Susan Kihika is spoiling for a fight with Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who is serving his first term.
Kihika, a close ally of Deputy President William Ruto, is on record saying she would vie for the Nakuru governor’s seat.