Political bigwigs in mad rush for second term governors

Politicians nursing presidential ambitions are secretly wooing the outgoing Governors.

In Summary
  • At least 20 governors' final terms  are ending in 2022 with a number of them already scheming their survival after the constitutional term limit
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is said to be silently backing One Kenya Alliance, has held meetings with a number of outgoing county chiefs
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Raila Odinga, Mukhisa Kituyi and Siaya Senator James Orengo.
LINEUP: Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Raila Odinga, Mukhisa Kituyi and Siaya Senator James Orengo.

Political bigwigs are in mad rush for second term governors to boost their presidential bids ahead of the high stakes general election next year. 

With elections just about 15 months away, presidential hopefuls are wooing the outgoing governors to their side as they craft formidable line ups to give them advantage over their rivals.

After running county’s coffers running into billions and overseeing the first county hirings, some of the county chiefs have — out of that — created a loyal constituency within their regions, which the bigwigs are now salivating for.

The presidential aspirants include ODM boss Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto and principals of One Kenya Alliance Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya).

They are banking on the county chiefs  not only to boost their ambitions but also to bring the face of Kenya to their camp.

At least 20 governors are serving their second and final terms and are scheming their survival after their constitutional term limit.

Governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Ali Roba (Mandera), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), James Ongwae (Kisii), Okoth Obado (Migori) and Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay) are among the county bosses serving their last terms.

Others are Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Martin Wambora (Embu), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) and Josphat Nanok (Turkana).

In their option list is either going for other elective posts or ganging up with political formations and form the government next year.

A number of them are already toying with going for the presidency or being the running mates, while majority are angling for plum state appointments if a favourable government takes over.

Political analyst Danstan Omari says the outgoing governors wield huge influence in their areas and given their deep pockets, they will likely make huge contribution to the whatever political side they decide to throw their political weight behind.

“Governors who have served for two terms have the advantage in that they employed many people in their respective county governments. We are talking of a governor who has employed 2,000 to 3,000 members of staff,” Omari said.

“An outgoing governor has at least 10,000 votes minimum. The 2022 election will be determined by 50+1. Any one vote, determines whether there will be a rerun or a winner declared. So this mad rush to look for the governors is based on that principal.”

DP Ruto has been holding separate meetings with at least 23 governors — outgoing and first timers —  to craft a winning line-up ahead of 2022 polls.

 Nanok and former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri have been spearheading Ruto’s talks with county bosses. 

The last of such meetings was with Governor Oparanya – a known Raila’s ally – at Mahali Mzuri camp located at the heart of the vast Masaai Mara National Reserve where the issue of 2022 politics was an agenda. 

Apart from Joho, Kingi and Oparanya, Raila has also been in hot pursuit of Kibwana with a possibility of forming a formidable team.

Last month, the Orange Party announced it is in the process of forming alliance with ‘new faces’ that will not only shock the country but also determine the direction the polls will take.

On Tuesday, Raila’s ODM officials from Lower Eastern met Kibwana at Wote Town and on the table was the possibility of forging an alliance. 

The ODM delegation led by Kitui ODM chairman Peter Munyasya said they “had fruitful discussion with Kibwana about national and regional politics and crucially about emerging national and regional development issues within the region.”

“On behalf of ODM, we request Governor Kibwana and his allies to work with ODM either directly or through a like-minded party of his choice in propelling his political development agenda,”  Munyasya said after the meeting.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is said to be silently backing One Kenya Alliance, has also held meetings with a number of outgoing county chiefs.

Speaking to the Star, political commentator Daniel Orogo said the country will witness a number of alliance formation involving outgoing county bosses going into  the election year.

Unlike other political players, Orogo noted that retiring county bosses have unique advantage given their 10-year stint at county’s top job where they not only built reliable networks but also created financial war chest to bankroll a presidential campaign.

“The second term and outgoing governors wield a lot of power. They have amassed massive resources and political, financial war chest at their disposal,” Orogo said.

He added: “The political muscle, the experience to mobilise their people, the ability to manage the members of county assemblies for years, this is what the political bigwigs are salivating for as they jostle to craft the winning alliances for the upcoming elections”.

But according to analyst Joseph Mutua, outgoing governors have the unpleasant baggage of incumbency something he noted might not be helpful to any presidential aspirant gunning for the top seat.

He said a number of the county bosses have lost touch with the electorate and might not have the needed influence for a presidential campaign.

“If past experience is anything to go by, elected leaders do not add any value to presidential aspirants. To the eyes of the public they have finished their terms,” Mutua said.