Two dominant parties and their presidential aspirants’ waves are seen to stiffen the competition for county CEO seat as contestants insist managerial skills and track record will widen winning gap, writes Grace Wekesa
The battle for Kakamega County’s governor’s position invites a contest between candidates of parties allied to Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.
Analysts say party affiliations will be instrumental, arguing the race could shape up as a duel between ODM and UDF parties, which is popular for hosting bullfighting.
The second most populous county after Nairobi, Kakamega, though predominantly Luhya community, is not a homogenous voting bloc considering there are about ten Luhya sub-tribes.
Ministers Wycliffe Oparanya (Planning Development and Vision 2030), Soita Shitanda (Housing), former Nyanza Provincial Commissioner Paul Olando and former Turkana North District Commissioner Albert Mwilitsa are among those who have declared their candidatures. Others are businessman Simbauni Ndombi and former army officer Suleiman Sumba.
Prof Egara Kabaji, Director of Public Communications and Publishing at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, says party affiliation is a major factor in the race for Kakamega governorship.
Kabaji says the county is still torn between ODM and UDF. He suggests the contest would, however, depend on developments in the Jubilee coalition of Mudavadi, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto. (Mudavadi has since moved out of the coalition).
“Once Jubilee coalition decides on their presidential flag bearer, the battle lines will be clear and we shall start seeing political realignments and repositioning,’’ noted Kabaji.
Kabaji argues ODM could be the beneficiary of the fallout in Jubilee coalition.
Prof Frank Matanga, a political analyst, says how UDF comes out of the coalition struggle could influence the outcome of the Kakamega seat elections.
“We should not ignore party politics, the race for Kakamega governorship will be based on that because often the party determines voting pattern in the region,’’ states Matanga.
“It’s too early to speculate the direction things will take but parties will have a great influence in this race that is already turning out a bruising battle between the two parties,’’ Matanga adds.
“I think the presidential candidate for Jubilee remains Uhuru, unless a miracle happens,’’ Kabaji adds.
Other factors set to tilt the scale in the tough race include ethnic subgrouping and the clan factor. The political pattern of the county will greatly be determined on how the subgroupings will cast their votes.
The county has more than ten native Luhya sub-tribes including Batsotso, Marama, Kisa, Wanga, Banyala, Tachoni, Isukha, Idakho and Kabras.
Some observers contend that voters will cast their lots depending on the roots of the governor aspirants.
Personality and academic credentials could also influence the voting pattern. Analysts advise that the skills and experience are pivotal since the governor will be the county’s manager, mandated to oversee, plan, account and allocate billions of shillings.
Some quarters have expressed concern, however, that in the race for governorship, some counties are likely to elect people who will not be able to govern.
“The governor must be knowledgeable enough to administrate because he is a pseudo-president. Counties that will elect governors with no managerial skills will basically lag behind in development,’’ says Juma Wasike, a resident.
For Kabaji, the biggest task for governors will be to find a brand for their counties and this will require a strong resolve to be accomplished.
He says branding will be crucial and will be a major factor in investment and tourism as visitors will be swayed by the kind of brand that will have been established.
Poor of manpower
“Every county will have the test to sell an image. It will be, therefore, imperative for governors to set this agenda in order to market their counties to the outside world,” explains Kabaji.
The county has a wide pool of manpower and observers say this can be strength and a weakness at the same time.
For some, the high population is a sure way of sourcing our labour and those of this school of thought suggest that leaders help initiate the setting up of industries to provide jobs and opportunities to this population.
On the other hand, there are those of the view that the high population will act as possible avenues for an upsurge in crime.