The hand of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga was apparent in the surprise election of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya to head the Council of Governors (CoG).
Despite an earlier agreement that Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya of Jubilee, an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, would take the helm of CoG, Mr Oparanya of ODM secured unexpected unanimous support from colleagues, including governors from the ruling party who are a majority.
Mr Mvurya skipped the event held in Nairobi on Monday despite being a candidate, a pointer that he was perhaps privy to the turn of events. He has since rejected the election of Oparanya.
“I feel betrayed after my colleagues ignored the deal to have me succeed (Turkana Governor Josphat) Nanok,” Mvurya said yesterday.
During the December 2017 full council meeting in Mombasa chaired by the DP, the governors agreed that Mvurya was to succeed Mr Nanok.
Insiders have confided to The Standard that Uhuru and Raila had rallied the county bosses to support Oparanya’s candidature despite governors from Nyanza earlier supporting Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu).
In the spirit of the handshake, Mt Kenya governors opted to unanimously support Oparanya and other colleagues from the Opposition as they also retained some key positions in the council.
“We wanted a leader who will act as a bridge between the President and Raila,” said a governor from central Kenya.
Arid and Semi-Arid Areas (ASALs) rallied behind Nanok, whom they argued should have been given a second chance, as has been the case with his predecessors, but he lost.
Dr Ruto’s allies did not only lose in the race for the CoG executive seats but also in the committees, where new faces replaced them.
Marsabit Governor Mohamud Mohammed lost the whip seat to Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), with the vice chairperson position going to Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria.
Mandera Governor Ali Roba, a close ally of the DP who has held the CoG’s ASAL committee chairperson’s position for a while, lost it to Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal.
Ruto’s only surviving allies in this year’s elections are Joyce Laboso (Bomet), who will chair the education committee, and Samuel Tunai (Narok), to chair the tourism and natural resources committee.
Mr Nanok, who sought to defend his seat, having served for more than the stipulated one year with the option of another year, was just shy of five months to complete two years in office.
But Nanok, Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Nyong’o and Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), who were eyeing the seat, failed to win their colleagues’ confidence.
Ms Waiguru, who until recently was seen as Ruto’s close ally, did not get any vote after her colleagues from the Mt Kenya region abandoned her, signalling the influence of Uhuru in the poll outcome.
Mr Mandago, who was giving the position a second shot, also failed to clinch the seat.
Although Oparanya was not keen to go for the CoG top seat, he turned out to be the governors’ favourite after intensive lobbying by Uhuru and Raila.
Martin Wambora (Embu) was elected to chair the trade committee, Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthiomi Njuki is the new agriculture chairman, while Nakuru boss Lee Kinyanjui is the new urban planning and housing chairman.
Insiders said the deal to elect Oparanya was hatched at the just-concluded fourth edition of the Lake Region Economic Bloc summit in Kisii.
Oparanya, who on Monday after the elections left for the University of Dar es Salaam, where he is pursuing a PhD in economics, promised to focus on revenue allocation and the referendum to protect devolution.
Majority of the governors have congratulated the new CoG leadership, expressing confidence that it would steer the council to greater success.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi congratulated Oparanya and wa Iria on their election.
Waiguru, when contacted, indicated that she had withdrawn her candidature to concentrate on serving the people of Kirinyaga and planning the upcoming devolution conference. She declined to discuss the issue of Mvurya, saying there were three more elections for the chair and it was only right to give as many people as possible the opportunity to serve.
Insiders indicated that at the time of taking the vote for the chairperson, only Nanok, Mandago and Oparanya were in the running.
Other governors argued that if Mvurya was interested, he should have rallied their support but instead opted to stay away.