Second term governors plot comeback as regional chiefs

Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (right) and Magarini MP Michael Kingi addresses the Media at Marafa in Magarini Sub County in Kilifi County on Friday, 8, March, 2019. Governor Kingi absolved himself, his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho and ODM party leader from troubles facing Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa. [Photo: Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard].

With less than three years before the end their final terms in office, second term governors could be plotting a comeback.

In what many see as an attempt by the county chiefs to hang on to power, they are seeking to turn between eight and 14 counties into regions that will eventually form a third tire of government.

Out of the 47 county bosses, 25 are serving their final terms and will be forced to either retire from politics or run for other seats after the end of their terms.

During the sixth devolution conference in Kirinyaga, the Council of Governors unanimously endorsed the creation of the regional positions that have been seen by some as a possible safe landing ground for governors after their final term.

Only three of the governors, including current Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho have declared their interest to run for higher office.

Oparanya, one of the proponents of the third devolution tier, said the regional governments would address the issue of formation of regional blocs.

“We need to expand and have the regional blocs because of economies of scale. The current counties are too tiny to attract huge investments,” the governor said.

He however denies that the push is part of seeking political relevance or will make the government bloated.

“It is not true that governors are seeking to remain relevant, these positions are for posterity,” he said.

Wage bill

Even as they advocate for the formation of regional governments, governors have, since the inception of devolution, been part of regional blocs. Many, including Oparanya, have championed these blocs but failed to sign the dotted lines to bring them alive.

It is unlikely that they will do this through the formation of another level of government in a country suffering an already bloated wage bill.

“We propose a fully-fledged federal system of government (Majimboism) with a three-tier governance structure comprising of national government, regional governments and the counties. This concept is not new to Kenya,” said Kingi.

With a fully-fledged federal system, the governor envisages that power and resources would not be concentrated at the centre but rather at the regional governments.

“We propose that the national government’s main function be restricted to foreign affairs and defence of our borders, including policy matters,” he said.

Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga also backs the proposal, insisting that the 47 counties are too small to attract serious business.

“The devolved units will have more meaningful benefits and enjoy economies of scale when we introduce the regional governments,” Rasanga said.

Governors have endorsed a proposal for the formation of a three-tier system of government, saying it will strengthen devolution. 

Former member of the Constitutional Review Commission, Bobby Mkangi, said the third tier was in their harmonised draft before it was struck out at the Naivasha meeting.

“It is an important debate, maybe the country has perhaps through experience been taught that a bigger territorial enclave will perform better,” said Mkangi.

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Bobby MkangiCouncil of GovernorsWycliffe OparanyaAmason KingiHassan Joho haveGovernors