Lobbying for County Assembly Speaker's seats as elections near

Nyandarua County assembly sergeant at arms lays a new mace after it was unveiled in 2019. [File, Standard]

With only days remaining before they elect a new set of County Assembly speakers, lobbying has intensified inside and outside the second arm of the devolved units.

Politicians and other interest groups are burning the midnight oil trying to have their favourite candidates get the coveted post.

The post of Speaker, which comes with lucrative perks, has already attracted several people as governors cross their fingers with hopes that those who land the job will work smoothly with them.

It is the situation on the ground that has seen those from Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya candidates meet the MCAs-elect to outline their manifestos.

In some counties, the MCAs-elect are being taken for retreats away from home as one way of ensuring their is no infiltration from their opponents. 

The County Assembly Speaker just like at the national level is third in line the throne at the county level.

Article 182(4) of the Constitution provides that if a vacancy occurs in the office of county governor and that of deputy county governor, or if the deputy county governor is unable to act, the speaker of the county assembly shall act as county governor.

The law allows him/her to act for 60 days, a period in which a new governor is to be elected.

Most county assemblies will have their first sittings on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, according to adverts placed in the local dailies.

The first business of the Houses after swearing-in of MCAs-elect will be the election of new Speakers.

In Nakuru, six people are eyeing the position with outgoing speaker Joel Kairu who served for one term declaring his exit from the race.

“I have thought about the issue and decided not to vie for the position. I wish the next speaker well as they lead the House for the good of the county,” said Kairu in a phone interview.

He pointed out that numbers in the House were most likely not to be in his favour, noting that the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) members had the majority.

Kairu had in the August 9 elections vied for the Nakuru Town East MP seat on a Jubilee ticket but emerged second after the incumbent David Gikaria.

Naivasha East MCA-elect Stanley Karanja, who is among the 11 out of 55 ward reps who made a comeback, said campaigns for the seat had cooled down until the nominations were made official.

“There are about six candidates in the race who are now lobbying the nominated members to support their candidature. We shall use our wisdom to pick the best among them,” said Karanja.

Those eyeing the seat include former Biashara MCA Joel Karuri, businessman Martin Kagai, Education Chief Officer Anne Njenga, former Kuresoi MP James Koskei and lawyer Peter Bore.

Former civic leader Andrew Yatich and Crispus Wathimba, both of whom unsuccessfully vied for the Nakuru senate seat in the last general elections are also in the race.

In Kericho County, Dominic Rono is defending his seat but he is facing stiff competition from former Bureti MP Japheth Kiptegech.

Kiptegech, who was the Assembly’s first Speaker (2013-2017) before joining Parliament for one term, has launched an aggressive campaign to reoccupy the seat.

Lawyers Davies Sang, Ben Siele, and Hillary Kirui have also tossed their hats in the ring.

In Baringo, 10 candidates are jostling for the post. Outgoing speaker David Kerich has opted out.

Lawyer Vincent Kibet is the latest entrant in the already crowded race that includes Richard Koech, Sylas Tochim, Billy Kipruto, Joseph Tarus, Fridah Lotuiya, Dr Noah Chepkech, Emily Kiptui, Hillary Songoyo and Naomi Jerotich.

Night meetings

In Nyanza, The Standard on Sunday has established that the ODM party, which commands control of county assemblies, has its preferred candidates and is lobbying MCAs to back them.

Night meetings, retreats and lobbying by party stalwarts have become a norm in Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori and Kisii counties as the scramble to lead the assemblies intensifies.

In Kisumu, ODM has already whipped MCAs to back a selected list for the speaker’s seat, majority leader and chief whip. The party is fronting the current speaker Elisha Oraro for another term.

In a letter addressed to the County Assembly Clerk, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the party has endorsed Oraro for another term.  

However, the move has not augured well with a section of new ward reps who are rooting for regional balance in the sharing of the seats.

The disgruntled ward reps are pushing for the election of former majority leader Samuel Ong’ow who hails from Kano clan, as the speaker.

The clan did not produce any leader for the top county seats.

The race has attracted four candidates. Apart from Oraro, others are former majority leader Ong’ow and lawyers Sam Onyango and Kenneth Amondi. 

A similar scramble is also developing in Migori where six candidates are angling for the coveted seat. 

Among those eyeing the speaker, the seat is former Migori MP Owino Likowa, businessman Martin Owiny, Nairobi-based lawyer Gradus Oluoch, conflict analyst Castro Baraza, former speaker Boaz Okoth, Ignatius Kokeyo who is practising law in Uganda and Byron Oginga, who unsuccessfully contested the governorship.

Frequent fights

According to Likowa, the last assembly was marred by frequent fights and lack of respect for the law. 

In February this year, Okoth was impeached by 42 out of 46 MCAs.

The candidates have promised to deliver diligent services to the people of Migori in close consultation with the county executive headed by Governor Ochillo Ayacko.

In Siaya, intense lobbying to ensure that current speaker George Okode, who hails from Rarieda, retains the seat. 

In the 2013 pre-election pact, the county’s top seats were distributed among the six sub-counties, with the position of the speaker going to Rarieda constituency.

In the August 9 elections, Alego-Usonga, Bondo and Gem got the positions of the deputy governor, senator and woman representative respectively. The governor seat was won by James Orengo, who comes from Ugenya.

The county assembly’s 38 MCAs —30 elected and eight nominated — will have the final say on whether to retain or vote out the incumbent.

Other candidates who are lobbying for the seat are lawyers Evans Oruenjo, George Mugoye and Fred Athuok.

In Kisii, among those interested in the seat include Philip Nyanumba who unsuccessfully ran for the Bomachoge Borabu parliamentary seat on the UPA party and former nominated MCA  Erick Janganya, who also ran for the Embakasi South seat.

Laban Chweya, who vied for the Nyaribari Masaba parliamentary seat, is also in the race as is lawyer Gideon Nyambati, the South Nyanza Law Society of Kenya chair. 

In Nyamira, Edwin Morara Otwoma and Daniel Nyaoncha Nyamweya are the only candidates who had tendered their applications by 11am deadline on Thursday.

It was initially expected that former Speaker Moffat Teya, and ousted Manga Ward MCA Enock Okero would throw their hats in the ring.

In Murang’a, outgoing Speaker Nduati Kariuki said he will not defend the seat he has held since 2013, leaving Lawrence Munga, Johnson Mukuha and Stephen Macharia to battle for the seat.

Nduati, who is in his 70s, said will be retreating from public life to engage in his private affairs, advising others of his age to let the younger people take over leadership positions.

In Laikipia, the incumbent Patrick Waigwa is facing opposition from five aspirants, Saaya Tema, Henry Kimani, Jecinta Lorere, Ndungu ole Moiyale and Ibrahim Ngugi. 

Mr Saaya says it is time for someone from Laikipia North constituency to occupy the office.

In Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza has slated the first sitting of the county assembly for Wednesday morning. 

Dr Joseph Kaberia, who has occupied the seat for the last 10 years, is seeking a third term.

But MCAs will be torn between politics, regional balance and gender equality as they elect the Speaker.

An MCA, who requested not to be named, said they were under pressure from various quarters to vote in a manner that shows “the face of Meru”.

There is a push to have the speaker’s position go to the Tigania sub-tribe since Imenti and Igembe sub-tribes occupy the other to political seats in the county.

Governor Mwangaza is from Imenti, as is Senator Kathuri Murungi. The Woman Rep Elizabeth Kailemia, though an Imenti, is married in Igembe.

Deputy Governor Mutuma Ethingia is from Igembe.

Lawyers Mugambi Laichena, Marius Maranya, Joseph Kaberia and Lucas Kobia are among the other candidates who have expressed interest in the seat.

Others are former two-term MCA Ayub Bundi who served as both majority and minority leader, Rodgers Kipembe, James Mithika, Betsy Kendi and Salesio Thuranira.

Lawyer Rodgers Ruthugua, who was viewed as a front runner, stepped down in favour of Maranya who also withdrew from the race in favour of Maranya.

In Kirinyaga, those in the race are James Mutugi, the outgoing CEC Education and the original nominee for a running mate by Governor Anne Waiguru, and former Wamumu MCA Baptista Kanga who lost in the August 9 elections despite being a UDA candidate.

UDA won in 17 out of 20 wards in the area.

Pre-election agreement

In Nyeri, immediate former Tetu MP James Gichuhi is seen as a front runner as per the party power sharing deal after he lost the primaries.

Gichuhi is seeking to replace Speaker John Kaguchia who was elected as MP for Mukurwe-ini.

The pre-election agreement secured constituency regional balance, where each of the six constituencies would get a county slot after elections.

The UDA has 25 of the 30 ward seats in the area.

In Taita-Taveta, a total of 18 candidates, among them lawyers and election losers, have declared interest to wrestle the seat from Meshack Maghanga, who has served two terms. 

The other candidates include educationist and human rights activist Rophin Mwakio Ndau and lawyers Stephen Odiaga, Janet Mwawasi Oben, Onesmus Mwinzi, Prof Morris Mbondenyi and Mwakio Mwang’ombe, a close ally to the governor.

Senatorial seat losers Godwin Kilele (Jubilee) and Mike Banton (Independent), and parliamentary losers Jones Mlolwa, Dr Harun Mwadali, Simon Mwachia, Gideon Ndambuki, Chris Mwambingu, Jones Mlolwa, Albanas Muli and Albashir Mwatozi are also in the race.

Others are Challa ward seat loser Omar Nguzo (PAA), former District Commissioner Wisdom Mwamburi and Geoffrey Kimonge, who served as political advisor to former governor John Mruttu.

The candidates have been meeting MCAs to win their support.

[Boniface Gikandi, Phares Mutembei, Renson Mnyamwezi, Harold Odhiambo, Anne Atieno, Eric Abuga, Isaiah Gwengi, and Stanley Ongwae, Kennedy Gachuhi, Niko Tanui and Yvonne Chepkwony]