Waiguru wins: How Ole Lenku was out-foxed in Council of Governors chair game

Newly elected chairman of Council of Governors Anne Waiguru her deputy Ahmed Abdulahi Mohamed [left] and speaker of the National assembly Moses Wetangula display strategic plan 2022--2027. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Governors allied to President William Ruto devised a last-minute strategy to outfox their Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition counterparts in the election of the powerful Council of Governors (CoG) chairperson.

In an election held in Mombasa, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) was elected the CoG chair after ODM’s Joseph ole Lenku dropped out. Although the governors said the election was done through consensus, there was a high stakes behind-the-scene lobbying, scheming and pressure from the leadership of the two coalitions.

Lenku is said to have bowed out after word reached the governors who were in a closed-door meeting that his deputy, Mr Martine Moshisho, is the chair of the Deputy Governors Forum. Deputy governors from the 47 counties were also holding their election in the next hall at the Pride Inn Hotel where they joined their bosses for the induction workshop.

Most of the DG allied to UDA or Kenya Kwanza coalition supported Moshisho to take over from ex-Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu, which tilted the scale in favour of Waiguru.

“It was a long day of persuasions but the election of Hon Moshisho meant that Lenku had to drop out. The deputy CoG chair also went to Wajir Governor Ahmed Abdullahi of ODM,” he said.

He added: “It became apparent that after Moshisho had won the DG forum chairmanship we could not have Lenku from Kajiado also chair the CoG.”

In her acceptance speech, Waiguru said the dialogue and consultation exhibited by the governors during the three-day induction period in Mombasa will be the mantra of her two-year leadership. She said her first agenda will be to push for the increase of the shareable revenue to the counties from the current 18.2 per cent to 35 per cent.

“We shall address perennial delay in the disbursement of funds which has hampered quick delivery of services. We will also fast track the governors’ pension,” she said.

Governor Anne Waiguru. [Fidelis Kabunyi, Standard]

Waiguru who served as the first female Vice Chair of the CoG between the end of 2017 and early 2019 said she will push the National Government to address affecting devolution in three months. According to the governor who spoke on condition of anonymity, Waiguru won after UDA allied governors who had preferred a secret ballot method dropped it and championed consensus.

‘Senior’ governors, those serving for the second term and bounced back after they lost in 2017, prevailed upon their colleagues to drop the political formation lines to allow for consensus. He said the governors agreed that hardline stands could split the CoG, and affect the delivery of its mandate of championing the interest of all the 47 counties in the country. The CoG election was touted to be another battle between Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga who met governors allied to him on Thursday night and implored them to support Lenku.

Addressing governors on Thursday, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua did not put a premium on the CoG elections saying the National Government will work with whoever was elected. The two coalitions both have 23 of the 47 governors. Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime was elected on the independent ticket. He is, however, said to be leaning toward Azimio.

The meeting was closed by President William Ruto who asked the governors to prioritise payment of pending bills.

In a speech read by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula, Ruto said a lot of merchants and contractors have lost properties they used as collateral due to delayed payments by the counties. The president said while it is critical to ascertain the validity of the pending bills, it was necessary to ensure all those who supplied the counties with services and goods are paid.

“You are all aware of pending bills to merchants and contractors while is critical to ascertain the validity of the contracts, is also critical to ensure the bills are paid since most of the Kenyans who supplied tenders have lost the money and lost properties used as collateral,” said Ruto.