Politicians spare no effort in battle to be crowned kingpins of their regions

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, President WIlliam Ruto and Kiharu Mp Ndindi Nyoro during theburial ceremony of Martha Kirigo in Nyeri county. [PCS]

A political volcano is rumbling in parts of the country as various leaders lay out plans for regional kingpin mantles amid realignments.

Although the next General Election is still three years away, the ambitions of several politicians who want to be the voices of their regions are showing.

In almost all the regions, including President Ruto's Rift Valley, several leaders have thrust themselves into kingpin-ship battles as the spiral effect begins to inspire others to follow suit.

Observers believe some of the ambitions will disappear in the coming months while others may actually bear fruit, especially in regions where there is no definite kingpin.

From Western to Mount Kenya to parts of Rift Valley, to Nyanza and Coast, politicians are sparing no chance in their efforts to ascend to the pinnacles of power.

So intense is the quest that barely a week passes before a group of leaders, elders or politicians throw their weight behind a potential political colossus.

On Wednesday, the Njuri Ncheke, of the Ameru community, were the latest to endorse Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua as Mount Kenya region's kingpin.

As this happened, similar activities were also taking place in Rift Valley where Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ngeno was installed as an elder of the Kipsigis community, in what many say may have implications on President Ruto's succession in the Rift Valley region.

Senate Minority leader Aaron Cheruiyot accused the MP of imposing himself as the community spokesperson for selfish interests.

"We don't know where he came from or who endorsed him and which elders are involved," said Cheruiyot.

But the tussle is just the tip of the iceberg of a concentrated effort by several leaders to eclipse others and emerge as regional kingpins.

The Sunday Standard has established that the battle for regional kingpins has cascaded to Gusii region, which has never had an outright kingpin since Simeon Nyachae exited the scene.

The scramble for Gusii is pitting Kisii Governor Simba Arati against Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu, all new entrants in renewed attempt to unite the Gusii region.

In the build-up to the 2022 General Election, several leaders lined up behind former Interior CS Fred Matiang'i, but their efforts to propel him to Gusii regional kingpin flopped after Azimio la Umoja lost elections to Kenya Kwanza.

Today, the latest political realignments have thrown Machogu and Arati in a scramble to be the voice of Gusii.

The two leaders have been running parallel activities, including funds drives to entrench their support as groups of political allies parade behind them.

For instance, today, the Education CS and Governor Arati will rally their troops to separate fundraising events. Kitutu Chache North MP Japheth Nyakundi will host Machogu while Bonchari’s Dr Charles Ochoke will host Arati at Nyasagati SDA Church.

When former governors Charity Ngilu, Peter Munya, NARC-K party leader Martha Karua and nominated MP Sabina Chege were poised to be a deputy presidential candidate for the Azimio la Umoja coalition. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Church funds drives have, in the last few months, been the norm in the region during weekends, with leaders managing to raise on average over Sh2 million per event.

Two weeks ago, leaders allied to Machogu presided over a funds drive in Kisii at the home of National Assembly Majority Leader Sylvanus Osoro. The included National Assembly majority leader Kimani Ichung'wah, President William Ruto's aide Farouk Kibet and a host of legislators.

On his part, CS Machogu, who enjoys the support of four Kisii UDA MPs and a host of professionals, insists that he is ready to work with all leaders.

According to the CS, he is keen on ensuring that all development projects funded by the national government and which have been initiated in Kisii and Nyamira are completed.

“I know there are those opposing our ideas by causing chaos. Our people know what they want. After five years we will come back and seek the scorecard. There is no need to make unnecessary noise. Let us have our people at heart and ensure that we have set our agenda straight,” the CS said.

Former Kisii Governor James Ongwae says the Kisii are not naive and will eventually speak their mind.

“People are keenly watching the happenings in Kisii. The national government is keen on implementing development projects for our people but some people don’t want to provide an enabling environment for those programmes,” said Ongwae.

Governor Arati has been facing criticism from the Osoro-led faction over his development record, and he accuses a section of leaders of orchestrating his woes.

In the Arati-led faction are MPs Anthony Kibagendi (Kitutu Chache South) and Eng Obadiah Barongo of Bomachoge Borabu, both elected on an ODM party ticket.

Woman Rep Dorice Donya, who was elected on a Wiper party ticket after campaigning alongside Arati, has since joined Machogu’s camp saying the problem in Kisii is failing county leadership.

In the Coastal region, former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has moved to entrench his support as the region's voice. His exploits are receiving support from several legislators.

For him, his quest has been made easy by the silence of several Kenya Kwanza leaders who had hoped to eclipse him as the region's leader in the build-up to the last General Election. 

At the core of his efforts to entrench his position is his ambition to succeed ODM leader Raila Odinga at the national level should Raila ascend to the African Union Commission (AUC) chairmanship.

During a recent Iftar he had called at his Nyali residence, Joho got the backing of Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir and his Wajir counterpart Ahmed Abdillahi in his push to lead ODM.

ODM Leader Raila Odinga addressing the press after the Central Committee meeting of the ODM Party at Capitol Hill Square. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

He also got the support of several Coast MPs including Omar Mwinyi of Changamwe, Ken Chonga (Kilifi South), Gonzi Rai (Kinango) and Lamu East’s Ruweidha Mohamed.

East African Legislative Assembly member and former Mombasa senator Hassan Omar, a former bitter rival, supported Joho’s bid to unite the region's leaders during the event.

But his critics say Joho thrives in the politics of confrontation that characterised the Coast between the 1980s and 90s during the era of Governor Nassir’s father, the late Shariff Nassir, Salim Mwaruwa, the late Karisa Maitha and former MP Said Hemed Ibrahim.

Evans Mayaka, a political and human rights activist in Mombasa’s Kisauni area, said Joho was a student of confrontational politics, which he had practiced in 2004.

Pwani University’s Prof Hassan Mwakimako said Mombasa Governor Nassir’s rising star in Coast politics could eclipse Joho’s past glory or power.

“Nassir and other Coast governors would not wish to be controlled by Joho or to allow him to be a major factor in their re-election bids. He will oppose some of them in 2022,” said Mwakimako.

In Western, the scramble to be the face of Mulembe nation has attracted Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula. Also in the quest are ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. 

Meanwhile, for Deputy President Gachagua, although his position in the country has elevated his standing in the quest to be the face of Mount Kenya region, faces a litmus test against Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.

This despite Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders throwing their weight behind him to pacify the region.

The Council’s secretary general Washington Muthamia said they resolved to approach the DP because they have entrusted him to calm the political storms that have rocked the county since the Kenya Kwanza government was elected on August 9, 2022.

[Reports by James Murimi, Eric Abuga, Benard Sanga and Patrick Beja]