With the country marching towards the August 9 General Election, a number of party stalwarts who have held a tight grip on politics for years are facing an uncertain future.
For some outgoing governors, senators and MPs, a political promissory note on appointments to the next government is all they have, and are keeping their fingers crossed on the outcome of the elections because they are not running for elective seats.
Most of the leaders, some whose political stars were still shinning, were eyeing bigger office before they shelved their ambitions on the promise of government jobs.
And now unless the leaders associated with presidential aspirants Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto are nominated as MPs or senators by the parties they support, their political fate is in limbo.
Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), James Ong’wae (Kisii), Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, Woman Representatives Sabina Chege (Murang’a), Soipan Tuya (Narok) and ODM chairman John Mbadi are among politicians whose political flames have been burning bright but are not vying for elective seats.
If either Mr Odinga or Dr Ruto wins, some of the politicians will either be celebrating or gnashing their teeth given that comebacks into elective seats are always dicey.
Prof Kindiki shelved his ambitions for Tharaka Nithi governor and was on the verge of being named the UDA presidential aspirant’s running mate before he was dropped last-minute for Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
Ms Tuya was doing well and had set her eyes on the Narok governor seat before negotiated democracy threw her into the political wayside. She is among the national team that is campaigning for Dr Ruto. If Kenya Kwanza Alliance does not form the next government, then her political future could be bleak for the next five years.
In Western, Ruto’s ally Benjamin Washiali will not defend his Mumias East parliamentary seat, casting doubt on the fate of his 15-year political career.
Mr Washiali successfully defended the seat in the 2017 elections on Jubilee ticket but after the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the ODM leader in March 2018, he joined Dr Ruto’s Tangatanga faction.
Other politicians hoping to benefit if Ruto wins the presidency are ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Mr Kingi.
In Mr Odinga’s camp, Mr Joho, Mr Ong’wae, Mr Oparanya, Mr Mbadi, Kisumu Senator Fred Outa, former County Assembly Speaker Onyango Oloo and Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga are strategising how to remain politically relevant after the elections.
The Mombasa and Kakamega governors have been promised appointments as Lands and Finance Cabinet secretaries respectively if the Azimio presidential candidate wins.
Mr Mbadi’s quest to be Homa Bay governor came crumbling following a consensus by ODM party leadership that led to the issuance of a direct ticket to Woman Rep Gladys Wanga.
An accomplished debater and orator in and out of Parliament, the ODM chairman who has served three terms as the Suba South MP is not contesting any political seat.
In a recent interview with The Standard, Mr Mbadi said that his focus is now on Mr Odinga’s presidential campaigns.
He has also focused his attention on strengthening ODM which is facing competition from smaller parties.
Mr Mbadi has been charged with the responsibility of ensuring that there is a huge voter turnout in Nyanza. He is working with Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign team to make the goal a reality.
“We are up to the task to ensure that we attain our target,” he said.
The Suba South MP’s supporters believe ODM will nominate him to the Senate.
Senator Outa who had hoped to unseat Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o is also walking a tight rope in his bid to keep his political candle burning beyond the August polls.
Mr Outa ousted Nyando MP Eric Nyamunga in the 2017 elections and established himself as a devoted ODM lieutenant.
And for almost 14 years, the Kisumu senator has been one of the loyalists who have defended the Orange party in and outside Parliament.
In 2014, he made headlines when he attempted to seize the mace to curtail voting during debate on the controversial Security Laws (Amendment bill) 2014 that had pitted the opposition against the Jubilee administration.
His antics went beyond Parliament and he became a guest of the State on a few occasions.
He took opponents head-on and never minced his words when defending his beliefs and the ODM party.
The politician had set his eyes on Kisumu governorship after falling out with the incumbent, Prof Nyong’o.
In an interview with The Standard, the senator said he is taking a break from politics and will not vie for any seat in the August elections.
His supporters believe his move is a strategic retreat and will be back on the political stage in 2027, rejuvenated, fresh, and ready for a new political task.
An ally of the senator who asked not to be named said the decision to attack Prof Nyong’o made him to fall out of favour with the ODM leadership.
“The senator started being sidelined by the party when he fell out with Nyong’o and attacked his administration over various failures,” said the source.
Mr Outa has partnered with Mr Oloo to conduct joint campaigns for Ranguma.