Wycliffe Operanya (Kakamega), Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) [Photo: Courtesy]

With barely two years left to the next General Election, nearly half of the county governors will be ineligible to vie again having served two consecutive terms in line with the constitution.

This scenario has seen a majority of them start strategizing on their political futures away from bodyguards, chase cars, handlers, hangers-on and controlling the county bacon running into billions of shillings.

Also on their way out are second term deputy governors who are now plotting how to succeed their bosses sparking bitter wars in some counties.

Already, some governors deem themselves presidential material and have expressed interest in taking over from President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is similarly ineligible as his second and last term ends in 2022 and with it, his tenancy at the House on the Hill.

Second term governors harbouring presidential ambitions include Wycliffe Operanya (Kakamega), Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos).

Makueni Governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana has also indicated his willingness to join progressive forces come 2022 though he has been reluctant to show interest in gunning for State House on account that previous bids by reformist candidates did not make any impact as Kenyans are wont to blindly vote along ethnic and other myopic prisms.

Charity Ngilu, though serving her first term as Kitui Governor, is the leader of Narc, which has previously formed alliances with leading presidential candidates. Depending on how political dynamics shift in   Ukambani, it remains to be seen whether she will be defending her seat or gun for another position.

While the Constitution bars governors from holding office beyond their second terms, it gives them a blank check to vie for any other political seats. This means a second-term governor is free to vie not just for the presidency but also be a running mate to a presidential candidate.

They can also vie to become senators, MPs or Woman Reps.

And with the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposing the return of the Prime Minister, it offers yet another lifeline for exiting governors come 2022.

Equally, the National Assembly is set to regain its allure if the BBI task force proposal that Cabinet members be drawn from among MPs is endorsed.

Already, the political yarn has it that one governor from Luo Nyanza is mulling over vying in his constituency with the hope of clinching a Cabinet slot in the envisaged dispensation.

Some governors, however, have been fighting integrity issues with three of them already in court facing corruption-related charges. They include Moses Lenolkulal of Samburu County who is being prosecuted by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for allegedly issuing a tender for supply of fuel to a firm related to him.

Several others are on the radar of both the anti-graft agency and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, which could see them spending most of their time in the corridors of justice instead of plotting their political future.

Both Joho and Oparanya are mainly banking on what the “Handshake” deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former PM Raila Odinga eventually crystallizes into. The two deputize Raila in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

There have been claims of a plot to install Oparanya as the Luhya kingpin through an initiative spearheaded by Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli, who has, however, dismissed them as premature. If endorsed, this will see Oparanya eclipse ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi giving him a head start come 2022.

What remains unclear is whether he will be considered a presidential candidate or running mate should such an arrangement materialize given talk of a Uhuru-Raila alliance ahead of the next polls.

Joho, on the other hand, has emerged as the foremost leader in the Coastal region, in addition to winning popularity among Opposition supporters across the country thanks to his forthright approach to issues.

However, while Joho has a massive war chest, his hold on the Coast could be challenged if Kingi enters the fray given, among others, his oratory prowess and if he succeeds in launching a Coast-based party as he has previously sought. Joho prefers the region stays in ODM.

Dr Mutua, who is seeking to wrestle the Ukambani region from Kalonzo announced he will launch his presidential campaign this year and his Maendeleo Chap Chap party has unveiled plans for a membership recruitment drive that will culminate in party elections beginning January 20 at the polling station level.

 A National Delegates Conference is slated for May 29. According to the party, it is initiating early plans to elect officials and choose its candidates, including for the presidency, to better its performance in 2017.