Jubilee Party is facing a political storm in Kisii after two of its point men in the region declared their interest in the governor's seat.
Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and Senator Chris Obure, both ODM defectors who have been leading delegations to State House Nairobi, are now jostling to unseat Governor James Ongwae, a Raila Odinga loyalist. Mr Maangi yesterday confirmed he was campaigning to unseat his boss.
It was earlier believed he would back Mr Obure.
Kisii joins more Jubilee counties - Kirinyaga, Embu, Nairobi and Nyeri - where there are looming crises over who will fly the party flag in the August General Election.
Maangi's decision comes a few days after a series of secret meetings held in Nairobi last week. Insiders said Maangi was told to stop playing second fiddle to other leaders and go for the top seat himself.
The deputy governor has come out guns blazing and vowed to teach Obure a lesson during the party nominations.
In 2013, both Maangi and Obure were elected on an ODM ticket and during the last party elections, they won the positions of organising secretary and secretary respectively.
Obure formally announced his defection from ODM three weeks ago, saying Jubilee was his new political home and he would use it to contest the county's top seat.
He attended JP's launching of a digital membership registration card where he was given an opportunity to speak on behalf of Kisii leaders. Both Obure and Maangi have been spearheading JP affairs in the area.
Maangi is said to have made a decision to file nomination papers late last week amid calls for unity and tolerance among Jubilee leaders from the region. His move is likely to cause tension and scuttle Jubilee's bid to unseat Mr Ongwae.
Political pundits argue that Maangi's decision could have been aggravated by pressure among governorship aspirants to announce their running mates.
Bomachoge MP Joel Onyacha (Jubilee) warned Maangi not to make hasty decisions but to retreat and support Obure, who has been a confidant of President Uhuru Kenyatta since the Kanu era.
Maangi is also hanging onto his close relationship with Deputy President William Ruto.
"Our aim is to win the county seat and deliver majority votes for our presidential candidate, President Uhuru Kenyatta," he said during a Jubilee women's meeting at Giachere Secondary School in Nyaribari Chache on Sunday.
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The county JP branch chairman, Sam Nyairo, denied that there was any tension in the party.
"We remain optimistic that our leaders will sit down and come up with a solution. Our target is one - to unseat the current governor because of broken promises," he said. "Both leaders are talking of supporting Uhuru and Ruto and there is no way anybody would want to create division in the party at this critical time."
Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire from the Opposition said: "There is a strong message to Kenyans that President Uhuru is fighting to retain 2017 while Deputy President William Ruto is strategically putting in place individuals for his 2022 presidential bid.
"Jubilee's energy seems to have split even before the official campaigns kick off. The Opposition is well placed to clinch the victory because we are making critical gains at every step," he said.