Last week’s Council of Governors (CoG) elections were not without drama and intense lobbying.
Saturday Standard has reliably learnt that a scheme to lock out governors allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga from the council’s top seats backfired at the last minute.
The meeting between the President and 24 governors in Mombasa two weeks ago helped rally them to re-elect the incumbents.
According to insiders privy to the deliberations at State House Mombasa, the President is reported to have prevailed upon governors to support Oparanya’s candidature.
Those reported to have been rooting for Tangatanga-leaning governors included Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Fahim Twaha (Lamu), Paul Chekwony (Kericho), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Ali Roba (Mandera), Mohamud Ali (Marsabit) Stephen Sang (Nandi), Hillary Barchok (Bomet) and Mohamed Abdi Mohamud of Wajir.
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The proposed line-up of those allied to the Deputy President William Ruto included Governor Ali Roba for chairman, Mandago for deputy and Ali for whip.
However, when they turned up for the full council meeting and elections at a Nairobi hotel, Oparanya was re-elected unopposed after Roba stepped down from the race. Murang’a Governor Iria retained his position as deputy chair after Mandago backed out.
“The governors from Maa community, North Rift, North Eastern and Coast met to strategise but they lost the plot. They abandoned the race after they sensed defeat,” disclosed a governor.
Another governor said to be part of the meeting dismissed the assertions, saying they were discussing issues affecting their constituents.
“Why is the meeting viewed as election related? In every election, people plan. Candidates must scheme. It is not always that things go according to plan,” said a governor who sought anonymity.
All the three executive officials are serving their second and final term in office. Governors Oparanya, Wa Iria and Kivutha Kibwana (Whip) were all in attendance.
It is also the first time since the 2017 polls that women governors missed out on positions.
In 2018, the Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru was the council’s deputy chairperson while the late Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso chaired the Education committee.
“The white smoke came much earlier. The leadership of CoG is critical in the realisation of the Big Four agenda and Vision 2030,” Devolution Secretary Eugene Wamalwa told the council after the polls.
The polls were attended by 35 governors.
Last year, Oparanya was unanimously voted as the council chairman in a contest against four others, including the then incumbent Josphat Nanok of Turkana.
Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga County), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) did not turn up for last week’s polls. Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana was elected Whip to replace Ali.
In the technical committees, Embu Governor Martin Wambora retained his seat as Trade, Investment, Manufacturing and Cooperatives Committee chair.
West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo was elected chair of the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asal) Committee, replacing Samburu’s Moses Lenolkulal who is facing graft related charges and is barred from accessing office by the court.
“It’s a great honour to be elected chairperson for the council committee on Asal counties. I will strive to represent the interests of the 29 Asal counties to ensure their priority needs are acted upon for sustainable development,” Prof Lonyangapuo said.
Others elected to chair technical committees are Amason Kingi (Legal Affairs), James Ongwae (Human Resources) and Paul Chepkwony (Gender, Youth and Sports).
Narok’s Samuel ole Tunai will chair the Tourism and Natural Resources committee while Nakuru’s Lee Kinyanjui will head the Urban Planning, Housing and Lands.