Maangi closes ranks with Ongwae as he bids to take over from him

Kisii Governor James Ongwae (right) and his deputy Joash Maangi shortly after they were sworn in for the 2nd tern in office at Gusii Stadium. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

A majority of deputy governors have managed to stay out of the limelight for most of their terms as their bosses hog media headlines. 

However, a good number of those serving for a second term are earnestly scheming to succeed retiring governors.  

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi falls in the latter category. Despite being elected on a joint ticket with Governor James Ongwae, he is among the few ODM leaders in Gusii who have stuck their necks out in support of Deputy President William Ruto.

Maangi and Ongwae fell out during their first term in office but the deputy governor made a U-turn in the lead up to the 2017 polls after months of campaigning with local Jubilee leaders calling for Gusii unity.

They included then Senator Chris Obure, lawyer Charles Nyachae and a host of other leaders, who were eyeing top county seats. Like the Biblical prodigal son, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Ongwae happily received Maangi back with a promise that he would retain his position as Ongwae’s number two.

But it did not take long before Maangi decamped again, this time to crusade for Ruto and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). In the recent past, however, several of the top county civil servants, some of whom worked closely with Ongwae, have been accompanying Maangi to several functions within the county, a scenario that has confounded political observers.

Maangi has also been chairing the county executive meetings as well as receiving high profile dignitaries visiting the county in the absence of Ongwae. Apart from Ongwae, Maangi has in the past also been at loggerheads with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, even blaming some of his brushes with the law on him.

In February, during the funeral service of former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae in Kisii, the deputy governor was arrested at Oyugis police station and later released at midnight. Security officers had alleged that Maangi, alongside others, including South Mugirango MP Sylvanus Osoro, were planning to cause chaos during the funeral.

In early March last year, he was summoned by police in Kisii to record a statement on allegations that he had assaulted a maid at his Ogembo residence.

He has not been prosecuted in connection with any the cases.

In another incident, County Enforcement Officers acting on “orders from above” drove away his two official cars from his official residence. Maangi was at the time publicly opposed the Building Bridges Initiative’s proposed constitutional changes.

Commenting on the prevailing harmony between Gusii leaders, Maangi says they agreed to stop insulting and undermining one another.

 “We all agree that we must desist from insulting and undermining each other. We must speak as people who belong to one family. Let us speak in one voice in terms of development. A community where we speak with respect to each other.”

On his bid to take over from Ongwae, Maangi says he has earned enough experience to become governor.

“I have fought my way up in the political arena. I am ready to chart my political path. There have always been talks of system preferred candidates who at the end are defeated at the ballot. There is a need for our leaders to embrace one another positively and appreciate the need to unite all and sundry,” he says.

At one point, Maangi was elected to chair the Deputy Governor’s Forum, promising to promote a good working relationship between the governors and their deputies

Also in the race are Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri, Roads CAS Chris Obure, former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara, Kisii Woman Rep Janet Ongera, Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu, his Dagorreti North counterpart Simba Arati and Gusii Governance Watch secretary Rachael Otundo.