The battle for the next Kisii County governor is likely to narrow down to clan, party affiliation and choice of running mate.
It is set to be a replica of 2017 when the distribution of elective seats in the county was done through negotiated democracy, a development that saw ODM sweep all the top three county seats to the disadvantage of the ruling party, Jubilee.
Other factors being put into consideration are the past development records of the leaders who have held elective seats and those in other senior government positions but who are now ready to join elective politics.
In 2013, Mr Ongwae won the seat with a landslide, garnering 229,380 votes out of the total 342,839 valid votes. His closest challenger, Nyaberi Lumumba of Jubilee, got 63,616 votes. Governor Ongwae won the 2017 polls after garnering 206,164 votes against his closest challenger, Chris Obure, who polled 110,164 votes. Former South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya was third with 53,073 votes.
Governor Ongwae, who is serving his last term, is yet to endorse a successor.
“They are all fit to lead the county but the electorates must be extra careful not to elect noisemakers in the form of leaders. Let democracy prevail.”
Deputy Governor Joash Maangi and legislators Simba Arati (Dagoretti North) and Ezekiel Machogu (Nyaribari Masaba) have already declared their interest in the seat.
Kenya National Congress party leader Manson Nyamweya, Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure, Woman Representative Janet Ong’era, US-based businessman Chweya Matoke, activist Rachel Otundo, PDP leader Omingo Magara, Senator Sam Ongeri and UDA’s Alfred Nyangweso have also joined the crowded pool of hopefuls.
Ongeri, Ongera and Arati are all allied to ODM while Obure, who resigned from government yesterday, is still with the Jubilee Party.
Nyamweya will be flying the KNC party ticket.
Magara says Kisii is a resource-rich county and under his leadership, he will make sure every citizen there will benefit from the resources. Magara, who has experience in civil service and has served in Parliament, said if elected, he will give the county leadership that will offer transparent delivery of services and accountability.
“I have seen the performance of the current administration but mine will capitalise on value addition and a sobre balanced government,” he said.
Magara said he welcomes all those interested in vying for the seat on the UDA ticket, adding that nominations will be free and fair.
Others eyeing the UDA ticket in a bid to take over from Ongwae are Machogu, Nyangweso and Otundo.
Ms Otundo, 54, is a former official in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. She graduated from the University of Nairobi in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Land Economics. She contested for the Nyaribari Chache parliamentary seat in 2007, 2013 and 2017 but lost. She also lost her bid to become Speaker of Kisii County Assembly in 2017.
“We must rise above the male-dominated politics in the Gusii region. Women are equal to the task. Elective positions are not a preserve of the few,” she said.
Machogu on the other hand came in as a game-changer in Nyaribari politics in the 2017 elections. He is credited with prudent use of CDF kitty. The former District Commissioner has huge stakes in profitable businesses and properties. He unveiled former Kisii County finance minister John Billy Momanyi — who hails from Bonchari — as his running mate.
“I have already made up my mind that I will be on the ballot. Nothing stops me from honouring my political ambitions.”
One-time South Mugirango MP; Nyamweya will be making his second attempt on the county seat. His past development record in South Mugirango Constituency between 2013-2017 also gives him an upper hand in the contest.
“My priority is to ensure that we have improved on our infrastructure, water and Agriculture.”
In ODM, Ms Ong’era, who is serving as the Kisii Woman Representative, has been a voice on women rights and girl child education. A lawyer by profession, she served as a nominated senator between 2013 and 2017.
An ODM supporter, Ong’era admits that the journey has been long.
“I have earned experience that can enable me to manage the county. I am calling on the electorate in Kisii to keenly examine the track record of each of the aspiring governors and pick the best.”
Through her projects, she has steadily gained confidence among needy children, the youth and women groups.
Deputy Governor Maangi, an ambitious political player, says he has earned enough experience to succeed Ongwae.
“I have fought my way up in the political scene. I am ready to chart my political path. There have always been talks of ‘system preferred’ candidates who at the end are overwhelmed at the ballot. There is a need for our leaders to embrace each other positively and appreciate the need to unite all,” he said.
The fight against corruption will be a hallmark of his leadership should he clinch the governor’s seat.
“I will relentlessly fight this monster that has dire economic and social effects in our country. As leaders, we have a responsibility to do that which is right as well as uphold the highest levels of integrity.”
Another contender, Obure, a seasoned politician said; “I have made a decision to vie for the seat with the approval of my family and hope the county residents will support me. Residents want to elect a leader with a proven development record”.
Matoke, 36, and Arati, 39, are riding on the youth tag to wrestle some of their competitors who have been in politics for more than three decades. He joined the Amani National Congress which is part of the Kenya Kwanza alliance spearheaded by Deputy President William Ruto.
Matoke is the firstborn son of the late Christopher Matoke, a former Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General in Kisii. He has worked as an Automated Logistical Specialist in the US Army, where he worked for eight years.
Matoke has been working as an Adjunct Professor at Vista College where he has been instructing on production and operations management for the last five years.
Arati will be testing waters on local politics having participated in the city political waters and twice won the Dagoreti North seat.