The unveiling of faces to lead the campaign for the proposed constitutional changes has shifted focus to their perceived influence in 2022 polls.
Some of the 16 regional coordinators picked by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga to spearhead collection of signatures have higher political ambitions or are seeking a comeback in the next elections.
It has also emerged that the coordinators have been instructed to rope in regional commissioners, county commissioners, chiefs and assistant chiefs to meet the four million target within a week.
At the national level, the appointment of former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru to co-chair the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) campaign secretariat with National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, has triggered jittery among several Mt Kenya MPs.
Waweru unsuccessfully eyed nomination for the Nairobi governorship job in the last elections and could be seeking to give it a second stab.
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Uhuru and Raila on Wednesday unveiled MPs George Aladwa (Makadara), Simba Arati (Dagoretti North), Maina Kamanda (nominated) and Nancy Gesire to lead coordination of signatures collection in Nairobi County.
Both Aladwa and Arati are nursing ambitions to become governors in the 2022 elections.
Former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo has been picked to coordinate signatures collection in Nyanza in what could hand him a comeback to mainstream politics. Midiwo lost his seat to Elisha Odhiambo in the last poll.
Borabu MP Ben Momanyi will spearhead the process in Nyamira County. The MP has declared interest to succeed Governor John Nyagarama, who is serving his second and last term.
Other key figures picked to spearhead the exercise and are likely to turn it into a platform for their political ambitions include former Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti and Mutuma Nkanata (Mt Kenya East) and ex-Mathira MP Peter Weru (Central). Kivuti unsuccessfully ran for Embu governor’s seat.
Mwalimu Makarani will coordinate Coast, Mwengi Mutuse and Kala Musyoka (Lower Eastern), Jibril Mahaalim and Abdulahi Derie (North Eastern), Nabii Nabwera (Western) while one-time Cabinet Minister Paul Sang will spearhead signature collection in South Rift.
Other coordinators are Violet Chepsang (North Rift), Beatrice Askul (Turkana) and Patrick Lumumba (Kisii).
Yesterday, Midiwo said they will make the structures as inclusive as possible to prevent abuse of the platform for 2022 political ambitions.
The former lawmaker said they have involved governors in the four Nyanza counties in identifying county coordinators, and MPs in picking constituency coordinators.
“This is a whole process until the referendum vote. What we want to do is to involve everybody from chiefs, county commissioners, party grassroots officials. We shall also involve the MCAs and MPs, and where possible the church,” said Midiwo.
“In the constituencies, I am working with MPs to identify constituency coordinators. This process is too close to the next election, so if they become coordinators they will start campaigning. The people they pick must work under our instructions.”
Already, Kisumu County has identified Bob Madanje as its coordinator, Joe Donde (Siaya) and Agutu Jakorayo (Homa Bay). Jakorayo is nursing ambitions for Rangwe parliamentary seat.
Migori is yet to identify a coordinator, with sources citing Luo-Kuria factor in the county for the delay.
All the counties in the larger western Kenya, including Kisii and Nyamira, are under the Lake Region that will be supervised by Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and governors James Ongwae (Kisii) and Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu).
In Western region, Oparanya and Cotu boss Francis Atwoli are at the top of the mobilisation, overseeing the exercise in the four counties of Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga and Bungoma.
“I am involved in mobilisation in western Kenya. All Western leaders are supporting the document and by next week we will be part of the four million signatures. The Tanga Tanga people in western have no voice because a majority of our people are for the document,” said Atwoli.
Atwoli said he was also mobilising workers to sign the document in support of the proposed changes.
All governors have also been tasked to supervise the exercise in their counties.
Yesterday, Momanyi said he held a meeting with Ongwae, Nyagarama, regional commissioner and county commissioners for Nyamira and Kisii to put up structures for the exercise.
“We are identifying county and constituency coordinators. We are going to have sitting MPs for those supporting and non-sitting members for areas whose MPs are not in support,” said Momanyi.
“We want sitting MPs to be at the fore front but we also want them to accommodate those seeking to run against them. We are not going to leave anybody out.”
In Nairobi, Arati said they held a meeting with the regional commissioner ahead of the kick-off of signature collection. Yesterday, sub-county commissioners were set to meet chiefs and assistant chiefs for planning purposes.
“In Nairobi, we have up to Tuesday to deliver. In my constituency alone I am targeting 70,000 signatures,” said Arati.
“In Nairobi anyone who will oppose this document will be an enemy of the people because we have been given 12 additional constituencies. And since every person has an opponent, we will have people to drive the process in constituencies whose MPs are opposed to the process,” said Arati
Weru said his region has decided to pick none-sitting political leaders to run the exercise.
Chuka University Vice Chancellor Prof Elias Njokawill is in charge of Tharaka Nithi team while Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Board CEO Mutuma Nkanata will coordinate the process in Meru.
“We have the mandate and shall ensure this exercise succeeds,” Nkanata said yesterday, adding they will coordinate the drive with Kivuti.
Further North, former Isiolo North MP Joseph Samal has been appointed to coordinate Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu.
[Additional reporting by Wainaina Ndung’u and Ali Abdi]