Why I have ditched Ruto for Raila – Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi

From left: ODM leader Raila Odinga, DP William Ruto and Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi. [File, Standard]

Kisii County Deputy Governor Joash Maangi says he supports ODM leader Raila Odinga’s presidential candidature in the 2022 General Election.

Maangi has, for a while now, been touted as Deputy President William Ruto’s point man in the larger Kisii Nyanza region.

He, however, pulled a surprise move on Friday, December 10, when he attended Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja Convention at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi.

Odinga used the event to announce that he will be running for presidency for a fifth time in 2022, after failed bids in 1997, 2007, 2013 and 2017.

The move by Maangi to grace the Azimio la Umoja function stunned several online users, who, all along, knew him to be a Ruto diehard.

Eyebrows were, however, raised on Wednesday, December 8, when he skipped the deputy president’s rallies in Marani, Nyaribari Masaba and Bobasi constituencies in Kisii County.

Maangi’s conspicuous absence from Ruto’s functions suggested all wasn’t well in the camp, which he had been a key player in, especially in the Kisii region.

In October this year, Maangi accused the government of frustrating Ruto’s allies, including himself, with unnecessary arrests.

“We are seeing other [presidential] aspirants touring different parts of the country freely. I wonder why when the deputy president does the same, he is being frustrated,” Maangi said on October 2 at his Ogembo Village home in Gucha Sub-County.

At the time, the DP was scheduled to tour Kisii for two days.

“State intimidation should not be allowed to flourish in a democracy,” said Maangi.

His remarks came on the back of previous arrests, in which he accused the State of targeting him over his links to Ruto.

On February 15, 2021, he was arrested in controversial circumstances while waiting to receive Ruto at the Kisii High School. The DP was scheduled to attend the burial of former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae.

A man known to be mercurial in his politics, Maangi, in November 2020, took his allies by surprise when he announced that he was supporting the BBI constitutional push, an initiative that was being aggressively opposed by DP William Ruto and his team.

“The [BBI] report is largely good for the country. It can never be perfect, but we have a way to sit and move the country forward. The 35 per cent revenue allocation to counties is an actualisation of the principle ‘funds will follow functions’,” he said at Nyagesenda SDA in Marani near Kisii Town on November 14, 2020.

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache attended the service.

And now, Maangi, who had pledged to support Ruto to the wire, says he needs to politically realign to increase his chances of winning the Kisii gubernatorial seat in 2022.

He said, in however much he’d have loved to popularise UDA in the Kisii region, “the ground” had advised him to go back to his roots – Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Maangi and his boss, Governor James Ongwae, were re-elected as a pair on ODM ticket in the August 8, 2017 General Election.

And now, he says he is best-suited to continue Ongwae’s legacy, joining Prof. Sam Ongeri and Kisii Woman Representative Janet Ongera’s team. The trio are now eyeing the governor’s seat.

The addition of Maangi to the ODM matrix, presents the party with a headache on who among the three it would allocate the ticket. It is, however, expected that should they fail to settle on a compromise candidate, the trio will square it out for the ticket in party primaries.

Ruto-linked United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party is now left with former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara and Rachel Otundo, who unsuccessfully ran for the Nyaribari Chache parliamentary seat in 2017 General Election, as 2022 Kisii gubernatorial hopefuls.

Maangi, the prodigal son to the ODM family, says he has never renounced his membership to the party, and that he was “in full support of a Raila Odinga presidential bid”.

“I have always been in ODM,” he told The Standard on Saturday, December 11.

“You know what it means to be in ODM Party in Kisii region,” he said.

Mangi says he is optimistic that he’d clinch the party’s ticket in the race to succeed Governor Ongwae in 2022.

“There has always been talk that the ‘system’ prefers certain elective seat candidates over the others. However, when these candidates are presented at the ballot, they end up losing. I urge fairness in settling for a flag-bearer,” he said.

Maangi has an interesting leave-and-reunite relationship with ODM. Three years after the March 4, 2013 polls, he ditched ODM for Jubilee.

In May 2017, in the run-up to that year’s general election, he rejoined ODM three months to the August polls, after two years of cosying up to Jubilee.

Raila Odinga, at the time, welcomed him back to the party, and promised to let him retain the Kisii Deputy Governor ticket.

And now, Maangi says, even after ditching Ruto’s UDA camp for ODM, he remains to be friends with the deputy president, “who has been a buddy even before I matured in politics”.

Additional reporting by Brian Okoth