This man Joash Maangi: Strategic retreats or sheer indecisiveness?

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi addresses mourners during the burial of Jane Munda Bosire, the wife of former Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire, at Nyamwanga, Nyamira County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]


He cuts the figure of a bold politician rarely swayed by any political tides and happenings around him.

And for the two terms, Kisii Deputy Governor Dr Joash Maangi has served as James Ongwae’s deputy, he has been keen to show that he is ready to go against the grain to stick to his ideologies.

From outrightly opposing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that his own boss championed in the Gusii region, to courting Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA party despite being sponsored by ODM, Dr Maangi appears to be a man on a mission.

Initially, his main goal was to succeed his boss in the August 9 polls and he had even declared that he was the best placed to continue the reform and development agenda that their administration started in 2013.

But in his political bag lies an open secret that is slowly shaping his political life: the love for defections.

In the last three months, Dr Maangi has changed goal posts several times, confusing both friend and foe in the process.

His supporters claim that what he stands for is unclear after he again made another political U-turn and joined Dr Ruto’s UDA party.

Just like in 2016 when he teamed up with the Jubilee wing to campaign for President Uhuru Kenyatta before ending his dalliance with the outfit to throw his weight behind Mr Odinga’s bid months before the 2017 polls, Dr Maangi appears to be reading from a familiar script.

Within a span of three months, Dr Maangi has been welcomed in both Mr Odinga's and Dr Ruto’s folds like the biblical prodigal son after defections, stirring praise and ridicule in equal measure.

His political goals have also changed dramatically within that period and have now seen him shelve his ambitions for the governor seat as he shifts his attention to the senate seat.

On Friday, however, Dr Maangi claimed that he has now made his “final defection”, moments after teaming up with Dr Ruto and declaring his intentions to contest the Senate seat.

"I will vie for the Senate seat. This is my final defection,” said Dr Maangi.

And while analysts claim that the defections are influenced by strategic interests aimed at political survival, his critics claim that he is an indecisive leader who wants to test the waters to find out what best works for him.

According to lawyer and political pundit Joshua Nyamori, Dr Maangi's latest defection could have been influenced by several factors including the intense competition for space in the Azimio la Umoja movement.

"Politicians are now looking for a way to survive and probably Dr Maangi has seen there is still space in the UDA camp, unlike the Azimio camp which appears crowded," said Mr Nyamori.

The political commentator claimed that Dr Maangi could be reacting to the recent wave of realignments that have seen Dr Ruto lose several allies from the Gusii region, consequently creating space in the camp.

But for Dr Maangi, his decision was after "listening to the ground".

He claimed that he had listened to his supporters before making the latest decision to shift base to UDA as well as change his political aspirations from governor to senator.

Before he decamped to UDA, the ODM fraternity had been upbeat that his return to ODM was a major boost in their quest to lockout Dr Ruto from the Gusii region.

He had been the DP’s point man in the region and pulled grassroots mobilizations for him.

But all that changed in December last year when he denounced his association with the DP and sought to mend fences with ODM as he intensified his efforts to contest the governor seat.

And like a prodigal son, Dr Maangi had been welcomed by open arms by Mr Odinga's troops and was even hosted by Mr Odinga's elder brother Oburu Oginga in December in Kisumu, where he apologized for turning his back against the party.

If someone would have used the comments he made in December to judge him, it would have been very difficult to believe that Dr Maangi would be back in UDA again.

On Saturday, however, The Standard established that the high competition for the ODM party nominations could have been the reason behind Dr Maangi’s latest departure to join UDA.

His supporters, however, claim that he is an indecisive leader who is yet to master his political bearings.

“We knew he would contest for the governor seat. He is now claiming that he listened to us to change his interest to the Senate. Such moves only depict a leader unable to make up his mind on what he wants. How can you change your political decisions like clothes,” said Fredrick Nyanchoka, a voter from Kitutu Chache.

In the race to succeed Governor Ongwae, a tough contest is developing and has attracted key political echelons in Mr Odinga's camp who are all eyeing the governor seat.

They include Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati and Senator Sam Ongeri who will be battling for the Orange ticket alongside other aspirants. Insiders claim that Dr Maangi was down the pecking order in the ODM party and stood little chance of clinching the ticket.

Now, however, another herculean task awaits him in the battle for the senate seat where he will face off with several candidates including Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka (ODM), former Bonchari MP Charles Onyancha and former KTDA company secretary Ken Omanga (Kanu) who have all declared their interest for the senate seat.

Dr Maangi is however optimistic that his latest move will be the turning point in his political career. He believes he has the mettle to serve as a senator diligently and protect the legacy they built with Governor Ongwae.

"I want to go and undertake oversight on the work done in our county. I want to ensure that the work we did together with Governor James Ongwae doesn't go to waste," he said.

After welcoming him back to his party, Dr Ruto said, "You are joining the team that believes in Kenya kwanza and empowering ordinary people."

Dr Maangi was accompanied by MPs Ezekiel Machogu (Nyaribari Masaba), Sylvanus Osoro (South Mugirango), advocates Cliff Ombeta and Ogamba Migosi among other leaders.

His return to UDA is a major boost for the DP who has lost key men in the last few days including former UDA treasurer Omingo Magara and former Director of Youth Affairs in the Office of Deputy President William Ruto, Anthony Kibagendi, who left Ruto's camp.

In the Kisii UDA formation, Mr Machogu will compete for the governor seat while Maangi will now compete for the senate. The party is looking for a suitable Woman Rep aspirant.

City-based businessman Okengo Nyambane is also in the contest.

The Standard
Celebrate Easter in style with our KES999 annual offer