Is it strategic retreat or plain indecisiveness for Maangi?

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 what is happening around him.

For the two terms Dr Joash Maangi has served as Governor James Ongwae’s deputy in Kisii, he has been keen to show that he is ready to go against the grain.

From 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, Maangi appears to be a man on a mission.

Initially, his main goal was to succeed his boss and he had even declared that he was the best placed to continue the reform and development agenda 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, Maangi has changed positions several times, confusing both friend and foe.

His supporters claim that what he stands for is unclear after made another political U-turn and joined 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 Raila Odinga months before the 2017 polls, Maangi appears to be using his old script.

Within a span of three months, Maangi has been welcomed in both Raila’s and Ruto’s camps, 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, Maangi claimed that he has now made his “final defection”, moments after teaming up with Ruto and declaring his intentions to contest the senate seat.

“I will vie for the senate seat. This is my final defection,” said Maangi.

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

According to lawyer and political pundit Joshua Nyamori, 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 Maangi has seen there is still space in the UDA camp, unlike in Azimio which appears crowded,” said Nyamori.

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

But for Maangi, his decision was made after he “listened 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 boost to their chances of locking out Ruto from Gusii region.

He had been the DP’s pointman in the region and mobilised supporters.

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.

Maangi had been welcomed by open arms by Raila’s troops and was even hosted by Raila’s elder brother, Oburu Oginga in Kisumu, where he apologised for turning his back on 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 Maangi would be back in UDA again.

Yesterday however, The Sunday Standard established that the high competition for the ODM party nominations could have been the reason behind Maangi’s latest move to 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. Such moves only depict a leader unable to make up his mind. 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 leaders Raila’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 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.

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. “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 UDA, Ruto said: “You are joining the team that believes in Kenya Kwanza and empowering ordinary people.”

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

His return to UDA is a 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.

In the Kisii UDA formation, 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.