Comeback kings: Former governors reclaim seats

Two of the former governors who have been re-elected so far.

Four former governors have bounced back to the office after five years in the cold.

Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka (Bungoma) and his counterparts Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo), Joshua Irungu (Laikipia) and Nadhif Jama (Garissa) were yesterday savouring their victory after putting up a spirited fight to reclaim their seats.

At the Coast, Issa Timamy of Amani National Congress (ANC) was last night poised to recapture the Lamu governor seat he lost in 2017 to the incumbent Fahim Twaha of Jubilee. In Kilifi, former Lands Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Gideon Munga’ro was also poised to win the governor seat after being in the political cold for five years. In 2017, he contested for the seat and lost to Mr Amason Kingi.

Lusaka lost to Wycliffe Wangamati in the hotly contested 2017 elections but garnered 244, 298 votes against his successor’s 140,298 votes to reclaim the seat. This was unlike in 2017, when Wangamati, a political greenhorn then, won the seat on a Ford Kenya ticket with 197,422 votes against Lusaka’s 175,929 votes. Governor Wangamati conceded defeat early and sent a congratulatory message to Lusaka after provisional results showed he was trailing his predecessor.

Interestingly Lusaka had to seek the blessings of Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula to reclaim the seat as was the case with Wangamati five years ago. Just like he held Wangamati’s hand and campaigned for him vigorously in 2017 while chastising Lusaka, Wetang’ula embraced the Senate Speaker and urged voters to give him a second chance.

A fallout between Wetang’ula and Wangamati was a blessing in disguise for Lusaka who seized the opportunity and rejoined Ford Kenya. Wangamati diched the lion’s party for newly formed Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) associated with Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa. Speaking moments after he was declared the winner on Thursday at Mabanga Farmers Training College, Lusaka promised to serve the people of Bungoma better.

“I want to thank the great people of Bungoma for trusting me with their votes, I give them my word that they will not regret, I will serve them with dedication and restore sanity in the county government,” said the governor-elect.

As the county returning officers in Laikipia and Baringo counties announced the governorship results in the 2017 General Election, the political careers of Cheboi and Irungu appeared to be over. The duo that were elected as inaugural governors in their respective counties in 2013, were consigned to political oblivion and faded away from the public limelight. They went off the political radar for five years. But with the outcome of the just concluded August 9 General Election, the two have made a comeback.

For Irungu, his comeback was long overdue. Irungu emerged the winner of Tuesday’s poll after defeating governor Ndiritu Muriithi. He vied on a UDA party ticket while Muriithi was on a Jubilee party ticket. Their political rivalry dates back to 2017. During the Jubilee party nominations, Irungu won the party ticket forcing Muriithi to vie as an Independent candidate.

It was after the general elections that Muriithi was declared the winner with a margin of less than 1,000 votes despite being an Independent candidate. Their political duel continued thereafter after Irungu moved to court to contest the elections. But the courts ruled in favour of Muriithi forcing Irungu into political oblivion. Despite being appointed as the chairman of Water Resources Management Authority, Irungu kept a low profile until last year.

He concentrated on his dairy farming at his Kinamba farm. In a earlier interview with The Standard, Irungu said he wanted to give Muriithi a chance to serve.

“I want to respect the will of the people. That is why I want to give Muriithi the chance to fulfill his manifesto” he said.

But now, he attributes his win to the will of the same electorate.

“I had concentrated on my dairy farming but the electorate kept on pushing me to vie for the seat. I bowed to their pressure and contested for the seat,” he said.

Once sworn in, Irungu promises to complete the development projects he had initiated. Among them are health, agriculture, water, roads and security.

“There are projects which I started but yet to be completed. These will be some of the priorities” he said.

He at the same attributed his success to his affiliation to the UDA party.

“This is the party of choice in this region. I want to thank the party leadership for their support” he said.

When Benjamin Cheboi lost the Baringo governorship in 2017, he was dejected but deep inside he knew he would return to serve the people.

“I had a lot of unfinished business with the people of Baringo. I had a vision which I had vowed to achieve. I needed a second chance and started planning for it soon after the 2017 results were announced,” he said after he was announced the winner on August 12, 2022.

Top of his plan was to align himself with a political party that had a major following in the county. He choose UDA. He went on to win the party primaries, forcing the incumbent to seek re-election as an Independent candidate. That move played in favour of Cheboi, who won the election with 137,486 votes.

He trounced his competitors governor Stanley Kiptis and Eldama Ravine MP Moses Lessonet. Kiptis and Lessonet were vying on an Independent ticket. Kiptis came third with 17,646 got votes while Lessonet got 60,865 votes.

Cheboi was elected Baringo first governor in the 2013 General Election. He, however, lost to Kiptis during Jubilee party primaries. He accepted the outcome of the polls. Kiptis faced off with Kanu’s Isaac Chebon. Kiptis was after the elections declared winner with 137,668 votes. Chebon got 52,176 votes.

During the April 2022 UDA party primaries Cheboi, Kiptis and Lessonet were among those who went to the ballot seeking to carry the party’s flag in the county.

Juliet Omelo, James Munyeki and Julius Chepkwony