State officials give governors sleepless nights

State officials and governors are locked in a supremacy battle with the former presenting themselves to the masses as the people’s watchdog against the excesses of the county bosses.

Cabinet Secretaries and heads of parastatals with political ambitions have been using every opportunity to hit at the governors accusing them of mismanagement of counties and presenting themselves as the saviours of the electorate come the 2027 General Election.

Cabinet Secretaries Mithika Linturi (Agriculture) and Susan Nakhumicha (Health) have been making statements loaded with political undertones in their respective counties while the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) chairperson Irungu Nyakera has declared himself as the official opposition leader in Murang'a against Governor Irungu Kangata's leadership.

The government officials join the long list of elected leaders who have signaled plans to oust governors and are already positioning themselves to win support of the electorate.

For instance, Nakhumicha whose docket has been dogged by the health crisis is at loggerheads with Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya who was elected on a Democratic Action Party-Kenya (Dap-K) party with the latter accusing her of ‘crisscrossing in burial ceremonies’ in the county as opposed to delivering in her ailing Ministry.

Prior to appointment as CS, she vied for Trans Nzoia Woman Representative on Ford Kenya ticket in the 2022 General Election, coming third after garnering 32,497. Democratic Action Party-Kenya's (DAP-K) Phanice Khatundi got 65,641 votes while UDA’s Lilian Chebet Siyoi emerged the winner after garnering 102,488 votes.

Last month, Nakhumicha was caught up in chaos at a burial ceremony in Goseta, Kwanza sub-county after Natembeya and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula's supporter clashed.

Following the incident, she vowed to table the matter before the Cabinet for debate.

“I’m going to table this incident before the Cabinet to ensure those responsible are held accountable,” Nakhumicha told the residents after calm was restored.

The CS who has been making in-roads in the county has accused Natembeya of neglecting health facilities.

"It is important that leaders become responsible and the government has given the governors county funds on time. The president announced that the government has released Sh32 billion to counties and that is to allow them to deliver services to Kenyans," she said in Matisi ward

But the governor called out Nakhumicha for overstepping her office's authority, telling her to steer clear from politicking and focus on administering her ministerial duties.

He further said that the Health CS has misplaced priorities and should instead work on solving critical problems within the health sector.

"We have a serious problem in the Ministry of Health because there are many problems which ought to have already been solved and they are still stuck," he said in Kitale town.

"She said that she is able to build a hospital in Matisi because she represents the health sector, so why Matisi, or is Matisi the entire nation? She would have gone to Turkana, West Pokot but she should know that the law does not allow a CS to come directly and install a facility of a devolved function. Even if she builds a facility here she must speak to me. The moment you become a state officer you put politics aside," Natambeya added.

In Meru county, Governor Kawira Mwangaza who has been at loggerheads with the MCAs has blamed her woes on Linturi, with her latest move of joining the ruling UDA seen as a strategy to calm the political situation.

On October 23 last year the Agriculture CS went on record to support Mwangaza’s impeachment by describing her as ‘incompetent.’

“The decision taken by the MCAs is the right one because we cannot run away from reality. As the minister for Agriculture, I am required to work with counties but this cannot happen in Meru,” Linturi said immediately after the governor’s impeachment. Mwangaza survived impeachment by the county assembly after she was saved by the Senate.

He went further and wrote a protest letter to the Meru devolved unit over claims that she (the governor) commissioned the market built by the ministry and painted it in county colours before it was released by the contractor.

“It is unfortunate that instead of the CS concentrating on his mandate to achieve the government agenda in agriculture, he is embroiled in local affairs and inciting locals and Members of the County Assembly against my leadership,” the governor said.

Linturi’s appointment to Cabinet came after he was trounced by Mwangaza, a former Meru Women Representative who vied as an Independent candidate and garnered 209,148 votes, against the CS who polled 183,859 votes and Kiraitu Murungi (the former governor) of the Mbus party who trailed with 110, 814 votes.

In Murang'a, Nyakera who unsuccessfully vied for the governorship on the Farmers Party of Kenya, where he is the party leader, has accused Kangata of treating Kenyans ‘to a PR campaign’ about the healthcare system as he readies himself for a political duel in 2027.

Asked whether there was conflict between his position and his self-proclaimed ‘face of opposition in Murang'a Nyakera said: "I currently hold two titles. One as chairman for Kemsa and the other as official opposition for Murang'a county. The two roles are unrelated, separate and intended for each other and should not be merged."

He went ahead to claim that When Kangata loses in 2027, he will have five things to blame; poor state of healthcare in the county, water wars, having MCAs as his advisors, indecisiveness, giving farmers a deaf ear.

Nyakera has been making inroads in the county popularizing his gubernatorial bid.

Kangata on his part, said he was well aware of his competitors’ existence since he knew he would not seek his reelection unopposed as that was not democratic but said he was not afraid as ‘the ultimate decider will be the people, our employers’ even as he defended his programmes.

“Out of the various elective posts that I have held, governor is one of the few where one has an opportunity to effect real changes in people. Therefore, I am really preoccupied with how Kangatacare, automation of health, Inua Mkulima Programme, community projects, school feeding programs are working. Be assured we are always scouting for the next big idea on how to help Murang'a among the people, including our potential competition. Hence we follow their criticism very keenly to see ways we can improve,” he said 

Governance expert Dr Charles Ng'ang'a, a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology argued that the emergence of rivals against governors was a healthy affair because county assemblies have been reduced to an extension of the Executive.

“It’s a healthy affair because the governors will not dare misuse their allocations because someone is following them with a view of exposing their looting but the Ethics and anti-Corruption Commission must also keep the State officials on their watch list,” Ng'ang'a said.