Inside Politics

How race for 2022 played out in Wambora’s choice

Monday, February 1st, 2021 09:27 | By
Governor Martin Wambora
Council of Governors chair Martin Wambora (third left) receives instruments of power from outgoing chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (second right) during the hand over ceremony at Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi on Friday. PD/JOHN OCHIENG
Council of Governors chair Martin Wambora (third left) receives instruments of power from outgoing chairman Wycliffe Oparanya (second right) during the hand over ceremony at Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi on Friday. PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Embu Governor Martin Wambora’s election to become the fifth chairman of the Council of Governors (CoG) was neither a surprise nor a hotly contested affair.

People Daily has learnt that an array of issues were at play starting with last Wednesday’s State House meeting of 10 governors from Mt. Kenya region hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Also at play was the fact that the next General-Election is around the corner and most county chiefs are already on the ground preparing themselves.

A source privy to last Friday’s vote that saw the governor, who has been impeached twice but survived to clinch the CoG top seat, intimated that most county bosses were not keen on contesting the seat.

“The seat has become less attractive as we head to the August 2022 polls. It is electioneering period. Most first timers wanted to go back to the ground and campaign. Thus, they did not want positions that will tie them down.

“Also bear in mind that Wambora has not been open about what he wants next so, they chose him,” the source said yesterday. He continued: “For instance, look at most of those vocal guys who have seen the State using the council to push their agenda so, they opted out.”

Another scenario that played out is that other governors have declared they want to contest in bigger seats such as ambition to succeed President Uhuru. In this case, you have the likes of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua; his Mombasa counterpart, Hassan Joho and the outgoing CoG chairman, Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega).

“So most of these guys are focused and do not want to be tied down. You can even see the kind of guys given the job. Wambora and Kisii Governor James Ongwae are usually colourless,” he added.

But CoG Chief Executive Officer Jacqueline Mogeni said: “The Council of Governors are known to be free and fair and transition very year has historically been very smooth. Our elections are known for decorum and smooth transition.”

Leadership style Speaking after his election, Wambora said: “I am honoured to be the new CoG chairman. My leadership style will be servant leadership and will be characterised by consultation, collaboration and cooperation.”

Famously referred to as the governor with nine lives, Wambora becomes fifth council chair, after former governors Isaac Ruto, Peter Munya now Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Josephat Nanok (Turkana), and Oparanya in that order.

The election locked out Deputy President William Ruto’s allies who have been angling to have stake at the Executive and chair various committees including Liaison, Management and Resource mobilisation. Ongwae was elected as the vice-chair.

Wambora and Ongwae succeeded governors Oparanya and Murang’a’s Mwangi wa Iria respectively having served their legal two-term limit. Oparanya was elected in January 2019 and has served as chair for two terms.

In the election that had all the hallmarks of the Buildings Bridges Initiatives and 2022 succession politics, Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos was appointed the Chief Whip taking over from Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana.

The Makueni county boss had earlier announced his intentions to be chair of the council, but dropped out in the last minute. “I will not be a candidate for CoG elections. As a 2022 presidential candidate, I have been advised by my team that serving in the next CoG executive can constitute a conflict of interest. I thank my colleagues for the opportunity to serve as Chief Whip,” Kibwana said in a tweet on January 26.

But Kibwana successor, Governor Tolgos, has stuck his neck out as DP Ruto’s critic in the Rift Valley. The CoG is the crucial organ that represents the 47 governors, and is provided for in Section 19 of the Intergovernmental Relations Act. Sec 19 (2) provides for the election of two governors as the CoG’s chair and vice chair.

The two can serve for a term of one year and are eligible for re-election. Governors Dhadho Godhana (Tana River), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) were all in the race to succeed Oparanya.

Though Godhana pulled out of the contest just before the election, he was appointed the National Security and Foreign Relations chair. Ngilu was appointed chairperson of Trade and Investment among others.

The election of Wambora is seen as a triumph of defiance in his tumultuous and controversy-laden time as governor.

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