Narok gubernatorial aspirant on ODM ticket Joseph Tiampati and incumbent Governor Samuel Tunai. (Photo: Robert Kiplagat/Standard)
A political showdown is looming in the Narok gubernatorial race as the clock ticks to the August elections.
Development, accountability, and inclusiveness will be the key determiners on who will take the mantle after August 8.
It is a three-horse race for the county top job with the incumbent, Governor Samuel Tunai (Jubilee Party), Patrick Ntutu (Chama Cha Mashinani), and former ICT PS Joseph Tiampati of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) warming up to contest against one another.
The resurgence of CCM in the area has, however, complicated the game that would have been a simple Jubilee versus ODM battle after Ntutu, who could have been a strong contender against Tunai in the Jubilee primaries ditched the party for the Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto-led party.
For Tiampati and Tunai, it will be a renewal of the battle of 2013, where the former came second in a hotly contested election.
Tunai, formerly of dissolved United Republican Party (URP), and his running mate, Aruasa Evalyn Chepkirui, floored six other candidates, receiving 37 per cent of the votes cast. The other challenger was Tiampati ole Musuni of Kenya National Congress (KNC).
Whereas clans and tribes are still major determiners of who takes the mantle as the next county chief, a local political analysis shows that development remains a key issue in an area classified as “marginalised”.
“For the first time, the Narok people seem to be tired of mere politics. They feel they have been marginalised by previous regimes and that devolution is the answer,” said Hassan ole Kamwaro, a veteran area politician.
He adds: “The electorate wants someone who can champion the community’s interests. They want someone who can safeguard their resources. They want accountability and development more than ever.”
Ntutu was among five legislators nicknamed “Muthaiga Five” who organised mass demonstrations against Tunai’s administration in January 2015 and will be banking on his fight against corruption in the county to win him votes.
Ntutu said he was upset by the level of corruption and under-development he claimed the current leadership had inflicted on the Narok electorate. He was particularly irked by how the more than Sh3 billion annual revenue from the world-famous Maasai Mara National Game Reserve was spent.
Governor Tunai was cleared of the corruption allegations by the Senate Finance Committee as well as the Auditor General.
Ntutu claimed that the more than Sh40 billion that the county has received over the past four years has not been used well.
The legislator hinted that if elected, he would give each of the 30 elected MCAs a ward development fund of Sh100 million every financial year to spur development.
Tunai, who is the Jubilee point man, has told off his opponents who have criticised his development record and challenged them to show what they have done for the people before seeking to unseat him.
“I want these people who have been moving around here to tell the people what they have done in their constituencies before challenging me. Some of these people criticising me have never even built a classroom in their constituency,” Tunai said.
The governor said he would be banking on his development record to clinch a second term, claiming that he had done a lot at the onset of devolution.
“My government is spending close to Sh50 million every term on bursaries to our needy students. We have built close to 1,000 classrooms in the six constituencies and we will be building more,” said Tunai.
According to the governor, the county administration would in the coming weeks unveil road construction equipment to be distributed to the six sub-counties.
“Narok people detest corruption. We want development for our people and the answer is Patrick Ntutu. He is up to the task,” said Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno, a close ally of Ntutu.
The soft-spoken Tiampati, nicknamed “Bishop” for his humility and devotion to religion, seems to be riding on his previous contest against Tunai and the influence of opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“An ODM governor is the best thing for Narok. The party believes in transparency,development, and socio-economic ideals for the Maasai community. Tiampati is not corrupt and will take care of Narok resources,” said Narok North MP Moitalel Kenta, who recently decamped to ODM.
Kenta argued that the level of corruption in the Jubilee administration had trickled down to the counties, impoverishing the electorate.
He quipped: “There has been marginalisation of the Maasai from top to bottom, looting of our resources.”
While all the gubernatorial aspirants are from the populous Maasai community, the battle lies among the non-Maasai communities such as the Kipsigis, who comprise about 20 per cent of the votes, and other minority tribes.
Each aspirant seems keen to win over the Kipsigis voters, who occupy Emurua Dikirr and parts of Narok West and South.
Tunai, who is a close ally of the Deputy President, will be banking on his influence among the Kalenjin as well as his deputy, Evalyn Aruasa, who is also from the community.
Ntutu will be using the surging influence of his CCM party, Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, and the Emurua Dikirr MP to boost his support. He has picked Agnes Busienei, a high school teacher from the Kipsigis community in Narok South, as his running mate.
Tiampati has chosen fellow Ilpurko clansman Francis Nkoitoi as his running mate.