The race for the powerful county assembly speaker position has intensified in western Kenya counties with incumbents and candidates who lost in the August polls jostling for the seats.
The seats in Kisumu, Kakamega, Siaya, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira and Kericho counties have attracted a total 20 candidates as campaigns hot up in the devolved regions.
The speaker position is considered one of the most powerful in counties after that of the governor and head county assembly service board, the body responsible for running administrative functions of the regional Houses.
A number of speakers, including Ann Adul of Kisumu, have however been on the spot over claims of abuse of office ranging from intimidation of members to influencing the award of tenders and soliciting for trips taken by MCAs.
In Kisumu, some of the names already floated for the position are that of Ms Adul, former TNA secretary-general Onyango Oloo and lawyer Ken Amonde.
Ms Adul on Wednesday said she was banking on her professionalism and experience from the last House to win back the seat.
“The Assembly had many issues from the onset. It needs somebody who has been there and knows how to handle the challenges that come with it,” said Mrs Adul.
“There are new members who need direction and the person best suited to give that is me.”
The speakers are elected by the MCAs who first have to be gazetted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), according to the Constitution.
The MCAs are then required to take oaths of office before they can proceed to elect the speakers and their deputies.
Already, Siaya Speaker George Okode, who is seeking to defend his seat, has petitioned IEBC to gazette the elected and nominated MCAs.
Mr Okode is leading a pack of five individuals who are seeking the position.
Already various candidates have started lobbying for the position in earnest.
Apart from Mr Okode, other candidates are Samuel Muga, Nelson Osiemo, Maurice Juma Okumu and George Rubik.
In Migori, members of the Kuria community are now eying the speaker’s position after losing key county slots in the elections.
In 2013, the community bagged the senator, deputy governor and the woman representative position.
A 28-year-old Advocate, Matiko Mang’era and her counterparts Kerario Marwa and Sam Mohochi have declared their interest in the position.
Kisii Speaker Ondieki Okerosi will not be seeking his second term in office.
Some of those seeking to replace him are politicians Norah Nyamwamu, Rachael Otundo and Alfred Nyangweso.
Speaking at a press conference in Sakawa Hotel in Kisii town, Mr Okerosi cited personal and family issues as some of the reasons why he was no longer interested in the position.
“I know that the position of the speaker is about to be filled and I want to tell the people that I will not be in the race,” he said.
In Nyamira, Key losers in the August 8 General Election have shifted their attention to the county speaker’s seat.
They include journalist Nyambega Gisesa, Mr Johnstone Obike, Steve Mogaka and outgoing Senator Mong’are Bwo’Okong’o.
The seat was left vacant by Mr Joash Nyamoko who won the North Mugirango parliamentary seat.
A Texas-based barrister Martin Oketch has declared interest in the Homa Bay county speakership ahead of the convention of the local assembly next week.
Mr Oketch, who has been working as a Senior Counsel for a major American Bank in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday said he is interested in the county speaker’s position in a bid to inject meaningful legislative agenda.
The position has attracted intensive lobbying, with local elected MPs trying to influence MCA’s to vote their way.
Incumbent Samuel Ochilo is also fighting to defend his candidature amidst increased opposition from the newly elected and re-elected members.
In Kakamega, six candidates are campaigning for the position.
They include the incumbent Morris Buluma, lawyer Leonard Shimaka, Law Society of Kenya Butere-Mumias branch chairman James Namtsi and Mr Justus Wabuyabo.
Other contenders are deputy Speaker Abdihakim Mohammed and the Chairman of Public Service and County Administration Rueben Nyangweso.
The candidates are busy meeting the elected county assembly members in secret locations to try and win their support ahead of the elections.
The contest for seat has been complicated by the fact that 45 out of the 60 MCAs lost their seats.
Dismal performance by ward representatives in drafting and passing laws has featured prominently in the campaigns.
The new team of MCAs has send strong indication that they want a new vibrant speaker who will steer the assembly to perform its oversight and legislative roles effectively.
Those interviewed said they will not accept to be used as rubber stamps by the county executive.
Mumias Central Ward MCA-elect Charles Odanga said the candidates for the county assembly speaker’s position should prepare to be vetted thoroughly before getting the job.
“We understand how the former county assembly performed and we are not prepared to inherit the same trend where money was used to influence key decisions at the assembly,” said Mr Odanga.
In the August polls, ODM maintained its majority in the county assembly with 32 seats while ANC got 19 seats and Ford Kenya 3.
Jubilee clinched one seat while an independent candidate was victorious in Lumakanda Ward in Lugari constituency.
The incumbent is reported to be enjoying the support of Governor Wycliffe Oparanya but he has been involved in aggressive campaigns to retain the seat.
“I’m currently on the campaign trail in the wards to try and win the support of the MCAs. The competition is tough and I’m not leaving anything to chance,” said Mr Buluma.
He said he was counting on his experience in the last four-and-a-half years to retain the seat.
Lawyer Namatsi said: “I’m taking the campaigns seriously and reaching out to MCAs to sell my agenda to them if they elect me their next speaker,” said Mr Namstsi.
On his part, Mr Nyangweso said despite the odds he would not pull out of the contest.
“My biggest challenge is the numbers and lack of support for candidacy but that will not break my resolve to clinch the seat,” said Mr Nyangweso.
Reports by Benson Amadala, Silas Apollo, Justus Ochieng, Rushdie Oudia, Nyaboga Kiage and Magati Obebo.