Nandi County Governor Cleophas Lagat addresses residents. (Photo: Kevin Tunoi/Standard)
Nandi County is becoming a political hotbed with seasoned and high-profile candidates running for governor in the August General Election.
Heated campaigns are already under way, with a majority of contestants chasing the Jubilee Party (JP) ticket in their bid to dethrone the incumbent Governor Cleophas Lagat.
Nandi is one of the counties in the North Rift region that is part of the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb). It is also a county that has significant influence in Rift Valley politics and immense potential in agriculture and other key sectors of the economy.
The electorate will be keen on electing a county boss who will, alongside managing the agricultural sector and wooing investors, ensure proper utility of billions of shillings in devolved funds disbursed annually to the devolved unit.
Former Cabinet Minister Henry Kosgey, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei, Lagat, current Senator Stephen Sang, agricultural economist Dr Alfred Serem, finance specialist Silas Kipruto and Barnabas Sang are among candidates seeking Jubilee Party ticket.
Youthful architect Nicholas Tirop Koech is seeking to wrestle fellow aspirants through an independent ticket.
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Interestingly, the decision by Nandi Senator Sang to run for the governor’s seat has brought forth a replica of 2013 elections contest between him and former long-serving minister Kosgey.
Kosgey had in 2013 defied a strong political wave that swept across the Rift Valley region through United Republican Party (URP) and competed in the senatorial race on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) that was won by Sang.
Political realignments have already taken place and Kosgey, who had maintained a low profile for over three years that also saw him go back to class, made a move by announcing his bid for the governor’s seat last year.
On announcing his bid, Kosgey said it was his obligation to honour calls from the electorate in Nandi County to represent them as their governor after the August polls.
He is among those seeking to unseat Governor Lagat who will be defending his seat. Lagat won overwhelmingly through a URP ticket in the 2013 elections.
The candidates have all hit the road running to popularise themselves in the expansive county.
Campaign teams are in place for the respective candidates with campaign materials including billboards, posters among others becoming a common feature in the region.
Kosgey, who has had vast experience in Government, was among six Kenyans hauled to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over chaos that rocked the country following a disputed presidential poll in 2007.
The others were President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and radio journalist Joshua Sang.
Kosgey and Ali were the first to secure their freedom after charges against them were not confirmed by the court. Uhuru, Ruto, Muthaura and Sang were also later cleared by the ICC.
Kosgey, who is pursuing his doctorate degree, was also at some point ODM chairman, but took a low political profile after 2013 elections. He relinquished his position within ODM following the bungled party elections at Kasarani in 2014, and was later named chair to the Tourism Fund after he had declared his interest for Nandi governor’s seat.
Sang, a youthful lawyer, is banking on his performance in the Senate where he has sponsored several Bills.
“Competition in the gubernatorial race is hot but what will count is the past performance of each candidate in their past positions. The electorate will vet performance of candidates in their previous positions and stations,” said Sang in a recent interview.
Former CS Koskei is already criss-crossing the six constituencies to popularise his bid for the governorship, promising servant leadership if elected.
Koskei has also had a stint in Government, serving as Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture in President Uhuru’s first Cabinet in 2013.
He was, howeve,r forced to step aside to facilitate investigation after appearing in a list presented to the president by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over graft allegations.
He was later cleared of the allegations but was not reappointed in a reshuffle in November 2015 as Willy Bett was picked to replace him.
Koskei is making his first bid in elective politics.
Koech decided to contest on an independent ticket, saying he wants to offer the electorate a chance to elect a leader of their choice “without any due influence”.
“My campaign team is already on the ground and we have received good reception wherever we go. We are selling our policies geared at transforming the county,” he said.
Koech added: “The electorate will not get a chance to vote in an individual they prefer because one may be imposed by a political party.”
Dr Serem said yesterday that he is still popularising his policies across the county and also hinted that he is holding wider consultations.
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“I am campaigning to popularise my bid. Other options can also be considered in the process,” said Serem, without giving further clarification.
He has been a senior lecturer at Moi University, Eldoret, and formerly the managing director of Horticultural Crops Development Authority.
He is making his first attempt in elective politics.
Lagat is seeking re-election and expressed optimism that he will be reelected based on his performance.
Silas Kipruto, formally a finance director at the Baringo County Government will also be making his first attempt in elective politics saying he has served for 15 years in public finance management and public administration and has the experience to provide sound management of devolved resources in Nandi County.
Another aspirant, Barnabas Sang, has served as Uasin Gishu County Executive Committee member for ICT.