Lobbying for the speaker’s post has intensified in Laikipia, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kisii and Nakuru counties with external forces exerting influence on the choice of the next office holders.
Speakers in Laikipia, Nakuru and Samburu have transited from the county assemblies after they successfully contested for various political seats in the August 8 polls.
In Laikipia, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and newly elected Governor Ndiritu Muriithi are said to be exerting their influence on who carries the day.
CS Kiunjuri is said to be trying to win MCA’s support to back Mr Patrick Waigwa in what is seen as yet another round of supremacy battle pitting camps allied to outgoing Governor Joshua Irungu and the governor-elect.
Mr Waigwa, 35, is an environmentalist and was the running mate of Mr Irungu (Jubilee), who lost to Mr Muriithi (independent) in the just-concluded elections.
Mr Muriithi garnered 100,342 votes against Mr Irungu’s 98,349.
The assembly’s 23 MCAs — 15 elected and eight nominated — will have the final say on who succeeds Mr Patrick Mariru, now Laikipia West MP-elect.
Last weekend, Mr Kiunjuri reportedly met 12 MCAs-elect to persuade them to support Mr Waigwa.
A source who attended the closed-door meeting in Nairobi told Nation that the MCAs-elect unanimously agreed to support Mr Waigwa for the post.
In Nyandarua, intense lobbying has begun in earnest, with three candidates officially declaring their interest in the seat.
They include Jubilee Party Secretary-General Peter Machithi, who played a pivotal role in coordinating and mobilising voters.
Lawyer Wachira Waiganjo is also contesting and is counting on his professional experience.
He is actively involved in human rights activities, offering pro-bono services to many.
Incumbent Speaker Wahome Ndegwa, also a lawyer, will be defending his position.
He is counting on his performance in the last assembly, which concluded its term without wrangles and conflicts witnessed in other counties.
In Nakuru, the race has attracted more than 10 candidates including the outgoing county assembly clerk Joseph Malinda and two top officials who served in the outgoing Governor Kinuthia Mbugua’s government.
At least four lawyers have also expressed interest in the seat.
In the Nakuru seat, it remains to be seen whether the former county assembly speaker Susan Kihika, now senator-elect, will influence the choice of her successor.
Sources intimated that she has been lobbying for one of the candidates who was her lawyer — Mr Lawrence Karanja.
The emerging frosty relations between Ms Kihika and the Governor-elect Lee Kinyanjui might also have a bearing on the choice of the next speaker.
In Laikipia, while Mr Kiunjuri is fronting a single candidate, several people allied to the new governor and his deputy John Mwaniki have come out to declare their interest in the seat.
They include Mr Samuel Kabuchwa, a former senior clerk at the county assembly, who was eyeing the senate seat, but lost during the Jubilee Party primaries.
Mr Kabuchwa was also barred from contesting as an independent after he failed to present 2,000 supporters on time.
He later joined Mr Muriithi’s camp and campaigned for him.
Another candidate closely associated with the new governor’s camp is timber dealer John Wakaba.
Sources indicate that Mr Wakaba offered Mr Muriithi financial support during the campaigns.
Mr James Mathenge, who failed to clinch the Jubilee ticket for the gubernatorial race, is also being mentioned as a possible candidate.
After failing to secure the ticket, he joined Mr Muriithi’s team and got appointed the campaign team chairman.
When Nation contacted him, he said he had been approached by several people asking him to vie for the speaker’s seat, but added that his options were still open.
“I am weighing the options but I am ready to offer myself to serve Laikipia people in any capacity so that we can strengthen our institutions of governance,” the former employee of World Vision said.
Also seeking the blessings of the new governor is Nanyuki businessman Patrick Murimi, who will be trying his luck on the speaker’s seat for the second time after failing in 2013.
A source revealed that Mr Muriithi and his deputy held a meeting with MCAs from the county at a hotel in Nyeri County to strategise on the elections.
Details of what transpired during the Monday meeting were scanty as those who attended remained tight-lipped.
Article 178 (1) of the Constitution says MCAs will elect the county assembly speaker from non-assembly members.
Residents are calling on the MCAs to elect a neutral person in an effort to heal the wounds created during the campaigns that saw Mr Muriithi beat the outgoing governor with a small margin.
“The seat should go to a neutral person, an individual who is in touch with the needs of the people. We should not be overshadowed by political interests,” Ms Grace Wanjau, a resident of Nyahururu town, said.
Nanyuki-based lawyer Joseph Mwangi is also mentioned as a possible successor of Mr Mariru.
However, he is yet to make up his mind.
Youthful lawyer Eunice Kiguru is also touted as a neutral candidate since she is not allied to any of the two sides.
Others who are said to be interested in the seat are nominated MCA Rose Maitai and Dr David Gichuhi, a lecturer at Karatina University.
In Kisii, eight have set their sights on the position ahead of the swearing-in of ward representatives.
Two women — Rachael Otundo and Norah Nyamwamu — will be among the people expected to battle it out for the position with incumbent Kerosi Ondieki.
The number of hopefuls is lower than the 23 who fought for the same seat in 2013.
The speaker is usually elected by Members of the County Assembly after they have been sworn into office.
“It is after this is done that they will have the mandate to vote,” County Assembly clerk James Nyaoga told the Nation on Thursday.
Clannism, patronage and regional balancing are expected to play a big role when choosing the speaker.
Kenya National Union of Teachers official Geoffrey Mogire is being fronted for the post.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Mogire said regional balancing should not be ignored when choosing the speaker.
“We are not glossing over credentials when we insist on that criterion,” he said. “I want to bring sanity to a soiled assembly.”
His others rivals: Mr Isaiah Mosota, Mr Gideon Nyambati, Mr Ocharo Kebira and Mr Koina Onyancha say merit must prevail.
“Whoever is tasked with vetting us should look beyond clannism and region.
“The speaker should have credentials to bring the desired changes to the assembly,” Mr Nyambati, who hails from Bomachoge Chache, said.
In Nyeri, 10 people have declared interest in the post.
Two former MCAs are among those in the race.
Thirty newly-elected MCAs have organised a meeting with over 10 aspirants before the first sitting scheduled for next week when they will elect a speaker.
Outgoing Deputy Speaker Joel Gichuru of Karatina ward and Wamagana ward rep Jesse Kamuri are among those who have made their intentions known.
The race has also attracted two lawyers, John Gikonyo and Gacheru Wafande.
Mr Gikonyo is an Advocate of the High Court with 26 years’ experience.
Mr Kamuri, who sat in the Legal Affairs Committee in the first assembly, said he is conversant with the procedures.
“I was in the inaugural assembly, which means I am more conversant with what needs to be done. I will consolidate the gains of the former assembly and ensure continuity,” he said.
In his view, the seat should go to either Tetu or Mukurwe-ini constituencies since they did not produce any of the top county leaders.
The two constituencies cumulatively have seven wards out of the 30 wards in the county.
Currently, aspirants from these areas are engaged in intense lobbying.
Those behind this idea say Governor-elect Wahome Gakuru hails from Nyeri Town, while his deputy Mutahi Kahiga is from Kieni constituency.
Senator-elect Ephraim Maina and Woman Representative Rahab Mukami are from Mathira and Othaya constituencies respectively.
Mr Kamuri said Tetu had been left out of top leadership roles in the last government.
Mr Martin Luther King, who ran for Tetu parliamentary seat, is also eyeing the post.
“The assembly requires a youthful crop of leaders to serve the county,” he said in an interview.
The aspirants promise to maintain good relations between the assembly and the executive.
The outgoing Speaker David Mugo has however not expressed interest in the seat but is currently being fronted to take up a position as an executive member in the new county government.
Repors by Steve Njuguna, Mwangi Ndirangu, Eric Matara, Grace Gitau, Magati Obebo and Waikwa Maina