The race for Tana River senate seat has been described variously as a “lacklustre and unimpressive” contest, compared to the other elective positions.
A number of key leaders from the region with a wealth of experience have given the position a wide berth.
Locals too, appear disinterested in who their next Senator would be.
They rarely talk about the Senatorial contest in their informal gatherings in villages, but readily engage in debates over who would be the region’s next governor, MP, woman and ward representative.
This is despite the fact that a senator represents the county and is directly charged with protecting the interests of the devolved units and their governments.
The holder of the position also determines the allocation of national revenue among counties and exercises oversight over use of the same.
Former Garsen MP Danson Mungatana and Dr Abdi Nuh, who chaired the Counties Assembly Forum, had initially been expected to contest the seat.
However, they gave it a wide berth, preferring to go for the gubernatorial seat.
“We will be electing a Senator just to meet the constitutional requirement. But our main focus is on the governor and MCAs,” a local, Mr Mohamed Komora, said.
The five-year-term of the incumbent – Senator Abdi Bule – has been described by many as uninspiring.
However, despite all this, Mr Bule, who is defending his seat on a Kanu ticket after defecting from the little known Federal Party of Kenya, expresses confidence that he will be easily re-elected.
While many jostle for the Governor, National Assembly, Women and MCAs seats, only a handful of aspirants, especially those who have been elbowed out of the race for the four lucrative positions, have resorted to the senatorial race in Tana River, probably as a last resort.
A case in point is former Garsen MP Molu Shambaro, who contested the gubernatorial seat in 2013 and garnered 9,450 votes in the election won by incumbent Hussein Dado, his cousin.
Mr Shambaro has now shifted his focus to the senatorial seat that has attracted a total of 12 candidates.
This is because the Orma Council of elders, popularly referred as “Jarsa Matadeda”, cleared Mr Dado amid stiff resistance from a second gubernatorial candidate Jillo Algi of Party for Development and Reforms (PDR), who also hails from the community.
Apart from Mr Shambaro, there are two other senatorial candidates from the Orma community including Golicha Juma Wario (Jubilee) and Abdulrahman Barako Hantiro (Narc Kenya).
The Pokomo Council of Elders has also not vetted Mombasa-based business man and Chama cha Uzalendo (CCU) national chairman Maur Abdalla Bwanamaka, Michael Justin Nkaduda of ODM, Omara Barisa Garise (CCM) and Omar Kofa Komora (Ford Kenya) and cleared one of them for the seat as they had done for other elective seats.
Mr Nkaduda will be making a second attempt at the seat having lost it in 2013 elections. He is a household name in the region, having been in politics for the last 15 years.
Tana River-born Kenyatta University linguistics lecturer, Dr Hamisi Omar Babusa, argues that the senatorial post has been perceived as lacking “power and budget to control.”
“In fact, most of the current senators are vying for the governorship because they want to control the counties’ billions of shillings. Senators only get salaries with no money available to control. Money and power go hand in hand,” argued Dr Babusa.
Other senatorial aspirants from minority communities in the county include Mr Osman Abdi Wako (DP), John Mwangi Karanja (NVP) and Mohamed Odha Maro (KPP).