When the 2010 constitution was unveiled, many believed governors would be technocrats, professionals and business magnates elected to be apolitical builders and managers of county resources and assets.
Forget it; the incoming Council of Governors typifies Kenya’s politics. Two, the ferocious battles that were fought for Kenya’s 47 governorships triggered a tsunami that rampaged through the counties on August 8, stampeding 25 governors into unemployment, seriously damaging careers and ravaging ambitions. Sample some examples.
As he prepared his run for the governorship of Nairobi City County in 2013, Dr Evans Kidero was clear in his mind what he wanted for the city in which he was born and for himself: Make Nairobi a world class metropolis and use this as a launch pad for a presidential run in 2022.
“I do not know who the next Governor of Kiambu will be,” ambitious William Kabogo would quip last year, “but I know who will not be.” Overconfident, Mr Kabogo thought he would clobber Mr Ferdinand Waititu to retain his seat. He was overrun at the party primaries and poll proper by Waititu.
Dr Kidero, a boardroom veteran and multiple degree holder, was trounced by Mr Mike Kioko Gideon Mbuvi Sonko, a filthy rich champion of Nairobi’s dirt poor, who holds PhDs in contempt; believes leadership is God-given; and harbours his own presidential ambitions.
In July, Dr Alfred Mutua used the launch of his re-election bid as Governor of Machakos to announce his 2022 presidential run.
Branded banners declared his candidacy five years hence. Therefore, Dr Mutua’s second and final gubernatorial term is a phase on his road to State House.
The General Election confirmed governorships as the next centres of power and most coveted offices after the presidency.
It is why many Members of the National Assembly and Senators gunned for governorships.
And, they ushered in Kenya’s first three women governors. Mrs Charity Ngilu, a former MP, a failed 1997 presidential candidate, former minister, failed senatorial candidate and sacked Cabinet Secretary, has reinvented herself as Governor of Kitui.
She fights clean and dirty; in public and in private. For Mrs Ngilu, charity begins at home.
She took flak and stick when she was Minister for Water from 2008 because Ukambani got the lion’s share of water projects.
Little wonder, but bizarrely, Mrs Ngilu and Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri in 2010 engaged in public spats over tenders and contracts.
President Kenyatta sacked Mrs Ngilu as Lands minister in March, 2015 in his anti-graft war.
But Ms Anne Waiguru, exhausted by unending exposes of graft at the National Youth Service, quit her cross-cutting Devolution docket in November and begged the President for lighter duties.
Battling and battering incumbent Joseph Ndathi for Jubilee’s ticket to gun for the Kirinyaga governorship, and then flooring tough-as-nails former Justice Minister Martha Karua on August 8, showed Ms Waiguru has toughened up for the lifting and hefting job of governor.
Certainly some women MPs-elect think so. After witnessing her cat walk to welcome Deputy President William Ruto to her inauguration, they asked him to make her his running mate in the race for the presidency in 2022.
You get it? She would be ready to be president in 2032. Immediate former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Joyce Laboso felled a giant in incumbent Isaac Ruto. In the process, she shamed sticks-in-the-mud who held that since she is married in Kisumu, she should run in the neighbouring county and not Bomet.
Some portray her as the proxy used by Deputy President William Ruto to whip his Kalenjin nemesis out of the equation.
Truth is Mr Ruto might still be governor had he not persistently opposed the DP and, worse, founded an opposition party in the Jubilee heartland.
It’s early days, but the role of Jubilee governors and Jubilee-friendly governors is clear – rally around Mr Ruto to protect and keep power.
But some, such as Dr Mutua, might just hold out to extract a deal such as joining the presidential ticket. How about their opposition counterparts?
It’s open season here. Mombasa’s voluble and president-baiting Hassan Joho wants the top job; Kakamega’s bean-counting Wycliffe Oparanya is weighing his chances; while Kisii’s technocratic and diplomatic James Ongwae keeps his focus on the job and cards close to his chest.
Governors carry considerable political freight and heft which will be enhanced if they succeed as managers of county resources and assets. That attracts envy and enmity in the political arena.
Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]