A series of backroom events in Ukambani in the past few weeks involving the three governors are pointing to the possible political realignments ahead of the 2022 general elections.
The events, some of which did not attract media attention where governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) held separate closed-door strategy meetings, have left observers and residents wondering which political direction Ukambani will take.
With their eyes fixed on the 2022 elections, the governors are positioning themselves to wrestle the control of the 1.5 million Kamba vote from former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka in their aspirations for higher political office.
A week after the dominant Wiper party in the region formally announced it had divorced him by picking former Cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere as its national chairman, Prof Kibwana is said to have held talks with emissaries of Deputy President William Ruto over a possible political alliance.
Sources told the Nation that the meeting between Governor Kibwana and his colleagues Stephen Sang (Nandi) and Paul Chepkwony (Kericho) discussed a strategy to penetrate Ukambani region – the political backyard of Mr Musyoka, which the DP has avoided visiting since the August 2017 elections.
ROOTING FOR RUTO
“The professor is rooting for DP, they’ve been consulting and he will be mobilising grassroots support for the DP going forward,” said a close ally of Dr Ruto from the region who requested not to be named.
Prof Kibwana fell short of endorsing the DP on Thursday when he joined him for the Turkana Cultural Festival where he showered him with praises as a man whom all senior leaders in the country are ganging up against.
He said the recent depiction by media that six presidential candidates were all likely to unite against Dr Ruto’s candidacy was proof that he cannot be underestimated.
“One thing that I know is that anybody or Kenyan leader who thinks you (Ruto) can be taken for granted or thinks that you don’t matter in Kenyan politics is wrong,” he told the DP in Loiyangalani where they shared a podium.
The governor said that he considers the DP a political force to reckon with and a front runner in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta and that he was saying that boldly because he is a constitutional lawyer and political analyst who has been in active politics for long.
His positive comments in Turkana, coming soon after his bitter falling-out with the Wiper leadership, were taken as signal that he willl be rooting for Dr Ruto in the next elections, and that his intended presidential run could be part of the strategy.
For the last two years, Dr Ruto has not only avoided touring Ukambani region but also, his allies, including scores of Jubilee Party parliamentary candidates who lost in the last elections, have all gone quiet.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua laughed off Prof Kibwana for rooting for the Dr Ruto, saying the Kamba community had proved wise enough to vote as a bloc in the last two elections in favour of their own son.
Senator Wambua, a key ally of Mr Musyoka, said it is now clear that the governor’s exit from Wiper party was to “auction” the community to other candidates.
“Prof Kibwana should first pause and reconcile with his own identity crisis. He must decide whether he wants to be president or to be Ruto’s running mate or campaigner but whatever he decides must be in sync and aligned with the decision of the Kamba community,” said Mr Wambua.
On the other hand, Dr Mutua, who, like Prof Kibwana, is doing his second and final term as governor, has been meeting key leaders from various regions in the spirit of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to buttress his presidential bid.
Dr Mutua, whose Maendeleo Chap Chap party has cooperated with President Kenyatta’s Jubilee administration since 2013, has been consulting political, business and church leaders from Mount Kenya region privately in efforts to inherit the vote rich region.
The Machakos governor recently met ODM party leader Raila Odinga and held talks with him on wide range of issues including the BBI, the proposed referendum to change the Constitution and the 2022 succession politics.
"Maendeleo Chap Chap has always supported the handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga from the word go. We see the bigger picture which is political stability, a pre-requisite for economic growth, wealth and jobs creation," Dr Mutua said.
He added, “Ideally, we agreed that winner-takes-it-all electoral system is responsible for many problems in our country and must be changed.”
In an interview with the Nation, he said his presidential bid is unstoppable and that the Kamba community should devise a different route to State House, this, in apparent reference to Mr Musyoka’s three failed attempts for the top office.
Mr Musyoka was in 2013 and 2017 part of the presidential ticket as Mr Odinga’s running mate, while Dr Mutua rooted for President Kenyatta.
“I am reaching out to every leader across the country to bolster my candidacy and I am ready for the task. Kenya needs a younger president with fresh ideas to take over from Uhuru,” Dr Mutua said, adding that his development accomplishments in Machakos give him a strong record to run on.
On the other hand, Kitui County Governor Charity Ngilu has cast her lot with the Embrace Team of women leaders backing the handshake and the BBI where they are demanding gender balance in the proposed expanded executive.
Mrs Ngilu has been playing safe to avoid jeopardising her efforts to secure a second term as governor but her support for the BBI means she also wants to have a say in national politics.
With two-and-half years remaining to the next elections, the heightened behind the scenes political activity in region begs the question of which way the Kamba vote will go.