Three years ago, Hillary Barchok was busy going about his business as a Chuka University lecturer as events that would redefine his life and change his destiny were unfolding back at home.
Dr Joyce Laboso and her team of advisors were burning the midnight oil to choose a running mate after she decided to contest in the Bomet primaries for the gubernatorial seat on a Jubilee Party ticket.
From a pool of professionals and politicians, the team settled on Dr Barchok and went in search of him.
At the time, Dr Barchok was serving as the dean in the faculty of education and human resource at Chuka University. He also say at the board of the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA).
“When we went to look for him, we did not know who he was and almost carried placards to announce whom we were after. It was quite a challenge and after several misses, we got our bearing only to find that he was away on duty abroad,” said Dr Edward Abonyo, the husband of Laboso during her memorial service last week.
Laboso succumbed to cancer on July 29.
Dr Abonyo added: “We almost gave up as his phone was not going through, but eventually we got through to him and set up a meeting. He was a total stranger, but as fate had it, we were bound to run for this together and I am proud we made it.”
It is a position reinforced by Dr Barchok who admits to being a political greenhorn prior to his accepting to be Dr Laboso’s running mate in what would see the dethroning of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader Isaac Ruto in the 2017 general election. Mr Ruto was the first Bomet Governor.
“I had not been actively involved in politics but I was a keen observer of current affairs in the country. I was lucky to serve under very experienced hands. Though Dr Laboso has rested, I shall follow in her footsteps and ensure her legacy is secured,” said Dr Barchok.
The former high school teacher cum pastor was plucked from university lecture halls to politics ahead of the 2017 election.
“We struck off very well from the onset and we have been very close. We shared a lot of characteristics from temperament, including her being a lecturer, her humble and non-controversial nature,” said Dr Barchok in a recent exclusive interview with the Nation and NTV.
He added: “Even though our captain has rested, we have a comprehensive action plan in the form of County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) to follow through. If there is a honour we must give her as she rests, then it is to ensure her development agenda is completed.”
Dr Barchok has been running the county affairs for the last three months after Laboso flew out to seek treatment in the United Kingdom and later India.
The Chelsea football club fan and Harambee Stars supporter says that among the things he would prioritise is mainstreaming of gender issues in development through empowerment of women and safeguarding child rights.
Last month, the county rolled out the "Kuku na Mama initiative" which saw 5,000 chicks distributed to 40,000 women in the 25 civic wards to address the issues of economic empowerment and nutrition amongst the community.
It was one of the key projects, Laboso was keen on implementing before her death at Nairobi Hospital on July 29.
“When I informed the former governor at her hospital bed in India’s BKL hospital where she was admitted, that in her absence, we had rolled out the kuku na mama programme that would benefit widows, single mothers and vulnerable groups, she cried… she could not fight back her tears,” said Dr Barchok.
Dr Barchok pledged to rally stakeholders including the public, private sector players, national and county governments to roll out development projects key among them water, infrastructure, education, agriculture and health.
“We are grateful to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his pledge to upgrade the cancer clinic at Longisa County Referral Hospital so as to alleviate suffering patients have been subjected to while seeking medical care in health facilities outside the region and often in foreign countries,” said Dr Barchok.
As the soft-spoken Bomet Deputy Governor prepares to be sworn-in on Thursday as the governor, all eyes are on him on who he will pick to deputise him.
According to the Constitution, once the office of governor becomes vacant as a result of death, the deputy governor takes over for the remainder of the term.
This has happened previously following the deaths of two Nyeri governors, Nderitu Gachagua and Wahome Gakuru.
If a vacancy occurs in the office of governor and that of the deputy, or if the deputy governor is unable to act, the Speaker of the county assembly takes over as governor.