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High-stakes battle, lobbying as governors pick council chair

Saturday January 12 2019

Council of Governors Chairman Josphat Nanok

Council of Governors Chairman Josphat Nanok and other county chiefs during the State of Devolution address at the council’s offices in Nairobi, on June 4, 2018. The Council of Governors annual elections take place on Monday, January 14, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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County bosses were last evening frantically trying to reach a consensus on the new leadership of the Council of Governors (CoG) to avoid divisive elections slated for tomorrow.

The Sunday Nation learnt that there were a flurry of meetings to try and manage the transition of the leadership from the team chaired by Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, who has served his one-term limit and is seeking re-election with at least four of his colleagues also jostling for the seat.

Mr Nanok, Mr Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Kisumu’s Anyang Nyong’o and Uasin Gishu’s Jackson Mandago are reported to have been asked by colleagues to agree among themselves who would succeed the incumbent to avoid a divisive poll.

Also said to be interested in the chairperson post are Kwale’s Salim Mvurya and Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru.

Governors were also reaching out to the candidates separately hours to the elections during which the county chiefs will also elect their vice-chairman, council whip and chairs of committees.



Should there be no consensus by today, then the county bosses will have to go for elections.

The team picked tomorrow will take over at a defining moment when county chiefs are pressing for timely disbursement and increased allocation of funds.

The council has also been trying to revive the stalled regional blocs through which partnerships among neighbouring counties are intended to help drive economic growth.

The election to be held at Movenpick Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, is being keenly watched by the national government for different reasons.

The leadership of non-combative chairpersons in the likes of Mr Nanok - elected on an ODM party ticket - has been a welcome relief to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

Ex-chairmen, former governors Isaac Ruto and Peter Munya, were combative and abrasive and openly criticised the government on different issues, especially those relating to devolution since 2013.


The two had mastered the art of political defiance. While defying the system has worked for others, it did not work for the two whose political careers were somehow brought to a halt in the August 8, 2017 elections.

But it was under Ruto and Munya, who is now Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet secretary, that the CoG became the formidable mouthpiece of the 47 governors; and it was able to successfully champion county and national agendas

It was at this time that also the council vindicated to the doubting Thomases that county bosses were a political force to reckon with as far as national issues were concerned.

“At this particular point no consensus has been reached. We are, however, going to take a bi-partisan approach on this matter because it is serious and concerns counties and we are ignoring party politics on this one,” a governor from Nyanza said.


The county boss exuded confidence that they will settle for the best candidate to champion devolution as has been the case with the outgoing chair.

Mr Nanok told the Sunday Nation that he possesses the leadership qualities to lead the council for a second term.

After the CoG held its last elections in Mombasa in December 2017, a consensus was reached that Mr Mvurya takes over the council’s leadership from Governor Nanok in July last year. That did not happen.

Governor Nanok, who had been re-elected in the dramatic polls to complete his first one-year term, failed to surrender his position as agreed.

“The law guiding the election of council officials does not provide provisions for a transition and it is envisaged that such voting is conducted after every one year,” Mr Nanok told the Sunday Nation in a previous interview when asked why he failed to relinquish the post.

Interestingly, the Intergovernmental Relations Act (IGRA 2012) under which the CoG is established under Section 19 is silent on such agreements.