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Profiles of six governors battling for council chairmanship

Monday January 14 2019

Council of Governors, elections

Clockwise: Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga County), Mr Salim Mvurya (Kwale County), Mr Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu County), Mr Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega County), Prof Anyang' Nyong'o (Kisumu County) and Mr Josphat Nanok (Turkana County). The six are eyeing the Council of Governors chair. 

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As governors retreat to elect a new executive team that will lead their Council of Governors (CoG) for one year, political interests and capabilities of candidates are expected to take centre stage.

The contenders profiled below are drawn from the ruling Jubilee Party and main opposition party Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), consisting of both first and second term governors.

The prevailing political situation in the country where ODM leaders are friendly to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s side of Jubilee Party and apparent tensions between the President’s faction and his Deputy William Ruto’s makes today’s CoG elections unique.

According to the head of communications at CoG, Ms Ruth Chitwa, the new executive will be unveiled at 2pm by Speaker of the Senate Kenneth Lusaka at Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi.

Josphat Nanok, Turkana County

He took over the mantle from former Meru Governor Peter Munya and retained the seat in December 2017 when elections were called following General Election.

County chiefs then reached a consensus at the height of internal factional wars that threatened to split the club.

The friction was a spill over of the divisive election pitting Jubilee members against opposition’s NASA coalition.

Previously a diehard loyalist of ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga, the governor who prides himself of leading an oil-rich region got cosy with President Uhuru Kenyatta in the recent past.

Anne Waiguru, Kirinyaga County

The CoG vice chairperson stands out as the only female candidate for this position. She is aiming to become the first female chair of the council at a time when the country boasts of three female elected governors. The 2013 team was an all-men club.

Ms Waiguru, who is a Jubilee member, rose to the position after serving as Cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning. She resigned as CS due to allegations of graft at the National Youth Service(NYS) following a sustained campaign led by Mr Odinga for her to take responsibility.

Recently, the Kirinyaga County boss announced a truce with the former prime minister whom she had initially sued for linking her to the loss of Sh791 million at the NYS.

Last week, she launched a movement of women leaders to rally the nation behind the Building Bridges Initiative which is a brainchild of President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

Salim Mvurya, Kwale County

The second term governor sits in the resource mobilisation committee at the CoG. In his first term, Mr Mvurya was a member of ODM but fell out with the party leadership.

He vied and got re-elected in 2017 through Jubilee Party. During the December 2017 CoG elections, he was President Kenyatta’s favourite candidate for chairmanship.

It was initially thought that he would get a landslide win but the late entry of Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago in the race changed his fortunes.

This move threatened to split the majority Jubilee votes at the council between factions of the former TNA Party which was led by President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto’s former party URP.

An agreement was reached that Mr Mvurya would take over from Mr Nanok after six months retaining Ms Waiguru as vice chair.

This gentleman’s agreement was never actualised as Mr Nanok stuck to his seat insisting that the law governing CoG does not provide for any transitional leadership and voting must be conducted after every year.

Jackson Mandago, Uasin Gishu County

The controversial governor from Deputy President William Ruto’s backyard sits as a member of three committees at the CoG.

These are Health Committee, Infrastructure and Energy Committee and Urban Development, Planning and Lands Committee. His late entry to chairmanship race in 2017 scuttled plans by a section of Jubilee Party to have Mr Mvurya lead the CoG as had been proposed by President Kenyatta.

Mr Mandago rebelled against the DP during the last General Election, claiming that Mr Ruto had set up plans to ensure he does not reclaim his seat.

At one time he was accused of ethnic profiling at the politically tense county. But recently, the governor has come out in defense of Mr Ruto, castigating leaders claimed to be sabotaging his 2022 State House race.

Wycliffe Oparanya, Kakamega County

The ODM deputy party leader serves as a member of the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee at the CoG.

The second term governor is also eying the presidency in 2022. He is among close confidants of Mr Odinga in the western region.

Mr Oparanya, who served as Planning minister in former president Mwai Kibaki’s regime, is the founding chairman of the Lake Region Economic Bloc which consists of the 14 counties in western Kenya. It is the only regional bloc whose launch was presided over by the President.

Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, Kisumu County

A close ally of Mr Odinga for many years, the first term governor is among ODM leaders who have penetrated government circles after the March 9, 2018 handshake between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta.

Prof Nyong’o, who is currently receiving treatment at a Nairobi hospital, was in the delegation which accompanied the President on an official visit to Cuba.

The visit was meant to make final touches on agreements that brought Cuban medical specialists to Kenya, and again, Prof Nyong’o was at hand to receive them.

The governor has served in different capacities in government including as a minister of Public Health in Mwai Kibaki’s coalition government.

In December last year, the governor hosted President Kenyatta at his county for the launch of the Universal Health Coverage.