Deputy President William Ruto returned to Nairobi Monday after finally winning over Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, a senior Orange Democratic Movement official, following an unprecedented three-day tour of Turkana County where he launched several projects and promised more.
In a tumultuous week where he lost a number of senior politicians in the Rift Valley to his rivals, he bagged Mr Nanok, who was once his fierce critic.
The two have been hobnobbing for the last one year without any key political statement from either in relation to the coming elections.
However, in a function the DP attended in Lokichar on Saturday, Mr Nanok, the former Council of Governors chairman, finally abandoned the ambiguity and let the cat out of the bag. He said he will support Mr Ruto in his quest to succeed President Kenyatta when his term ends in 2022.
The DP arrived in Turkana on Saturday to launch a number of development projects and left Monday having acquired not only the governor’s support, but also of a number local lawmakers.
“As 14 governors from Rift Valley, we are working on a plan to fully support the Deputy President and form the next government because the whole country is focusing on Rift Valley to produce the next president. As Turkana people, we want to be part of that government. I will not accept to be outside government again,” Mr Nanok, the ODM vice-chairman, said.
It was the first time he was speaking publicly about his support for the DP after avoiding the subject for a year.
After losing Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos to Baringo Senator Gideon Moi’s camp and seeing prominent Uasin Gishu businessman Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop depart for Chama Cha Mashinani party within a week, Mr Nanok’s capture presented a relief for the DP.
After the last elections where Mr Nanok won the tightly fought Turkana gubernatorial battle against his long-time rival, Mr John Munyes, the DP has made a number of visits to the county in a bid to woo the governor to his camp.
Mr Nanok accompanied Mr Ruto to all events over the three days.
The governor also spoke strongly in support of the DP’s contributions in churches going against his party boss, Mr Raila Odinga, who has asked religious leaders to question the source of the money they are given.
“I’ll also continue attending all fundraisers for churches that I will be invited [to] and I urge all leaders to follow suit,” the governor said.
Mr Nanok also backed Mr Ruto’s opposition to a referendum to expand the executive being pushed by Mr Odinga, saying, he will reject it if it was meant to create positions for individuals.
On Monday, ODM party could not say whether it would take any action against Mr Nanok.
Contacted about the latest development, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna said the party had yet to receive any complaint against Mr Nanok.
This is a departure from the past where the party has acted harshly against members who have publicly associated with the DP.
MPs Suleiman Dori (Msambweni) and Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) were put through a disciplinary process after they declared their support for Mr Ruto although the former was spared after he apologised. Ms Jumwa did not apologise and was expelled from the party and has challenged the decision at the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal.
Other Turkana leaders who expressed support for the DP were MPs James Lomenen (Turkana South), John Lodepe (Turkana Central) and Mohammed Lokiru (Turkana East).
“Any leader who is not supporting Turkana residents during their hour of need through fundraising for churches, drought and other needs will not be voted for here,” Mr Lomenen said.