The Jubilee-Kanu supremacy battle for control of the Rift Valley vote is expected to go a notch higher after a gubernatorial candidate in Baringo County was prevailed upon by Deputy President William Ruto to instead vie for the Senate to unseat Kanu chairman Gideon Moi.
The DP is said to have made the proposal to Simon Kiprono Chelugui when he hosted a delegation from Baringo County at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu County on Monday.
Mr Chelugui was Governor Benjamin Cheboi’s closest competitor in the 2013 gubernatorial race and if the latest development is anything to go by, Mr Cheboi will have an easy ride to a second term.
A source at the meeting told the Nation that the Deputy President assured Mr Chelugui of Jubilee Party support in the campaigns to take the Senate seat from the cockerel party.
“The Deputy President assured him (Chelugui) that he will get all the support from the party. He was assured of a plum job in government should he fail to capture the seat,” said the source, who did not want to be named.
Contacted for comment, Mr Chelugui acknowledged that the DP made the appeal to him but claimed that he was yet to make up his mind over the matter.
“The DP made the proposal to me, but I told him that we are going home to consult the people first. My aspiration for the gubernatorial seat has not changed,” Mr Chelugui said.
“It is truly the people back home who will make the decision. The proposal was just like any other I receive every day,” added Mr Chelugui.
Mr Chelugui, the Betting Control and Licensing Board director, was beaten by Mr Cheboi in the United Republican Party (URP) primaries in 2013, prompting him to join Kanu's Stanley Kiptis as his running mate.
The duo came second to Mr Cheboi.
Claims that Mr Chelugui had given up the gubernatorial race to Mr Cheboi were immediately met with lukewarm reactions from residents.
“It is now evident that Jubilee Party’s agenda in Baringo County is all about DP Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid and nothing to do with the people’s interests,” said Solomon Komen, a Baringo resident.
Billy Yatich, a youth leader in the region, warned Jubilee that making such vital decisions without involving the people is likely to give Kanu an upper hand in the region.
“Gone are the days when a few people will sit in boardrooms and decide the political destiny of our people. How can you make it public that you are going to vie for a seat only to backtrack?” wondered Mr Yatich.
“It’s doubtful Jubilee will have free and fair elections when they start endorsing people. It seems Jubilee’s only agenda in Baringo County is to remove Gideon Moi from power as opposed to development,” added Mr Yatich.
Should Mr Chelugui go for the Baringo County senatorial seat, it will widely be seen as a battle of political supremacy between the DP and Senator Moi for control of Baringo County, a perceived Kanu stronghold.
Mr Moi beat URP’s Bishop Jackson Kosgey by a big margin in the last general elections despite massive campaign support from President Uhuru Kenyatta and the DP.
The Deputy President has over the festive season been meeting delegations of leaders from the North Rift in a move widely seen as seeking to counter Kanu’s influence in the region.
Those who attended the closed-door meetings at the DP’s Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu County told the Nation that the DP was not happy about Kanu’s resurgence in the region as the 2017 elections approach.
Both Kanu and Jubilee have been locked in a battle to control the vote-rich North Rift region ahead of the elections.
Kanu, led by Senator Moi, has slowly been reinventing itself as the alternative party in the region, waiting to take advantage of any dissent or falling-out from the dissolution of parties in the ruling coalition to form the Jubilee Party.
Senator Moi has been traversing the Rift Valley in the recent past in the company of Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.
That has not gone down well with the Deputy President’s allies, who view this as a way of trying to weaken his political grip on the region.