Four North Rift governors bank on track records to stay in politics after exit

Alex Tolgos

From left: Governors Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo-Marakwet), Josphat Nanok (Turkana) and Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) address the press at Comfy Hotel in Eldoret in June 2014. The county chiefs, who are currently serving their second and final terms, want to complete pending legacy projects before the 2022 elections.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Second-term governors from the North Rift are banking on health, sports and environmental conservation projects to secure their legacy.

The county chiefs have identified key projects that they intend to complete using resources detailed in the recently unveiled budgets.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, Elgeyo-Marakwet’s Alex Tolgos, Mr Josphat Nanok (Turkana) and Mr Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) have kept their next political moves secret, but they are keen to have a say in their succession.

Analysts say their influence will depend on the success of their current flagship projects.

Mr Mandago was banking on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) for a third term, but the vocal county chief says he will retire come 2022.

His handlers say he’s likely to bid for the Uasin Gishu senator seat.

Word has it that Mr Mandago is grooming Soy MP Caleb Kositany to succeed him as county boss even as his Director of Communication, Mr Silas Tarus, told the Nation that Mr Mandago has not announced his next political plans.

Vocal governor

“The boss has not made his next steps known. What people are saying at the moment are rumours,” he said.

Sources in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp say the vocal governor has been asked not to go for any elective post in 2022 in order to help the DP criss-cross the country during campaigns for the upcoming General Election.

“If Mr Mandago vies for any seat next year, who will help Ruto campaign? This is why he has been asked to put his political ambitions aside because if the boss (Ruto) wins, Mandago will be a Cabinet Secretary,” the source said.

The governor is keen on completing three major projects before he leaves office next year.

The ongoing construction of Sh800 million Ziwa Level 5 Hospital aims at reducing referrals to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).

“The Ziwa Level 5 Hospital, upon completion in March 2022, is expected to address the demand for healthcare and help in attainment of the President’s Big 4 Agenda item of universal health coverage. The 350-bed facility will provide specialised services for inpatient and outpatient referrals. These include paediatric, surgical wards, modern maternity wings and theatres,” explained Health Executive Evelyn Rotich.

Another project the governor is paying special attention to is the Sh250 million 64 Stadium.

The contractor moved to the site two weeks ago.

“Construction of 64 Stadium will be my legacy as I leave office next year and it will be completed in 18 months,” he said recently.

The Sh170 million Chagaiya High Altitude Training Centre in Timboroa, which is 40 per cent complete, is expected to benefit upcoming athletes.

The governor said they identified Chagaiya because of its elevation “and the serene atmosphere that is suitable for training upcoming athletes”.

He added that the centre will also open up the region, create jobs, and promote local talent and business.

Mr Tolgos, the Elgeyo-Marakwet county chief, who is an ally of President Kenyatta and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, has been a key promoter of BBI in the vote-rich Rift Valley.

This has placed him at loggerheads with the Deputy President, who is opposed to the BBI.

Succession politics

“It’s important for our people to know that mixing 2022 succession politics and BBI will not take us anywhere. We have to tell our people that changing the Constitution or BBI is totally separate from President Kenyatta’s succession…. that is where we have lost the plot as a region,” Mr Tolgos said.

The governor, who has been working on his scorecard, told the Nation last week that he was yet to decide which seat he will seek come next year, but added that he will still be in politics.

“I don’t need a whole year to campaign for any seat I decide to go for. My political adversaries campaigned against me in 2017 but I floored them and that is why my focus at the moment is ensuring that I leave this county with enough resources for the well-being of our people,” he said.

The governor said that in his budget for the 2021/22 financial year, he plans to complete ongoing projects to spare his successor the headache of dealing with pending bills.

Rimoi National Reserve

Mr Tolgos expressed optimism that, by the time he leaves office next year, every primary school in Elgeyo-Marakwet will have an Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) centre.

He is keen to have operations commence at Rimoi National Reserve so as to attract tourists and generate revenue for the devolved unit.

Governor Tolgos also plans to put up a Sh60 million 200-bed mother-and-baby facility at Iten County Referral Hospital to support maternal health in the region.

In Turkana, Governor Nanok revealed that he is keen to influence his succession. He argued that he had put in place good structures since the inception of devolution and his successor has to take the oil-rich county a notch higher.

Mr Nanok, who has come out to drum up support for DP Ruto’s presidential quest, says he has not decided which seat he will be going for.

In good hands

“Turkana has benefited greatly from devolution and that is why I would like to remain active in politics as my term comes to an end next year so that I leave the county in good hands,” he said.

Governor Nanok is currently the national coordinator of Hustler Nation’s economic forums.

In Trans Nzoia, Governor Patrick Khaemba is keen to complete the Sh1.4 billion Trans Nzoia Teaching and Referral Hospital before he leaves office.

Once complete, the facility will have 10 operating theatres, 40 ICU beds, an MRI centre and a complete suite of diagnostic equipment, a modern laboratory, an accident and emergency section, two linear accelerators for radiotherapy services, 15 renal beds, a five-bed burns unit and a catheter lab, among others.

Governor Khaemba is optimistic that the project will be complete by the end of the year, ready to offer specialised services early in 2021.