Political heavyweights in Tharaka Nithi County have shunned the senatorial seat to scramble for the lucrative governor position in the 2022 General Elections.
This scramble is underpinned by the fact that the position, which involves controlling billions of shillings is the most rewarding elective position in the country from that of the presidency.
Those who are salivating for the governorship seat currently occupied by Muthomi Njuki are Senator Prof Kithure Kindiki, Chuka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Erastus Njoka, National Museums of Kenya Director-General Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia and Machakos County Assembly Clerk Gitari Mbiuki.
The senatorial seat so far as attracted the former governor Samuel Ragwa and a new entrant into politics, Mr Onesmus Mwiricia who announced his bid last week.
The country’s famous politicians ran for the senatorial position in 2013 during the inception of devolved governments when the exact powers and influence of the officeholder was not clear to all aspirants.
Do or die political battle
In 2017, a big number of senators descended to their respective counties to battle it out with the first governors and more have already indicated that they will be leaving the legislative house in 2022 for the governorship position.
The county has three constituencies; Tharaka, Maara and Chuka/Igambang’ombe and had 213,154 registered voters according to the 2017 Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) register.
But the figure is projected to increase by 2022.
Chuka/Igambang’ombe constituency had the highest number of registered voters at 76,486 followed by Maara with 68,729 and Tharaka with 67,939.
Apart from Prof Kindiki who has kept off the county but using his political mobilisers to sell his agenda, the rest have already hit the ground running setting the stage for what is expected to be a do-or-die political battle.
The prospective candidates are banking on their performance and experiences in current and former positions while the incumbent Njuki believes that his development scorecard as governor will give him a second chance.
Prof Njoka trusts that his development as Chuka University Vice Chancellor and especially the growth of the main campus in Chuka/Igambang’ombe constituency and the establishment of Tharaka University College in Tharaka constituency and Chogoria campus in Maara constituency will give him an upper hand in the race.
“Given a chance as the governor, I will make this county one of the best in the country by improving food security and building industries that will boost the economy,” said Prof Njoka in a recent meeting in Chuka.
Dr Mzalendo promises that if elected, he will unite the county’s leadership using the experience he gained as the National Cohesion and Integration Commission chairman and later use the managerial skills earned as a long-serving civil servant.
He believes that the county has failed to achieve much development due to leadership wrangles especially between the governor and the senator.
While Prof Kindiki is yet to publicly announce his agenda, his supporters are preaching rotation governorship claiming that 2022 will be time for Tharaka constituency to produce a governor since the first one was from Maara and Njuki is from Chuka/Igambang’ombe.
On his side, Mr Mbiuki trusts that his experience as defunct county council senior official in many towns and cities and as a two-term County Assembly clerk he understands devolution better than his competitors.
Prof Njoka and Mr Mbiuki come from Governor Njuki’s backyard in Chuka/Igambang’ombe constituency while Prof Kindiki and Dr Mzalendo are from Tharaka constituency.
All the five competitors are considering their respective backyards as their support strongholds while setting Maara constituency aside as the battlefield.
Governor Njuki is enjoying support from Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki, his Chuka/Igambang’ombe counterpart Patrick Munene and almost 90 percent of the Members of County Assembly.
Prof Kindiki is expecting huge support from Tharaka MP Gitonga Murugara while Prof Njoka has managed to win a few MCAs.
Prof Kindiki supports Deputy President Dr William Ruto political agenda while Njuki, Njoka, Mzalendo and Mbuki are behind President Uhuru Kenyatta.
However, party inclinations are not likely to count much in the gubernatorial seat in the county in 2022 because of earlier experiences where people voted on party ideologies only to be frustrated later.