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Jitters as former governors plot comeback in 2027

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Nyanza UDA Leaders led by Former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero address the media. Kidero is among the ex-governors eyeing the county top seat in 2027. 

Photo credit: File| Nation

Nearly four years to the 2027 General Election, former governors ousted in the 2022 polls are quietly laying the groundwork for a potential return to power.

Despite finding roles in various state positions post-election defeat, these former county chiefs are clandestinely preparing to challenge their successors and regain their former seats.

Among the prominent figures plotting their comeback are Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), Prof John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta), James Nyoro (Kiambu), and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru).

Despite their temporary political exile, the ex county bosses have been quietly assembling political machinery to pave their way back to power.

For instance, Prof John Lonyangapuo, who suffered defeat in the 2022 elections at the hands of Simon Kachapin, has distanced himself from Raila Odinga's coalition Azimio La Umoja, signaling his realignment for the upcoming 2027 elections.

The former West Pokot county boss was in March last year appointed by President William Ruto as the chairperson of the North Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency

Similarly, Mr Kiptis (chairperson of the Kenya National Qualifications Authority) and Mr Murungi who is the (National Oil Corporation of Kenya board chairperson) have found roles within President Ruto's administration but have not abandoned their aspirations for a return to county politics.

Despite holding discreet political activities, including attending fundraisers and strategic meetings, these former governors have not hesitated to publicly criticize the incumbents, further signalling their intentions for the upcoming elections.

The law provides that a governor serves a maximum two terms.

Former Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who lost to UDA’s Susan Kihika, tops the list of former chiefs plotting a comeback after nearly two years in the political cold.

Mr Kinyanjui is said to be preparing himself to recapture the seat when the country goes back to the ballot in 2027.

“I am on a short political sabbatical. I will be back. For now, l am observing how the leaders who are holding office are serving the electorate,” he said.

In the past few months, Mr Kinyanjui has been at the forefront publicly criticising Gov Kihika’s leadership style.

Particularly, he recently directed salvos on Ms Kihika, over the county government’s attempt to take over the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital.

Sources say Kinyanjui is working closely with his former campaigners, to consolidate his political support base, as he strategises on how to unseat Gov Kihika.

In Kitui, former governor Charity Ngilu has started flexing her muscle and promised a return to the county politics and declared her intention to recapture the seat she vacated in 2022.

Ms Ngilu served as Kitui Governor between 2017 and 2022, after beating then incumbent Julius Malombe.

But in 2022, she opted not to defend her seat, choosing to stick by Azimio chief Raila Odinga, who was seeking the presidency.

She has now announced her bid to recapture the seat currently occupied by Gov. Malombe.

Last weekend, during separate events, Ngilu announced she would once again vie for county chief’s position in 2027.

“I will come back and serve Kitui people even better after Governor Malombe leaves office," said Ms Ngilu.

At a fundraiser at the Kitui Town ACK church, Ms Ngilu caused laughter when she said she would offer Malombe’s “hardworking” Agriculture and Livestock CEC, Stephen Kimwele a job when she secures the county top seat in 2027.

In Laikipia, a close aide to former governor Ndiritu Muriithi, said: “Everyone knows how we performed when in office. We are ready to come back and diligently serve the people of Laikipia.”

Kenya Kwanza wave

However, their path to redemption is not without obstacles, as political analyst Steve Kabita noted.

Mr Kabita explained their comeback efforts largely depend on the perceived failures of the incumbents, which they hope to capitalise on to regain political relevance.

“It will not be an easy ride for the former governors who lost in the 2022 polls. They will have to make fresh efforts to consolidate their support bases. This however, mainly depends on the performance of the incumbents. If they fail to deliver on their promises, the former county bosses who are watching keenly from the periphery will capitalise on their failures to recapture the seats," stated Mr Kabita.

“Most of the governors who lost in 2022, because of the political parties they used as election vehicles. They lost not because they were unpopular but because of the political parties and outfits that they supported. For instance, some incumbents won because they supported the current ruling outfit Kenya Kwanza,” added Mr Kabita.

In addition to the former governors seeking a return to power, others who served one term at the dawn of devolution are also eyeing a comeback.

Mr Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Hussein Dado (Tana River), David Nkedianye (Kajiado), Isaac Ruto (Bomet), Peter Munya (Meru) and William Kabogo (Kiambu) are among those keen on reclaiming their former positions.

Mr Munya’s recent return to Meru politics is sparking curiosity and speculation in a county that has emerged as one of the most vibrant bastions of President William Ruto’s support in the Mt Kenya region.