Several pioneer governors are on the cusp of making a comeback from a five-year hiatus after winning tickets of major political formations in their regions.
At least 20 inaugural county bosses, who lost their seats after serving for one term, are on the ballot in what promises a major political duel with their successors, who are seeking re-election.
Some of the former governors have succeeded in securing popular party tickets in their areas. Others are running on fringe parties or as independents.
They are scheming to sweep themselves back to power by riding on the failures of the current county bosses and using the political networks they created between 2013 and 2017.
Political analysts hold that some of the former governors are likely to exploit dismal performance by their successors while riding on the political wave of the two main formations of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
Some of the former governors with good chances of recapturing their seats are Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka (Bungoma), Julius Malombe (Kitui), David Nkadienyi (Kajiado), and Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo). The four have secured popular tickets in their regions, placing them a step away from recapturing the seats.
Mr Lusaka has secured Senator Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya ticket. The outfit sponsored incumbent Wickliffe Wangamati in 2017. Mr Wangamati fell out with Mr Wetang’ula and is now seeking to defend the seat on the ticket of the Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K), a new party associated with Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
In Baringo, Mr Cheboi floored incumbent Stanley Kiptis to win Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA), while in Kitui, Mr Malombe has secured Wiper ticket. Mr Malombe’s chances have further been boosted by the surprise decision by incumbent Charity Ngilu to quit the race.
His campaign is on the platform of “restoration, reclamation and transformation agenda”.
Other races involve former Council of Governors (CoG) chairman Isaac Ruto (Bomet), Evans Kidero (Homa Bay), Moses Akaranga (Vihiga), Godana Doyo (Isiolo), Jackson Ranguma (Kisumu), Joshua Irungu (Laikipia), Daniel Waithaka (Nyandarua), Issa Timamy (Lamu), Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir) and Simon Kachapin (West Pokot).
The others on the ballot are John Mrutu (Taita Taveta), Hussein Dado (Tana River), William Kabogo (Kiambu), Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), Joseph Ndathi (Kirinyaga) and Nathif Jamaa (Garissa). Of all the 20 pioneer governors, it is only Dr Kidero, who has shifted base. Dr Kidero served as Nairobi’s first governor but has now moved to his home county of Homa Bay.
Only Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, who served as Marsabit first governor, and ex-Tharaka Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa are not seeking a second term. Mr Yatani had initially indicated plans to run but dropped out, while Mr Ragwa has opted for the Senate seat.
Some of the ex-county chiefs expressed confidence in making a comeback to the CoG. They claim that they were unfairly judged by voters, who have since realised that they performed much better than their replacements.
“When were like ploughing a virgin land. There was nobody to compare us with. We took a lot of time to put in place structures,” said Mr Lusaka.
We actually had three years to perform because the some of the functions were still being managed by the transition authority,” says Speaker Lusaka.
“People looked at us and thought we had not performed well but when the new governors came in, the people realized they made mistakes in some areas,” he adds.
Mr Lusaka was lucky among his colleagues as he became Senate Speaker, a position that handed him a national profile.
Should he win, he told Sunday Nation, he will seek to complete some of the projects he had initiated.
“Some of us had manifesto that was to run for 10 years. This was cut short. When you move around, my ratings so high and I want to go continue with the projects that I started. We want to put money in people’s pockets because there is no need of putting up these big projects when people have no money in their pockets,” he explains.
In Isiolo, Mr Doyo claims that his successor pulled out of the race due to public backlash triggered by poor performance in the last five years.
Incumbent Governor Mohammed Abdi Kuti recently announced exiting active politics on health grounds.
“I am very confident that I will recapture the seat in this election and I believe it will be the case for a majority of pioneer governors. If you make comparison in terms of what we managed to achieve in our term; the people have realized that they made a mistake in electing my successor,” Mr Doyo told Sunday Nation in an interview.
“You can see the incumbent is not running because of the public pressure after he became very unpopular with the people. As pioneer governors, we set the bar so high that the incumbent could not keep up with the achievements. People are ready to have me back to complete some of the projects that we started,” he adds.
The Isiolo governor race has since narrowed to a two-horse race pitting Mr Doyo and Nairobi Majority Leader Abdi Guyo. Mr Doyo is vying as an independent while Mr Guyo is flying the Jubilee Party ticket.
Others in the contest are former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chief executive Halakhe Waqo (ODM), Mr Hussein Tene (UDA), Mr Kenneth Turibo Maore (PNU) and Mr Kimaita Machuguma (Safina).
Mr Doyo has the backing of incumbent Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa, Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha, Isiolo South Jubilee MP aspirant Mohamed Tupi and Senate hopeful Nuh Mohamed in his camp. Hailing from Isiolo's largest Borana community.
In Kiambu, Mr Kabogo is seeking a comeback through his Jibebe Party. He is, however, facing a strong wave of Ruto’s UDA that has sponsored Senator Kimani Wamatangi. Others in the race are the incumbent James Nyoro (Jubilee), Moses Kuria (Chama cha Kazi (CCK)) and Thika Town MP Patrick 'Wa-Jungle' Wainaina (Independent).
Mr Kabogo says his reason for seeking to serve for a second term is meant to “return Kiambu County back to the trajectory of prosperity.”
“Our resolve to return Kiambu County back to the trajectory of prosperity is unstoppable. More than ever, we are determined to have our healthcare systems working again, our Youth and Women in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector supported as was before, our children well supported as they start their academic journey, our infrastructure improved, our farmers supported and our elderly catered for,” Mr Kabogo said when he was cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Political commentator and university lecturer Prof Macharia Munene holds that some of the former governors were likely to win by riding on the political wave in their regions. He says that the electorate have had opportunity to compare the performance of the first and second governors and were likely to pick a better performer in the August polls.
“Some of them have good chances. Elections are a wave and if you are caught in the wrong wave you lose out. People are comparing performance of the current and the previous office holders,” says Prof Macharia.
Governance expert Javas Bigambo holds similar view by arguing that some of the ex-governors appear to have confidence in reclaiming the seats.
“Questions arise on what gives them confidence that after losing in 2017 they can now win; is it because their successors performed dismally, or is it an ego trip because some of their colleagues have done two terms they also have to run for a second term?” posed Mr Bigambo.
He questions why voters can pick the leaders, whom they rejected for disappointing them in service delivery and implementation of projects.
“Are the people feeling dissatisfied with the incumbent to the extent that they have prevailed upon them to seek for re-election? Is it a question of voters suffering amnesia or an illusion by the political leaders? Is it possible that the politicians taking the amnesia that the voters have; because having voted them out means they were disappointed and wanting to pick them back means there is something they have done to turn around the impression that the voters had on them five years ago,” he adds.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei says the pioneer governors have advantage of having been the ones who put up structures in the counties, including the human resource.
He argues that some of the county staffs hired in the first term were still loyal to the first governors and may use their local influence to campaign for them.
“Some of the current first term governors rode on the failures of their predecessors, but when they took over they could not do better. The people will now compare their performance,” says Mr Cherargei.