Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya has declared his interest in the Trans Nzoia gubernatorial seat in 2022, ending months of speculation.
Asked if he was ‘salivating’ for the seat in a live television interview yesterday, he said he will contest the governorship.
"I think the seat is salivating over me," he responded in the interview with NTV.9
(Watch clip above from minute 27)
He added: "When you work away from your home region and people at home see the good work you are doing they tend to request you to return home and work for them. So when people at home call upon you, it's a request which you will accept."
Pressed further, Mr Natembeya made it clear: "God willing, I will be on the ballot."
As a civil servant, Mr Natembeya has until February next year to resign in order to contest, under electoral commission rules.
Incumbent Governor Patrick Khaemba is serving his second and last term.
Mr Natembeya, who had previously declined to speak about his political ambitions, has visited Trans Nzoia several times in recent months, supervising and commissioning government projects.
That prompted observers to say that he was laying the groundwork for a political campaign ahead of 2022.
Several candidates have declared their interest in the Trans Nzoia governor’s seat. Political observers have projected a two-horse race between Mr Natembeya and Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa.
A few months ago, at a funeral, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa complicated the Khaemba succession matrix further when he vouched for the candidacy of the tough-talking Mr Natembeya.
The comments rattled the Kiminini MP, who is eyeing the seat on a Ford Kenya ticket. The lawmaker accused the CS of trying to influence the politics of Trans Nzoia while still serving as a State officer.
Dr Wamalwa is one of the frontrunners in the race to succeed Mr Khaemba, having kicked off his campaigns early.
Mr Khaemba was elected on a Ford Kenya ticket in 2013 and 2017.
Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang'ula has thrown his weight behind the Kiminini MP.
However, Mr Khaemba reportedly supports a different candidate, Finance executive Andrew Wanyonyi.
Mr Wanyonyi, according to political observers in Trans Nzoia, is one of the most trusted allies of Mr Khaemba and enjoys massive grassroots support.
"I will be in the race to succeed Governor Khaemba in 2022 but I haven't been endorsed by anyone, including the governor," Mr Wanyonyi said.
Another heavyweight in the ring is Deputy President William Ruto's ally Maurice Bisau.
Mr Bisau is a household name in Trans Nzoia, having contested for the governor’s seat twice, in 2013 and 2017, losing to Mr Khaemba in both contests.
In 2017, Mr Khaemba won the seat with 135,325 votes against Mr Bisau's 93,497 votes.
Mr Natembeya has captured the attention of locals and is deemed as 'fresh blood' in Trans Nzoia politics, having spent most of his time serving as an administrator.
With Mr Wetang’ula’s and DP Ruto's parties seen as the most favoured outfits in the county, Mr Natembeya's biggest headache could be getting the right party to vie on.
Other potential aspirants include Abraham Sing’oei, another close ally of the Deputy President, Woman Rep Janet Nangabo, and businessmen Moses Khaoya and Philemon Samoei.
DP Ruto has spread his political tentacles into Trans Nzoia and will be trying to ward off Mr Wetang'ula's influence in county politics. Ford Kenya has two parliamentary seats (Kiminini and Kwanza) and the governor's seat.
Jubilee has three seats (Endebess, Cherengany, woman rep and senator), while ODM has one (Saboti).