Governors differ on mode of arriving at council leadership

Rigathi Gachagua meets governors

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua arrives for the governors and deputy governors induction conference at Pride Inn Paradise in Shanzu Mombasa County, on September 15, 2022.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi I Nation Media Group

Governors were last evening split between consensus and secret ballot voting as intense lobbying got underway ahead of their council’s elections set for today.

Should there be no consensus by today, the county bosses will have to go for elections, the first time they will do so since 2013. The race is between governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado) after Wajir’s Abdullahi Ahmed was prevailed upon by Azimio colleagues to step down in favour of Mr Lenku.

The two had been reaching out to their colleagues separately hours.

On Thursday, a section of Azimio governors met at a Mombasa hotel with ODM leader Raila Odinga where it was agreed that Mr Lenku flies the coalition’s flag after garnering the support of the majority of those present.

County bosses in Kenya Kwanza thought not to be supportive of Ms Waiguru’s Council of Governor (CoG) candidature are said to be pushing for the secret ballot model so as not to antagonise the coalition’s top leadership. By contemplating using a secret ballot, they believe it will unlock the tight race between Ms Waiguru and Mr Lenku, and avoid situations where either of the sides will be blamed for the loss of their member.

On Thursday, however, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua stated he and President William Ruto were ready to work with whoever is elected the governors’ chairperson.

“Please, work as a team and put the differences of Azimio and Kenya Kwanza aside because that is water under the bridge. Elect your leaders without looking at who belongs to what formation and be together. Buffaloes do not move together in a herd because of liking each other but because of the danger of working alone,” Mr Gachagua said.

He said the county chiefs are free to employ whichever model in the elections to pick the council’s leadership.

“If you elect CoG chairperson through consensus, so be it. If you can agree on other positions, so be it. You don’t have to look for anyone, even from the opposition, to push me or Dr Ruto on matters of devolution. We just need good leaders whom we can engage as we are already up to the game and are ready,” the DP said.

Saturday Nation learnt that council insiders believe it may not be tenable to have Ms Waiguru chair the council because of regional interests and balancing at play.

Already, the council is led by Mary Mwiti, a former county executive from Meru in the Mt Kenya region.

DP Gachagua, also from the Mt Kenya region, chairs the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council, while the outgoing chairperson, former Embu governor Martin Wambora, was also from the region.

Second-term governors and those who served in the first devolution government are leading the argument that the secret ballot will give members a free hand to choose their own candidate. But her supporters claim what matters is performance and not ethnicity, and are leaning on the Kenya Kwanza team.

Both camps have 23 governors, with one independent from Taita Taveta who has not taken sides.

Ms Waiguru has been riding on the Kenya Kwanza coalition tag since her endorsement, but Mr Gachagua climbed down on the coalition having a candidate and said they were ready to work with whoever the governors choose.

Governor Lenku told Saturday Nation he offers himself as a firm negotiator and a unifying factor.

“We are keen to make the devolution baby stand up now. It has been crawling in the last 10 years. I also want to represent and be the voice of the marginalised people in the country,” said Mr Lenku.

Ms Waiguru, who announced her candidature on Thursday, said she was ready to serve the council.

“An African saying [goes that] if you hang around a young lady and don’t declare your intentions, then you will end up fetching water on her wedding day.

“Because I don't want to fetch water, I hereby declare my intention to be the chairperson of the council,” she said while lobbying her colleagues.

The team picked today will take over at a defining moment when county chiefs are pressing for timely disbursement and increased funding.

Yesterday, they complained that piecemeal disbursement of funds, which comes very close to the end of the financial year, complicates the expenditure by county governments.

“This has complicated the mode of county expenditure, which goes ahead to be reported as low absorption of development funds by the Controller of Budget. This has been the only major source of the pending bills we deal with regularly,” said Tharaka-Nithi’s Muthomi Njuki.

Controller of Budget Margaret Nyakang’o said counties are not aligning their procurement plans with their cash flows and budgets, leading to the pending bills quagmire. She also cited delays in disbursing county funds by the National Treasury, an assertion supported by the governors.

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