Governors have a big fight on their hands as they are under pressure to deliver votes to their preferred presidential candidates in the highly charged succession race.
The county chiefs wield political and administrative authority that the two leading candidates, Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio One Kenya flagbearer Raila Odinga, are seeking to capitalise on in the campaigns.
This is especially true for the 21 second-term governors, who will be exiting the scene as they are barred from seeking a third term.
Outgoing governors supporting the DP are Josphat Nanok (Turkana), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Martin Wambora (Embu), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Okoth Obado (Migori) and Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu).
Those backing Mr Odinga are Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Ali Roba (Mandera), James Ongwae (Kisii), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay) and Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni). Murang’a’s Mwangi wa Iria has not made public his support for any candidate.
Seven governors allied to Mr Odinga are in counties perceived to be strongholds of Dr Ruto. They are James Nyoro (Kiambu, 1.2 million votes), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru, 1 million votes), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru, 772,139 votes), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua, 361,165 votes), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia, 263,012 votes), Prof John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot, 220,026 votes) and Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet, 213884 votes). The seven counties have 4.1 million votes. The seven are among 28 heads of counties supporting Mr Odinga’s bid.
14.6 million votes
Cumulatively, the 28 counties have 14.6 million votes, which are enough to propel Mr Odinga to State House in the first round.
Other county bosses allied to Azimio are Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Kananu (Nairobi), Amos Nyaribo (Nyamira), Joseph Ole Lenku (Kajiado), Mohammed Kuti (Isiolo), Fahim Twaha (Lamu), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta), Wilber Otichillo (Vihiga), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Dhadho Gaddae Godhana (Tana River), Ali Korane (Garissa), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), and Mohammud Ali (Marsabit).
Mr Murungi, whose re-election bid is facing stiff competition from Senator Mithika Linturi of United Democratic Alliance (UDA), has promised to deliver 70 per cent of Meru votes to Mr Odinga’s basket.
East African Legislative Assembly MP Mpuru Aburi says the ground in Meru shifted in favour of Mr Odinga after Mr Murungi and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya vowed to campaign together.
Mr Tolgos, who is running for senatorial seat on a Jubilee ticket, has promised to deliver 50 per cent of votes in Elgeyo Marakwet to Mr Odinga.
Mr Muriithi, the chairman of Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board, says their candidate was gaining momentum in Laikipia.
“It is evident that the grassroots structure is moving towards our side. If you look at the crowds we are addressing in our campaigns, especially here in Laikipia, it definitely tells you that we are making great progress,” he says.
Ms Kananu, Mr Nairobi, Mr Lenku, Mr Godhana and Mr Wangamati are heading battleground counties and will have to work hard to tilt the scale in favour of Mr Odinga.
An analysis of the August 8, 2017 presidential results that were later nullified by the Supreme Court shows that the low voter turnout in Mr Odinga’s strongholds ate into his final tally. Mr Odinga led in only four out of 18 counties that reported voter turnout of 80 per cent.
Meanwhile, governors Okoth Obado (Migori, 469,019 votes), Dr Mutua (Machakos, 687,565), Amason Kingi (Kilifi, 588,602) and Salim Mvurya (Kwale, 328,253) will have to work harder to deliver votes to Dr Ruto.
The four are among 17 counties county chiefs who support the DP. Cumulatively, the 17 regions have 6.6 million votes, according to the official voters roll gazetted last week by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Ukambani political heavyweights
Dr Mutua will have to counter the political wave by Ukambani political heavyweights led by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Prof Kivutha Kibwana and Ms Ngilu to deliver to Dr Ruto a share of the 687,565 votes in Machakos. In August 2017, Dr Mutua supported President Kenyatta who got 82,629 votes against Mr Odinga’s 380,018.
This could be a pointer that Kalonzo still wields a lot of influence in Ukambani politics including in Machakos.
Mr Kingi, who is eyeing Senate Speaker’s position after the August 9 polls, will have to double his efforts to deliver Kilifi votes to Dr Ruto, a region that has consistently voted for Mr Odinga.
In Kwale, despite Mr Mvurya supporting President Kenyatta in 2017, Mr Odinga still got a majority of votes there. He garnered 138,565 while President Kenyatta had 43,649.
Mr Obado will have to pitch tent in Kuria West and Kuria East constituencies to claim some of the 104,220 Kuria votes for the DP.
In 2017, President Kenyatta got 46,112 votes in Migori – mostly from Kuria East and Kuria West – compared to Mr Odinga’s 274,161. Both Kuria MPs Marwa Kitayama (Kuria East) and Mathias Robi (Kuria West) are allied to Dr Ruto.