Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter’s fall in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) primaries for the Kericho gubernatorial seat did not come as a surprise.
Despite the dawn to dusk campaign rallies across Bureti, Ainamoi, Belgut, Soin Sigowet, Kipkelion West and Kipkelion East constituencies, the former Belgut legislator put up a poor show in the poll.
Dr Mutai garnered 126,038 votes, Mr Keter polled 60,342, Deputy Governor Lily Ngok had 9,377 while Prof James Sang got 2,987 in the race to succeed Prof Paul Chepkwony who is serving his second and last term.
Despite withdrawing from the race and teaming up with Dr Mutai as a running mate, businessman Fred Kirui still secured 4,954 votes in the UDA primaries.
When the results were announced on Friday evening, Mr Keter did not concede defeat. He, however, commented on his Twitter handle on Saturday morning.
“I thank the great people of Kericho for turning up to vote peacefully in the just concluded nomination exercise. Congratulations to all winners. I wish them all the best,” Mr Keter stated in the tweet.
“To all my supporters, agents and teams, I convey my appreciation and gratitude for your support. God bless you and God bless Kericho”
Dr Mutai said after being declared the winner that the will of the people had prevailed.
“I will not disappoint the people of Kericho who have expressed their will by overwhelmingly voting for us even as we faced a seasoned politician with enough resources at his disposal. The people fundraised, campaigned and voted for us with the agenda of having a change of guard in leadership,” said Dr Mutai.
From the onset, it was clear that Mr Keter would have a very rough time in the campaigns. Most Kericho residents had opposed his candidature even before he declared that he would run.
Despite branding himself as “transformer” in reference to the rural electrification programmes rolled out during his eight-year tenure as Energy Cabinet Secretary before being transferred to the Devolution docket last year, he could not beat Dr Mutai who branded himself as “equaliser”
But in a case replica of the biblical David versus Goliath case. Dr Mutai, a political greenhorn, dimmed Mr Keter’s political career.
Professor Chepkwony, who has chosen to retire from elective politics, faced allegations of high handedness and nepotism in senior government appointments.
“I have not lost an election in the more than 20 years I have been in politics. I am not about to lose the Kericho gubernatorial contest. I am well prepared for the battle ahead and I can assure you that I will deliver it,” said Mr Keter in an interview when he resigned as Cabinet Secretary and declared candidature for the gubernatorial race.
In a show of political might that did not translate into votes, Mr Keter paraded all the Members of Parliament from the region – Mr Nelson Koech (Belgut), Mr Sylvanus Maritim (Ainamoi), Mr Joseph Limo (Kipkelion East), Mr Hillary Koskei (Kipkelion West), Mr Sylvanus Maritim, Mr Kiptergech Mutai (Bureti), Mr Kipsengeret Koros (Soin Sigowet) and Woman Representative Florence Bore – at a press conference in Nairobi to announce his resignation as Devolution Cabinet Secretary to run for the Kericho Gubernatorial seat.
As fate would have it, Ms Bore, Mr Limo, Mr Mutai and Mr Koros were bundled out in the UDA parliamentary primaries.
“I am resigning to focus my energies on contesting for the seat of Kericho Governor on August, 9, 2022. I have a field of competitors and I am ready for the contest for the UDA party ticket,” said Mr Keter.
The former Kericho Senator resigned a few months after his election to take up the position of Cabinet Secretary for Energy in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Cabinet in 2015.
Mr Keter hosted the Deputy President William Ruto for lunch at his residence on January 10, after a rally in Bomet and Kericho towns where he declared his support for the deputy president.
The move was seen as an attempt to clear his name over allegations that he was no longer loyal to the deputy president.
The former CS used the Kericho Moi Gardens rally addressed by Dr Ruto to dispel claims that he was not backing him for the presidency and was instead working with Kanu leader and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi against UDA.
“I have been by the DP’s side for a very long time and we have covered a lot of ground (politically) together. I wish to make it clear that I am in UDA to stay and those who have been spreading rumours about my allegiance should be ashamed,” said Mr Keter during the rally.
Kanu chairman Gideon Moi had in May, 2015 said during the burial of former Director of Criminal Investigations Noah Nondin Too in Kericho that he and Mr Keter were inseparable.
“While Mr Keter is a friend to the deputy president during the day, he is my associate at night. Do not bother questioning about where his loyalty lies” said Mr Moi during the funeral also attended by Dr Ruto.
The former CS was put on his defense in the campaigns with claims that he owned the tea plucking machines used by the multinational tea companies which has resulted in laying off more than 20,000 workers in the South Rift region.
It became clear that the road to deliver the UDA ticket had become rough and bumpy for Mr Keter when two days to the election, Dr Mutai and Mr Kirui teamed up in a negotiated political deal.