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High-stakes battle, lobbying as governors pick council chair



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Stakes are high ahead of the Council of Governors (CoG) annual elections on Monday amid intense and protracted lobbying, which has been ongoing for weeks.

Five governors have locked horns in the race for leadership of the powerful body as the 47 county bosses retreat to Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi’s Westlands where a deal will be agreed on, Nation has learnt.

Incumbent Josphat Nanok of Turkana, Wyclife Oparanya (Kakamega), Kisumu’s Anyang Nyong’o and Uasin-Gishu’s Jackson Mandago are the front-runners according to sources within the council’s secretariat.

Kwale county boss Salim Mvurya, who for two years deputised ex-chairmen Isaac Ruto and Peter Munya, has also featured in political discussions as a possible candidate.

It was not immediately clear whether Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru will vie for the chairmanship. Governors Nanok, Oparanya and Nyong’o were elected on ODM party tickets while Mr Mandago and Mr Mvurya are in Jubilee.

Two other positions up for grabs are the whip and vice-chairman. The chairpersons of the 18 committees will also be elected.

Political intrigues at the influential council have been blamed on regional interests and the 2022 politics and it will be interesting to see how the governors will agree on who to lead the council.

The Nation has established that governors will try to reach a consensus and root for a negotiated deal to pick Mr Nanok’s successor to avoid splitting the 47-member body along party and regional lines through a fractious election.

The post created by the Intergovernmental Relations Act (2012) to oversee the activities of the governors has increasingly emerged as politically influential over the last four years. Instructively, possibilities of the invisible hand of the national government in the running of the group is possible has not escaped the minds of many should a Jubilee governor win in the election.

Jubilee enjoys numerical strength in the CoG after winning most of the gubernatorial seats. But that arrangement could be compounded by the major role and impact of the political detente between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The governors will be facing a major dilemma in trying to balance between their party and political loyalties and the practical and legal reality that they form part of the Executive and must work with the national government.

The question of loyalty and the actual executive roles bestowed in the office of governor has over the years been a source of serious conflict. This is because the CoG chairman job is a unique one that calls for inter-governmental engagements, including occasional direct interaction with the President.

A governor from Nyanza said that, although he supports the idea that an opposition governor chairs the council again, most of his colleagues’ fear being sabotaged by some national government officials if they keep political rigidity at the expense of their development agenda which requires government support.

But sources within Jubilee and parties allied to the Opposition said they had no position on the matter and would accept any arrangement the council comes up with at the end of Monday’s event.

The new leaders of the governors’ forum will take over at a defining moment when county chiefs are pressing for timely disbursement and increased allocation of county funds.