Drama as governors reject DP Ruto’s emissary

Rift between William Ruto and governors plays out at devolution meeting

The bad blood between governors and Deputy President William Ruto played out on Friday when he snubbed the 7th Devolution Conference where he was supposed to preside over the closing ceremony.

Instead of attending the event that brings together leaders and experts from the 47 counties as they showcase their products and developments, the DP sent his chief of staff, Ken Osinde to represent him.

But in a dramatic turn of events, the Council of Governors stopped Mr Osinde from addressing the meeting in Makueni, terming the move by the Deputy President as disrespectful.

“We expected the DP to attend and preside over the closing… as governors we consider this to be an international event and not every person can execute such an important function,” said Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

While the DP has always presided over the closing ceremony, yesterday, the governors turned to Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.

As the drama was unfolding, Dr Ruto was in Nyandarua County where he maintained that he was best suited to take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta and continue with his legacy.

While blaming the handshake between the Head of State and ODM boss Raila Odinga for derailing the Big Four Agenda and pre-election promises, the DP said Kenyans ought to give him a chance to deliver what the Jubilee government had promised.

“We entered into an agreement with President Kenyatta to serve this country for 20 years so that we can develop it. However, our agenda to develop this country has since been diverted by the handshake,” said the DP at Mairo Inya Township. He made other stop-overs at Ndogino, Ndaragwa and Kwa Kung’u areas.

He was accompanied by county Woman Rep Faith Gitau, MPs Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) and Alice Wahome (Kandara) and senators John Kinyua (Laikipia) and Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi), among others.

Dr Ruto has had a frosty relationship with governors , most of whom have cast their lot with Mr Odinga.

Strengthening devolution

While the DP claims to have the support of over 130 MPs, Mr Odinga has won over up to 25 governors – who have since become major planks in his Azimio la Umoja campaign.

Some of the governors who have declared their support for Mr Odinga are Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo-Marakwet), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka-Nithi), Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia), James Nyoro (Kiambu), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Ann Kananu (Nairobi), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Mohamed Kuti (Isiolo), John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua) and Ali Korane (Garissa).

However, governors like Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Ali Roba (Mandera), Ahmed Mukhtar (Wajir), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Muhamud Ali (Marsabit), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Amos Nyaribo (Nyamira) have kept their cards on the presidential race close to their chests.

A keen look at DP Ruto’s camp, some of the county chiefs who have openly thrown their support behind him are all from the Rift Valley, except Migori’s Okoth Obado and his Kirinyaga counterpart Ann Waiguru.

A number of county chiefs who spoke to the Saturday Nation yesterday admitted that they support Mr Odinga because of dedication to devolution, his embrace of partnerships with parties and neutrality in gubernatorial races.

Governor Tolgos, who has broken ranks in Rift Valley to support Mr Odinga, accused the country’s second-in-command of not being accommodating saying: “He always wants to push down people’s throat his own ideas.”

Governor Mutua disclosed that majority of county bosses are impressed with the manner the ODM boss is pushing for the strengthening of devolution.

“The other reason is that Raila reaches out to governors to discuss projects and how to improve lives. We only hear from Ruto when it is about his politics,” he added.

At least 11 governors have secured their own parties in the run-up to next year’s General Election and are comfortable working with Mr Odinga because he embraces the idea of coalitions unlike Dr Ruto who has shut the door for them describing them as “tribal parties”.

While in West Pokot on Monday, Mr Odinga, who received a boost when Governor Lonyangapuo backed him for the top job, promised important partnerships with the governors.

State House ambitions

But Bomet Senator Christopher Lang’at, an ally of the DP, said the governors backing Mr Odinga were only doing so for fear of arrest and intimidation.

“Many governors have been telling us that it is just a matter of time before they join us. The moment we approach elections, a good number of governors will join us, they only fear intimidation, blackmail, witch-hunt. At night they are with us but during the day, they fear the Deep State,” explained Senator Lang’at.

Prof Amukowa Anangwe of the Regional Center for Strategic and Policy Studies argued that although governors and MPs can be used to influence voters in a particular direction, most of them are unpopular and might jeopardise the State House ambitions of the two rivals.

“It would be fool-handy to assume that just because you have many governors or MPs, you are home and dry,” he said.

United States International University’s Prof Macharia Munene said that the young lawmakers who are in the DP’s camp are there for survival purposes.

“MPs believe they have to be with Ruto to survive or they have disagreed with the President on some issues. Governors see themselves losing to the Ruto wave and cling to Raila either to save their offices or to be seen to agree with the President in supporting Raila,” said Prof Munene.

Masinde Muliro University don Egara Kabaji opined that DP Ruto is making the biggest gamble by ignoring the governors and regional kingpins arguing that majority of the legislators in his camp, more so those from Central, are likely to be sent home come next year.

“Let us remember history, 90 per cent of Mt Kenya MPs will be voted out. That has been the trend since 1963,” he said.

This view was backed by ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna who said having a majority of governors is a big plus to Mr Odinga’s State House race, arguing that they call the shots in the counties.

“Governors are elected by the people. Their influence cannot be understated,” said Mr Sifuna.

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