POWER BROKERS: Everyone now wants to associate with Ruto — including erstwhile opponents
Lenku will this time need to tread carefully to delicately balance all interests if he is to avoid brushing the County Assembly and local power barons the wrong way
The election of President-elect William Ruto is expected to have far-reaching ramifications on the politics of Kajiado County and to influence the direction of local politics in ways that were unimaginable only a few weeks ago.
Politicians and analysts are however divided on the exact impact that the new president will have on the county. They are however agreed that Governor Joseph ole Lenku’s second term will face a different political environment, meaning he will need to adjust quickly to the changing realities if he is to make an impact and leave the kind of positive legacy he probably envisions.
Election of the County Speaker
Former Senate aspirant Brian Sekento said he does not expect county politics to change much, considering that the governor is in control at the local level. “If he can get hold of the Speaker’s position for an ally, he will have full charge of the affairs of the county.”
Even though UDA has an upper hand in the number of MCAs, other dynamics could work in the governor’s favour. Koin Lompo, the Azimio candidate for the County Assembly Speaker’s slot, is from Kajiado East and could attract sympathy votes from UDA ward representatives from Kajiado East. “The governor also has a lot to entice the MCAs. Moreover, the voting is by secret ballot; if it was open, of course the MCAs would fear the president’s wrath in voting against their own party,” said Sekento, who is Lenku’s ally in the ODM party.
But this view is not shared by the Kajiado United Democratic Alliance (UDA) coordinator Gilbert Matura, who says the fact that everyone now wants to associate with Ruto — including erstwhile opponents — will lead to a more conciliatory tone in politics that would favour UDA. Regarding the upcoming contest for the County Speaker’s seat, Matura said the Azimio camp may not want to put up a bruising battle that would create enmity. “They know if we pull our strings, they are the people to suffer. We now have the presidency.”
Moreover, according to political analyst Philip Wuantai, Ruto is extremely hands-on throughout the country and keeps a tab on activities taking place everywhere. “Ruto is a very meticulous person. He knows what is going on everywhere. He is not someone you can play around with like Uhuru Kenyatta or Odinga. I don’t see any of them trying to play games.”
Analysts say that Lenku as the governor was too powerful in his first term and many politicians would want to prevent the same scenario from being replicated in his second term. “He was not accountable to anyone. We had a House that was rudderless; they didn’t understand exactly what they were supposed to do and they ended up fronting their personal interests before the governor,” said Wuantai.
This situation led to a lack of accountability on the part of the county executive. When a bridge said to have been constructed at a cost of Ksh100 million collapsed days after it was launched, Wuantai said, there were no questions asked by MCAs. “The fact that there was a handshake at the national level meant that local leaders also tried to localize the handshake, leading to accountability lapses.”
But despite this background of a gross lack of accountability, Matura said the party was not out to fight any leader and would focus on service delivery. “We expect the elected leaders to work harmoniously. We hope Senator Samuel Seki will perform his oversight role over the county government effectively. We are hopeful that we will get Justus Ngussur into the County Assembly’s seat and that he will also do his oversight work well. What we will not allow is for our MCAs to be trampled over, like Lenku did in his first term, when he was an all-powerful governor.”
Lenku will this time need to tread carefully to delicately balance all interests if he is to avoid brushing the County Assembly and local power barons the wrong way. These interests include not only those of his supporters but also clan and ethnic interests.
The fact that Ruto has said there will be no handshake of any sort is also expected to have a trickle-down effect when it comes to accountability at the county level. “Given that in Kajiado County the governor is from ODM and Kenya Kwanza forms the opposition, I am sure they will play their oversight role and not try to become a part of that government.”
Politics of 2027
Among those from Kajiado being mentioned for possible appointments to national government positions include Katoo ole Metito, who many think may be offered a Cabinet slot. Others likely to be considered for Principal Secretary or other senior positions are Mary Seneta and Francis Meja. More people would be considered for lower positions.
Appointment of prominent Kajiado personalities to national positions will however not create friction with the governor and other local power barons, Sekento believes, because these are people who have largely worked together over the years.
Power-play politics of 2027 will likely pit ole Metito against Meja and Nominated Senator Peris Tobiko, all of whom have ambitions to become governor. Of these three, the most vicious contest will be expected to be between ole Metito and Ms Tobiko. Even though all the three potential gubernatorial contestants are in UDA, none will be likely to give way to the other.
For the time being, however, Lenku will have all the time to build a legacy that will define his tenure.