The Royal Rumble: A look at the most interesting gubernatorial races in 2022

12 mins read

2022 will be one of the most unpredictable elections of recent times. Some races seem obvious until new candidates declare an interest, throwing the early starters off-balance. The handshake on the other hand diffused political animosity and candidates who would otherwise be practically unelectable, viable.

More candidates are expected to join the race for different positions across the country,   and the political dynamics will definitely change.

Even though an absolute majority of Kenyans are glued on the presidential race likely to pit the enigma of Kenyan politics (Raila Odinga)  against the self-proclaimed hustler (William Ruto),  within the counties, there are some key races worth following.

Jimi R. Wanjigi versus Johnson A. Sakaja- Nairobi.

Tycoon businessman and longtime political fixer Jimi Wanjigi has finally decided to remove the veil and dive into the murky waters of elective politics. His kind has always shied away from the limelight- choosing to bankroll aspirants while staying away from the media.  However, unlike in 2013 and 2017, Wanjigi is stepping out of the shadows.

Also Read: Wanjigi to face off with Oparanya, Joho for the ODM 2022 presidential ticket

The mogul has since announced he will be contesting against Raila Odinga for the ODM presidential ticket. Pundits believe the move to announce he is running for the top seat next year is just for clout. The real focus of the Kwacha Group boss is city hall.

Mr. Wanjigi enjoys massive support from the business community but he will have to wrestle the city’s top job from Johnson Sakaja. The Nairobi senator’s ambition has been known for a long time now. He relies on the political network he has built since 2013 when he made a debut as a TNA nominated MP. In 2017, Sakaja received a huge chunk of votes from ODM supporters to beat ODM Sec. Gen. Edwin Sifuna in the senatorial contest. Other worthy aspirants in the race are former Dagoretti South MP. Dennis Waweru and businesswoman Agnes Kagure.

Abdulswamad Nassir versus Suleiman Shahbal- Mombasa.

This is a replica of Nairobi. Before the handshake, Mvita MP  Abdul  Shariff Nassir was the heir apparent to  Governor Hassan Ali Joho but since the truce and consequently businessman Suleiman  Shahbal’s defection to ODM,  this seat has moved to the toss-up region.

Also Read: Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir, Raila making new Mombasa kingpin?

Shahbal is well monied and enjoys massive support from the business community in Mombasa, while Abdul enjoys grassroots political connection being legendary coast politician, Sharif Nassir’s son. The outgoing governor will have a great deal of influence in who succeeds him but as things stand, he has chosen to let all aspirants compete on level ground. This is surely a race worth following, considering how important the coastal city is to the country’s politics. Other worthy competitors are former senator Hassan Omar, outgoing deputy governor Dr. William Kazungu Kingi, and former Nyali MP. Awiti Bolo. It will be interesting to watch how ODM handles its nomination process

Also Read: Suleiman Shahbal decamps to ODM from Jubilee Party, pledges loyalty to Raila

Evans Kidero versus Gladys Wanga versus Oyugi Magwanga – Homabay.

If there is a hotly contested seat in 2022, it is Homabay’s top job. While in other counties campaigns still remain low-key, in Homabay the gears are fully engaged. Kidero’s tactical shift from city politics complicated the county’s political arithmetic in ways unfathomable. The former city hall’s boss has a massive financial war chest, crucial in staging a mega campaign across Homabay villages. The most complicated aspect of the race is the presence of current Woman Rep Gladys Wanga and 2017 runners-up, Joseph Oyugi Mwagwanga.

Also Read: EACC to seize Kidero’s luxury Gem Appartments at Nairobi’s Riverside Drive

Gladys Wanga boasts of knowing what buttons to push within the orange party, and is currently building a movement of young men and women from Homabay to spearhead her campaigns. Wanga is married in  Rangwe, the same constituency where Kidero comes from.

On the other hand, Joseph Oyugi Magwanga, a ruthless grassroots mobilizer is currently defying the odds, to bring Homabay county back from the ruins after ten years of inept leadership from Cyprian Awiti. Some claim, experience as a two-term MP and popularity among the rural Homabay folk put him (Magwanga) ahead of his competitors, who are advantaged in other areas. In Homabay whoever manages to win in the larger Karachuonyo and Ndhiwa blocks will carry the day. This is definitely a must-watch for any lover of political duels.

Zedekiah Bundotich (BUZEKI) versus Caleb Kositany- Uasin Gishu.

Buzeki, having unsuccessfully bid to dethrone outgoing governor Jackson Mandago in 2017 will be making a second stub for the same seat next year, against Soy MP  Caleb Kositany, also former Jubilee Party Deputy SG. The 2017 contest had BUZEKi- from the minority Keiyo going against Mandago- from the majority Nandi. BUZEKI is back at it again, contesting against Kositany- a Nandi.

Also Read: Inside DP Ruto’s elaborate strategy to contain a resurgent Buzeki in Uasin Gishu

We may assume he picked valuable lessons from 2017, but one thing he has definitely not changed from is his style of antagonizing the deputy president. Kositany enjoys close ties with William Ruto, also a resident of Uasin Gishu county. BUZEKI on the other hand has massive wealth but is largely seen as unfriendly to the deputy president. This may work against him but we expect a very spirited fight for the control of the North Rift county in 2022.

Jamleck Kamau versus Irungu Kang’ata- Muranga.

Jamleck Kamau is making his second stub at the county’s top job having failed to dethrone Mwangi Wa Iria in 2017. The former Kigumo MP, however, has the former senate majority whip Irungu Kang’ata to wrestle in Muranga. With the Mt. Kenya region facing its biggest dilemma of modern times, aspirants are largely torn between supporting President Uhuru Kenyatta or deputy president William Ruto whose UDA party seems to have taken an early lead in the battle for Central Kenya. It is difficult to predict which party will make the biggest wave on the mountain come to the D-day, so most aspirants are choosing to play their cards close to their chests. Jamleck is, however, viewed as pro-Uhuru while Kang’ata has openly declared allegiance with the deputy president. This race will be worth following.

Also Read: Sen Ole Kina spotted with Raila after rumors of ditching ODM

Ledama ole Kina versus Patrick ole Ntutu- Narok.

While Ledama ole Kina enjoys massive popularity both within and outside Narok county, Patrick Ntutu comes from the majority Purko clan. The race for the county’s top job will very likely narrow down to a duel between clans, with the Purko baying for blood having lost the seat to Ole Tunai from the Siria clan both in 2013 and 2017. The Kalenjin population in Narok especially in Emurua Dikkir cannot be wished off either. Moving towards 2022 it is difficult to predict which party the two frontrunners will vie on but ODM and UDA are very likely to be lucrative.

During Patrick’s mother’s burial, the deputy president was quoted to suggest he wishes Ntutu vies on a UDA ticket. However, ODM is also expected to be keen on wooing the CAS especially with uncertainty over Senator Ledama’s future. In recent times, Ledama has been viewed as reading from a different script as far as ODM positions both in the senate and outside are concerned.

Also Read: President Uhuru to settle in Nakuru’s Gicheha farm, not Gatundu after leaving office

In line with the clan race, it is equally expected that the Moitanik clan will front one of the Sunkuli brothers while former ODM’s candidate for the seat Joseph Tiampaty is also very likely to contest again. Political parties will have to be very wise in deciding who they offer their ticket to in this race.

Lee Kinyanjui versus Susan Kihika- Nakuru.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared he will be retiring to the Kenyatta family’s Sobea farm in Nakuru County, but it will be very interesting to find out if the people of Nakuru will honor him by re-electing Lee Kinyanjui or they will flow with the hustler’s narrative. Nakuru has for decades been one of the most volatile areas. Even during colonial times, it was regarded as the “headquarter of the white highland”.

The county’s capital was recently upgraded to a city so, just like it has been in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, it is very likely that political stakes will be so high on who controls the county that will home the 4th president of Kenya when he retires.

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