The decision by Gor Semelang’o to go for the vice-president’s post in the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry has left the battle for the presidency solely between vice chairman James Mureu and Nairobi branch chairman Richard Ngatia.
Insiders aver that Ngatia is emerging the frontrunner in the race to succeed Kiprono Kittony after some candidates withdrew in his support. Gor has now decided to try his luck in deputy president seat. Reports indicate Gor was banking on the lake region vote since he was the only face from the region going for the top seat but he discovered Ngatia had made inroads despite the fact he has roots in Mount Kenya region. For now, analysts say, with Mount Kenya region, upper Eastern, lower Eastern and north and south Rift drifting towards Ngatia, Murea only has his coast branches. Suprisingly, although settled in Mombasa, Mureu has roots in central Kenya. Ngatia to have a national image has also visited coast branches.
Sources within KNCCI reveal, Murea took everything for granted that by virtue of being vice chair to Kittony, he was going to succeed him. He hit the campaign trail late a move that is costing him. In the larger Mount Kenya branches, a move by Murea to portray himself as a coastal but not a Kikuyu to win votes from other regions is working against him.
Already, delegates drawn from five counties in Mt Kenya region have declared support for Ngatia in the polls to be held on May 28.
Kiambu, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua and Nyeri counties are backing Ngatia to take the position of president. Ngatia is the current KNCCI Nairobi chapter chairman.
The delegates from these counties led by Thinguri Warwathe, who is Central Kenya KNCCI regional director, unanimously voiced their support for Ngatia.
“We have seen what you have done as the Nairobi Chapter chairman. And going by the track record and support you have received from other regions, we now declare our support for your candidature,” said Thinguri.
In attendance at the Sagana meeting were chamber representatives from other counties that are also supporting Ngatia.
They include Uasin Gishu, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, Kisumu, Laikipia, Nakuru, Garissa, Embu and Bungoma.
Earlier, two others who had declared interest in vying, Laban Onditi and Stephen Mbugua, shelved their ambitions in favour of Ngatia.
While endorsing Ngatia, Onditi said KNCCI required a visionary leadership, and the Nairobi chapter chair had contributed to the growth of the chamber.
Also backing Ngatia, Mbugua said the Nairobi chairman was best placed to steer the chamber to greater heights as he had done with the city branch.
“He has a good track record at the city branch, which I hope he will translate to the growth nationally,” he said.
Semelang’o the former Youth Fund boss said he had acquiesced to the requests of members not to vie for the traders’ lobby top job.
“The members wanted me to vie for the position of the vice-president so that in the next polls I go for the big seat. Only a fool does not change his mind,” he said.
KNCCI elections boss Benjamin Onkoba said Semelang’o “wrote a letter informing us that he will vie for the position of vice-president”.
There will be no elections in 24 counties as the candidates were unopposed. The board will only oversee the elections in 23 counties. Ngatia also has the backing of 45 counties, the latest being Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta and Tana River.
Kittony retired when KNCCI held its annual general meeting. He has headed the business lobby for two terms since his election in 2012.
Kittony’s parting shot was a request to the state to extend tax amnesties to small businesses and hasten the settlement of pending bills by the national and county governments.