The race for who becomes the governor of Kakamega county in 2022 is shaping up as the battle of titans between emerging political alliances as opposed to the individual popularity of the aspirants.
Candidates likely to be fronted by Raila Odinga’s ODM, Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC and the William Ruto party are likely to stand a better chance of success in the impending general election. So far, those who have declared interest in the 2022 Kakamega gubernatorial race include Senator Cleophas Malala, Lugari MP Ayub Savula, former cabinet minister Amukowa Anangwe, Kakamega deputy governor Phillip Kutima, Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito and the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited CEO Ferdinand Barasa. Former senator Bonnie Khalwale is also the talk of the town. He was defeated by Oparanya in 2017.
Also being mentioned in passing is a one Atemba an employee of the county. Prominent Nairobi lawyer Michael Osundwa who was in the race 2017 is said to be marshalling his troops for a second stab. As an indication of the emerging political realignments, Senator Malala recently asked for forgiveness from Mudavadi after their fallout immediately after being elected Kakamega senator when he started supporting Raila. Malala’s apology to Mudavadi came against a backdrop of his strained relationship with Raila over the new counties’ revenue allocation formula. Raila came out to question Malala’s decision to oppose the revenue formula yet Kakamega county was among those counties to benefit from the new formula.
While Malala went ahead to meet Raila and explain himself over the position he has taken on the revenue allocation, ODM insiders say he fears an ODM ticket is not guaranteed for him given the prevailing circumstances. Although politics in Kakamega county is dominated by clan rivalries, the 2013 and 2017 gubernatorial elections show that this is not the case for the position of governor. In the past two general elections Oparanya was able to trounce his opponents not because he comes from a populous clan or Luhya subtribe, but because of the massive support his party ODM enjoyed in the county.
Kakamega county is composed of about 10 Luhya subtribes that include Banyala, Abakhenye, Batura, Marama, Batsotso, Idakho, Isukha, Kabras, Kisa and Wanga although there is a small population of Luos at Kwa-Okumu and Kikuyus in the county. Banyore and Maragoli’s presence in Lugari settlement scheme cannot be underestimated either. According to data from the 2019 census released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Kabras are the most populous among the Luhya sub-tribes resident in Kakamega county with a population of 136,962, people followed by Isukhas 101,789, Wanga 94,190, Batsotso 72,687, Idakhos 54,661, Marama 43, 075, Kisa 35,135, Abakhenye 24,468 and Batura 12,857.
The population of Banyala in Kakamega county is not clear as they were counted alongside those in Busia county and their overall population is 227,165. However, given the prevailing circumstances, a candidate from the Kabras Luhya subtribe has a head-start in the Kakamega gubernatorial race although an alliance that supports a candidate from other tribes complicates the equation. Anangwe a former University of Nairobi lecturer is also gunning to become Kakamega governor. He joined politics during the 1997 general election when he controversially beat the then people’s watchman Martin Shikuku, for the Butere parliamentary seat.
He was, however, to be ousted by Oparanya as the Butere MP. Since then, he has unsuccessfully attempted to recapture the seat before shifting his focus on the Kakamega gubernatorial race. Anangwe served as MP for Butere from 1997 to 2002 on Kanu ticket and quit politics to return to academia after he lost to Oparanya. He moved to Tanzania to teach at Dodoma University. In 2017 Anangwe announced that he was going to contest for the Kakamega governor’s seat on a Jubilee ticket but dramatically stepped down from the race citing frustrations from deputy president William Ruto. He is likely to make a forceful comeback with the backing of the right party and a perfect alliance.
Another aspirant eyeing the Kakamega gubernatorial seat is the maverick second-term Lugari MP who holds a Master’s degree in philosophy in communication and BS in public relations and communication. Then there is Ferdinand Barasa, who also wants to become Kakamega governor. Barasa was appointed as the CEO of Ketraco in April 2016 after serving in an acting capacity for nine months. Before that acting appointment, he was the company’s chief manager, finance and accounts. Barasa has a wealth of experience in public finance management, risk management, and corporate governance amongst others but he is however a political novice who will be attempting his hand in politics for the first time.
He however stands a chance of becoming the next governor of Kakamega if he rallies his Wanga Luhya subtribe behind him and craft a winning alliance with a strong team from other Luhya subtribes depending on who will be his running mate, senatorial candidate, women representative and those he promises the positions of the speaker of the county assembly and the county secretary. Kizito was first elected Shinyalu MP in a 2009 by-election following the death of then MP Charles Lugano before recapturing the seat in the 2017 general election when he ousted Silversea Anami. Kizito a businessman who is said to have acquired a degree recently is in the crosshairs of investigative agencies after he was accused of colluding with headteachers to write cheques for institutions without a budget.
In March last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered Kizito and two primary school headteachers to be investigated over fraud involving National Government-Constituency Development Fund. It is not clear whether he has been absolved over these allegations or the matter is still pending with the investigating agencies. However, if he manages to be cleared over the CDF corruption allegations he is a formidable candidate if he puts his gubernatorial blueprint in order and gets the right team to drive his political agenda. The latest entrant is Mombasa- based lawyer Leonard Shimaka from Malava. It is said Ikolomani MP Benard Shinali may be in the race.