Africa-Press – Kenya. Thirteen candidates will next week battle at the ballot for Taita Taveta governor seat.
This is the longest list of candidates for the county’s top seat since the inception of devolution.
The race is between the region’s political bigwigs including incumbent Governor Granton Samboja, former Governor John Mruttu, former Senator Danson Mwazo and Mwatate MP Andrew Mwadime.
Newcomers in the contest are Stephen Mwakesi (PEP), media personality Patience Nyange (Narc), George Mwandembo (DAP), Prof Agnes Mwang’ombe (ANC), Godino Mwasaru (independent), Onsemus Mwinzi (independent), Tom Mwakwida (ODM), Faustin Mghendi (TSP) and Safina’s Francis Mwaita.
The candidates are criss-crossing the county courting residents in major towns ahead of the Sunday’s campaign deadline.
However, some elders have blamed lack of a strong council of elders for the crowded race, saying some candidates could have shelved their ambitions to pave the way for others.
“If this county had a well-structured council of elders, then they could have convinced some candidates to back off and consolidate their support on either one or two candidates,” Rajab Mwazighe, a member of Ngasu elders, said.
Mwazighe said residents are confused on who to elect since their manifestos are almost the same, with candidates promising to revamp the economy.
Past opinion polls have placed Samboja and Mwadime in a neck-and-neck competition. Both command a significant following across the region.
The Jubilee candidate is banking on his development projects implemented over the past five years to seek reelection.
The county boss was elected in 2017 on the Wiper party but left for the ruling party after falling out with his deputy Majala Mlagui.
He is now vying alongside former Voi mayor Priscilhah Mwangeka as running mate.
Samboja has promised to use his second term to complete all ongoing projects and initiate new ones.
In his manifesto, the governor has promised to improve service delivery in the health department and support the agriculture sector.
Samboja is riding on his ‘Mshapa’ slogan, loosely translated to a leader.
However, critics say the governor has failed to tame corruption within his government, a vice that has been blamed for the slow pace of development.
In the 2017 general election, he won with 40,764 votes against Mruttu’s 23,967 votes.
Mwadime, a two-term MP, has lately gained inroads in the county, publicising his candidature through the ‘Wakujaa’ slogan which means fullness. He says he is full of peace, love and development.
“I’m the real people’s project because they pushed me to fight for this seat. I had decided to seek another term as an MP,” Mwadime told the Star in an interview on Monday.
Mwadime, who is vying on an independent ticket, said he is determined to replace Governor Samboja at the helm of the county.
He said he will use his leadership prowess and past experience to improve services if elected on August 9.
The soft-spoken 67-year-old politician was floored by Samboja in the 2017 general election and has since then been struggling to get a political lifeline.
Despite losing the election, Mruttu has been praised for navigating the devolution challenges to set the foundation as the maiden governor.
He said he will prioritise reviving projects that he started during his tenure between 2013-2017.
Mruttu, who is vying on Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA party, pledged to invest in education and agriculture to help improve livelihoods in the region.
The agriculture sector, he said, is underutilised despite its potential to turn around the county’s economy.
Mruttu further promised to help the devolved unit realise development projects through proper utilisation of funds.
Nyange, a former council member at the Media Council of Kenya, is literally giving male candidates sleepless nights.
She is advocating for a woman governor through her ‘aminia mama’ and ‘ni zamu ya mama’ slogans which mean ‘trust a woman’ and ‘it is time for a woman’ respectively.
She is vying on the Narc party ticket. Nyange and Prof Mwang’ombe are the only women in the race.
Nyange is hoping to get women and youth votes to clinch the seat in a county where women are seemingly sidelined from elective positions. Youth and women form the largest percentage of the 181,827 registered voters in the county.
Nyange has asked residents to embrace young leaders because they shall come in with new leadership ideas.
The Chevening scholar said she draws inspiration from Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu.
She said women should be inspired and supported to take up leadership positions that have been dominated by men for decades.
Edited by A.N