An analysis by the Star shows Raila has the backing of at least 17 governors after his two ODM deputies — Mombasa’s Hassan Joho and Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya — shelved their presidential bids in his favour.
Ruto, on the other hand, has the backing of 10 county chiefs, largely from his Rift Valley backyard.
ANC party boss Musalia Mudavadi and his Kanu counterpart Gideon Moi have the backing of one governor each.
Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula are not supported by any governor yet.
The political inclinations of 16 governors remain unclear.
Two governors, Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana and Murang’a’s Mwangi wa Iria, are themselves gunning for the presidency.
Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir said the governors will exert major influence on the presidential race. He said they have, among other assets, ready structures that hopefuls can use to drive their campaigns.
“They will be able to give some logistical support. Logistics doesn’t necessarily mean financial support. It may mean setting up platforms for a presidential candidate to do the politics. It makes a huge difference,” Nassir told the Star.
Most governors are have huge financial war chests that could help bigwigs.
Second-term governors exiting office are likely to be major campaigners for presidential candidates as they also fight for their own political future.
Nearly all governors from Western Kenya, except Trans Nzoia county, are backing Raila.
They are Oparanya (Kakamega), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga) and Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma).
Wangamati, elected on the Ford Kenya ticket, ditched Wetang’ula and recently assailed Mudavadi as “a poor mobiliser who can’t marshal the needed votes propel him to State House”.
“I pity some leaders, the likes of Mudavadi. If you can’t mobilise the Western region to rally behind you, how can you mobilise residents of other regions? You must first lock your region before proceeding to other regions,” Wangamati said.
The ODM leader also enjoys the support of most Nyanza governors — Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) and James Ongwae (Kisii).
Raila also enjoys significant support among Coast governors, with Joho, Godhana Dhadho (Tana River), Fahim Twaha (Lamu) all backing him.
During the Saturday Azimio la Umoja edition in Mombasa, Samboja revealed that Raila held a lengthy meeting with Kwale’s Salim Mvurya.
Mvurya and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi are yet to publicly declare their support for any hopeful.
“Baba, the Coast will stand with you as we have done previously. Even now, together with Kingi, we shall stand with you and the votes are yours,” Samboja declared.
Kingi has since decamped from ODM and formed his own political party.
In Mt Kenya, the ODM leader has the support of governors Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia) and James Nyoro of Kiambu.
Raila also has the backing of Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku.
Ruto has the backing of governors Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Hillary Barchok (Bomet), Samuel Tunai (Narok), Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), Stephen Sang (Nandi) and Turkana’s Josphat Nanok.
Migori’s Okoth Obado is also supporting Ruto.
Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia has given indications he is supporting Mudavadi.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos supports Gideon Moi
In Northeastern, governor’s presidential favourites remain unclear.
However, this could crystallise when Raila leads his Azimio la Umoja campaigns in the region this weekend.
Notable figures to watch are governors Ali Korane (Garissa), Ali Roba (Mandera), Marsabit’s Mohamud Ali, Wajir’s Mukhtar Ahmed and Isiolo’s Mohamed Kuti.
County chiefs like Korane, Kuti and Mukhtar are part of the Upyaa Movement under the stewardship of Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani. The group is pro-handshake.
Governors from Mt Kenya East and parts of Central form the chunk of county chiefs who have been sending confounding signals on which sides they back.
In the category of unknowns includes Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Martin Wambora (Embu), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Meru’s Kiraitu Murungi (who just hosted Mudavadi) and Nyamira’s Amos Nyaribo.
Murungi and Waiguru were at some point gravitating towards Raila but have since declared they are still consulting.
Political observers agree that governors — both seeking second terms and outgoing — can influence the vote to varied degrees.
Political analyst Edward Kisiangani says the kind of influence governors may have on candidates they back is a “mixed grill” and depends on the county.
“The answer is yes and no,” Kisiangani said when asked whether governors would tilt the votes for presidential candidates.
“There are governors who have a lot of influence in their areas. Some could be after two terms but others are seeking a second term.”
Kisiangani, a Ruto political adviser, argues that governors who have excelled will be listened to by their people.
“There are also governors who are finishing but nobody wants them. There are those in their first terms who have done very badly so what they think about 2022 doesn’t matter,” he said.
Mumias East MP Ben Washiali said some of the governor’s 2022 leaning are related to whether or not they face graft charges.
“The only governors who can decide which side to go are those without issues with the EACC. Those with issues will lean towards the government to protect their interests,” he said.
Other factors, he said, would be how a governor has managed county funds, adding those who have operated above board have wider choices.
ANC deputy party leader Ayub Savula said one should not imagine that having a good number of governors on their side is a guarantee of victory.
“We will soon be going to other regions to woo voters. More governors will come on board as we traverse the country,” he told the Star.
“A number of governors who are with us but they have not yet declared their stand. Very soon they will go public and you’ll realise some were just lying to our rivals.”
Makueni MP Dan Maanzo, a close Kalanzo ally, said governors will not determine who becomes the fifth President of Kenya.
“Most of these governors have served for two terms and are going home. They may not be of very much use to presidential aspirants,” he added.
He said some governors may be a burden to presidential aspirants because of their poor performance.
“People hate some of these governors because they failed them,”Maanzo said. “Having such a person on your side all the time may not be so good for you if you are looking for v.”
(Edited by V. Graham)