By Ben Leshau
Deputy President William Ruto is already positioning gubernatorial candidates in his Rift Valley backyard two years before the 2022 general elections.
As he keeps key rivals in the 2022 Presidential race busy bickering over the demerits and merits of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) on constitutional reforms, he has already identified his candidate for the Narok gubernatorial seat.
The race to succeed the incumbent Governor Samuel Tunai has kicked off in earnest with Narok West MP Gabriel Koshal ole Tongoyo declaring his interest for the county’s top seat.
His declaration appears to be having the backing of the Deputy President who two weeks ago expressed his confidence in the first term MP when he commissioned a school bus at Sekenani Boarding Primary School, in Narok West Sub County.
The DP showered Tongoyo with praise and thanked him for supporting the Jubilee Party leadership in Narok and uniting all leaders for the sake of development.
“This man Tongoyo despite being elected on a Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), Party ticket realized where development comes from and joined hands with Governor Tunai and that is the leadership we want in this country,” said Ruto.
In 2013, Governor Tunai, a former National Intelligence Service (NIS) officer was first elected on Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP), ticket together with many other Rift Valley governors like Isaac Ruto (Bomet), Joseph Lagat (Nandi), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo).
Ruto backed Tunai all through, siding with the Governor when the then Senator Stephen Ntutu and his supporters declared war against him for alleged misuse of office and it is, therefore, a seat the DP will fight to remain in his stable.
Tunai was among those who quickly endorsed the merger between Ruto’s URP and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) before the 2017 elections.
He has since 2013 steadfastly stood as Ruto beacon in Maasai politics, mobilizing MPs like George Sunguya, (Kajiado West) and Lemanken Aramat (Narok East) to champion his agenda.
Last year Aramat said: “We have given President Uhuru Kenyatta 10 years, and we had an agreement as Jubilee that we would support William Ruto after that, we cannot back down.”
At Sekenani, it is as if all leaders who accompanied the DP came with only one agenda of endorsing the MP for the seat because all those who spoke at the event hailed Tongoyo and vowed to support his bid to succeed governor Tunai.
Outspoken MP Johana Ng’eno who was among those who pledged support for Tongoyo asked Narok West constituents to support the DP’s 2022 presidential bid in exchange for the support the Kipsigis community will give the MP to become the next Governor.
The same sentiments were echoed by the Chuka Igambang’ombe MP Patrick Ntwiga who described Tongoyo as a hardworking legislator who deserves the seat.
“I have been wondering why Tongoyo works so hard in Parliament and I’m happy to learn that he will be gunning for a higher seat come the 2022 elections,” said Ntwiga.
In declaring his bid Tongoyo revealed that he was up to the task for the top seat owing to his development track record as a one term MP.
“I want to tell the people of Narok County that I’m up to the task and I can comfortably fit in Governor Samuel Tunai’s shoes. I have done my best development wise in the few years I have been an MP and that is what I will do when elected Governor,” Tongoyo pledged.
And in his speech before he invited the Deputy President to commission the bus, Governor Tunai hailed the MP describing him as a smart politician who switched gears immediately after he was elected.
“During the 2017 elections we were pretty sure that Jubilee was taking the Narok West seat but we were shocked when the CCM Party candidate Tongoyo won despite the fact that he was running on an opposition party,” said Tunai.
He however praised the MP for visiting his office and deciding to work with him immediately after he was declared the victor despite being elected on the then opposition party.
The MPs declaration has received mixed reactions especially from rival aspirants eying the seat among them the Interior Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Patrick Ntutu who trashed Tongoyo’s development record accusing him of having done little in the constituency.
Ntutu who lost to Tunai in 2017, was the former Narok West MP before Tongoyo succeeded him and were both staunch members of former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto’s CCM party but the great friends have now fallen out because of the latest political developments.
“When I joined Narok West as MP there was only one school bus in the entire constituency but we had bought eight buses before I left and I’m glad Tongoyo is making baby steps by buying one after two years,” Ntutu scoffed.
The 2022 Narok gubernatorial succession contest will most likely attract more candidates compared to in the 2017 elections when only three appeared on the ballot paper.
Governor Tunai won against Ntutu and ODM’s Joseph Tiampati but it is getting more interesting this time round as more names keep dropping two years before the big contest.
Others who have been touted to be gunning for the county’s coveted seat include the Devolution Principal Secretary Charles Sunkuli, Narok South MP Korei ole Lemein, Senator Ledama ole Kina and Woman Rep Soipan Tuya.
So far it is only Tongoyo, Sunkuli and Ntutu who have come out openly to make their intentions known that they will leave nothing to chance as they go for the coveted seat.
Apart from development, the Narok gubernatorial race is mainly based on clan and tribal politics making it most dynamic an emotion-filled.
Local political observers have dismissed the notion that those who will be supported by political big wigs will carry the day, arguing that other factors will also come into play.
“Apart from addressing local issues, their agendas and manifestos, the next Governor must have support of the outgoing Governor Tunai and whoever will be vying for the Presidency, most likely DP Ruto,”said youth leader John Korema.