By Benjamin Langat
Had it not been for ODM supporters in North Rift ‘punishing’ now Deputy President William Ruto, Uasin Gishu governor would now have been Prof Julius Bitok. The game then was that current governor Jackson Mandago was a weak candidate and unknown in the emerging Ruto power circle which would make beating him easy for Prof Margaret Kamar, then vying on ODM ticket.
So, at nomination, ODM supporters voted overwhelmingly for the ‘weak’ Mandago whom they thought would lose eventually to Prof Kamar in the elections. In their minds, Dr. Bitok (now a professor) who had just left his job in academia as lecturer in Moi University, would have proved a hindrance to beat, considering DP Ruto was supporting his candidature.
Then the wave turned and Rift Valley voted URP to a man. In North Rift, it was impossible to beat URP, especially by ODM candidates.
But with his nomination now as Kenya’s ambassador to Khartoum, Prof Bitok who is still hugely popular in Uasin Gishu is expected to mount a re-energised campaign come 2017, a fact which governor Mandago has not taken lightly.
Stung by the nomination, Mandago who has hitherto supported most of the Jubilee (read URP) collective stances on national politics is among Rift Valley governors pushing for Referendum.
Sources claim Mandago has been meeting Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto in a bid to make a political statement to the Deputy President. However, fact is, DP Ruto is still hugely popular in Uasin Gishu County which is his own backyard, having represented Eldoret North for successive terms in parliament and from where he rose to the deputy presidency.
Mandago is also reaching out to several MPs from North Rift to scuttle the nomination of Prof. Bitok.
A close ally to DP Ruto has told this writer that Prof. Bitok’s appointment is now a ‘gone case’ as all the nominees will be beneficiaries of Jubilee’s ”tyranny of numbers” rule which they (MPs) use to push through President Uhuru’s appointments.
“If anything, Bitok has proven a better manager than what the people expected. Devolution was new and people didn’t comprehend the powers and resources a governor would weld. Putting Mandago in power has been a disaster for Uasin Gishu,” adds the source.
Until his nomination to be the next Kenya’s envoy to the Sudan, Prof Bitok served as an economic advisor to President Uhuru and was based at state house.
Benjamin Langat covers Rift Valley politics for Kenya Today.Â