By Nathan Ochunge
Nairobi -The rivalry between senators and governors has always played out at public functions with the former accusing county bosses of underperformance and runaway corruption.
Governors have always complained that senators are normally on a smear campaign using audit reports and anything they can hang on to not only intimidate and discredit their administrations, but also seek political mileage ahead of the forthcoming polls.
The county chiefs have termed the senators as overzealous and only out to extort them and paint them black.
Owing to the glamour, allure and power of new titles being bestowed on them, senators have always antagonized county bosses with the electorate in a bid to unseat them, after check mating them for five years.
The salary of a governor according to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is Sh1.22m in which basic salary is Sh583,628 and allowances totals to Sh333,502. In a year a governor takes home Sh13.3m excluding other privileges.
A senator earns a basic salary of Sh518,649 and allowances of Sh222,278 which totals to Sh740,927 a month. In a a year a senator takes home Sh8.89m. He is not entitled to any other privileges save for committee sittings and mileage allowance.
Like in the August 9 polls, at least 15 senators will be on the ballot seeking to capture gubernatorial seats across the country by either unseating first-term governors or succeeding those serving their second and final terms.
They are Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), George Khaniri (Vihiga), Amos Wako (Busia), Mithika Lithuri (Meru), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Fred Outa (Kisumu), Ochillo Ayacko (Migori), Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a), James Orengo (Siaya) and Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi).
Others are Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni) among others.
The senators are between a rock and a hard place as they are walking the same road their colleagues from the first senate walked in 2017.
Eight of the 14 senators who went for the gubernatorial seat ended losing the race.
Those who lost their bids for governorship include Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Omar Hassan (Mombasa), Chris Obure (Kisii), John Munyes (Turkana), David Musila (Kitui), Lenny Kivuti (Embu) and James Mungai (Nakuru) among others.
Senators Mike Sonko (Nairobi) John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) were elected as governors after ditching their positions.
But immediately after their election, it became a case where the hunter became the hunted.
After spending five years keeping county bosses on their toes, in their time as senators, they passed laws to enhance and build on the gains of devolution and often locked horns with governors.
“The senators who become governors have ended up becoming worse county bosses than those they vehemently opposed while at the senate. Majority of them will be voted out and might not have another comeback into politics,” said Prof Nyukuri Barasa, a Bungoma based political analyst.
He said that the motivation that governors control a lot of money made the senators to run for the governorship seats and were being driven by selfish motives, saying senators had not mastered the art of managing a county as a Chief Executive Officer.
Prof Barasa cited the case of former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko who was hounded out of office unceremoniously through an impeachment by the ward reps and rubberstamped by the senate.
“When Sonko was Nairobi senator, he could not give then-governor Evans Kidero ample time to work but when he ascended to the same seat, his leadership was pathetic. Senators are just after power but cannot bring in meaningful leadership if they become governors,” said Barasa.
Barasa cited a case in 2019 where Governor Stephen Sang destroyed a tea plantation using a power saw, saying he stooped too low as a governor by leading locals in destroying mature tea that could fetch millions of shillings, saying when Sang served as a senator, he was a good legislator but power entered into his head when he became governor.
For instance, Vihiga Senator George Khaniri who has always criticized governor Wilber Ottichilo for underperformance, is in the race and his driving force is to go and correct the mess he claims the regime has brought to the county.
“Our people have no water, no roads, our people can’t get medicine, where is the money? I have brought to the county over Sh25 billion but governor Ottichilo has done nothing with the money,” said Khaniri recently while traversing the county.
But Ottichilo has told him off as seeking cheap publicity and tasked him to tell the voters to show them his development track record for the over 30 years he has been in politics both as MP and Senator.
In Kakamega, Senator Malala is accusing governor Wycliffe Oparanya of having started many flagship projects that are incomplete and yet he is exiting the scene after 10 years at the helm of power with no complete project that has given jobs to the locals.
“Let Oparanya mention a single project he started and completed. You can’t leave 12 incomplete projects to the next regime to complete for you. That’s a bad precedence. When I become the governor, I will correct this mess,” said Malala
Emmanuela Mulaa, a political scientist from the University of Nairobi, has said that majority of the senators who are in the gubernatorial race will be voted out.
“The voters do not know that senators do not have a development kitty. They have known them for always fighting with governors for the last five years and the voters will punish them at the ballot,” said Ms Mulaa.
She went on, “Khalwale always fought Oparanya when he was the Senate Public Accounts Committee Chairman, the voters punished him in 2017 as they perceived him to be an enemy of development. The same will befell the senators on the gubernatorial race”.