Why ‘six-piece’ voting denies Kenyans fruits of devolution – The Standard

While devolution has delivered significant progress in all parts of the country, including previously marginalised regions, critics say much more could have been achieved if the calibre of governors elected in 2013 and 2017 was given more consideration.
In Kenyan politics, leaders at the local level get elected largely on the basis of factors such as ethnicity, clannism, financial muscle, political and party affiliation and not one’s ability to deliver quality leadership.
In both polls, political heavyweights campaigned for a six-piece model of voting in their strongholds, meaning those eyeing the presidency rooted for the election of leaders vying on their party ticket from the top to bottom.

That is how in regions such as Mt Kenya, Coast, Nyanza and Western, most governors, senators, MPs, Woman Reps and MCA won on the tickets of Jubilee Party and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the leading contenders for State House, respectively.
Some of the governors who rode on the six-piece wave have registered dismal performance in terms of delivery of services and development programmes in their counties.

Yet, some of them won re-election simply because they were rooting for their sons to become president.
On the contrary, governors who defied the party wave to win have consistently been ranked highly in various opinion polls.

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A good illustration is the election of Dr Alfred Mutua and Prof Kivutha Kibwana in Machakos and Makueni respectively on the tickets of parties other than the predominant Wiper Democratic Movement of former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.
An opinion poll conducted in 2015 by Infotrak Research and Consulting, rated Dr Mutua, who belongs to Maendeleo Chap Chap, as the best performing governor with a score of 79.4 per cent.

Vihiga’s Moses Akaranga (People’s Party of Kenya), who similarly ran against the wave generated by the presidential candidature of Musalia Mudavadi of United Democratic Forum, was ranked fifth with a score of 71.9 per cent.
Ranked last was Kiambu’s William Kabogo with a score of 48 per cent.
Kibwana came in at position 24, a similar poll conducted in 2020 ranked him third with 74.4 per cent. This on the back of major achievements by the law professor who was the first governor to launch a free universal healthcare programme, targeting the elderly by giving them access to free drugs, x-rays and in-patient services.
Makueni was also among the first counties to venture into value addition by unveiling fruit and milk processing plants enabling farmers in the dry county to sell surplus produce thus ensuring minimal losses at the farm.
Mutua’s drop to position five in the 2020 poll could be attributed to his failure to deliver on his ambitious 2013 manifesto, including the establishment of a mega city.
However, the governor has previously claimed that his agenda was frustrated by Wiper, citing former Senator Johnstone Muthama’s decision to challenge his plans in court.
Kibwana also had to fight it out with Kalonzo-allied MCAs, and even at one time sought to have President Uhuru dissolve the county government after they refused to endorse his budget.
The performance of Narc leader Charity Ngilu, who defeated Wiper’s Dr Julius Malombe to become Kitui governor, is another example of what county chiefs who are not tied to dominant parties can achieve.
Her flagship projects including the Kitui Textile Centre, Ballast Crusher, Ndengu Processing Plant, Kitui Youth Skills and Enterprise Centre and Honey Processing Plant have made the county the envy of other governors.
Kitui’s exhibition stand at the recent devolution conference in Wote made counties such as Busia the laughing stock of many on social media thanks to the array of products on display.
Laikipia’s Ndiritu Muriithi, who was elected as an independent, was ranked at position 33 in the 2020 Infotrak poll. But there is no dispute that he has achieved massive progress in the last four years he has been in office.
Another key point to note is that while some governors such as Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya are members of predominant parties, their performance has similarly been impressive.
Oparanya topped 2020 Infotrak Poll with a score of 82.3 per cent, up from position seven in 2015 (71.3 per cent).
However, political analyst Dr Wanguhu Gitonga opines that having governors who are not tied to dominant parties – either those in government or opposition – is important since they are not so much distracted by political events and can thus concentrate on their duties at the county level.
“It is important to note that so much energy, time and resources have been spent on referendum campaigns, 2022 presidential realignments and the like and governors find themselves at the centre of these developments depending on party affiliation.
“It is even suspected that some governors have diverted county resources to political campaigns or to buy patronage. I am not surprised cases of corruption are mostly being uncovered in areas considered the strongholds of key political figures,” he told The Nairobian.
Nairobi lawyer Soyinka Lempaa attributes the governors' performance to a quest to prove themselves as individuals for purposes of career growth in the absence of strong party affiliation.
“They want to prove themselves. Since they came in as individuals and did not ride on any wave, their desire is to prove that they can offer better leadership,” he said.
“I am sure we will see more independent-minded governors in this year’s election since the six-piece model is unlikely to work. Yes, it could in regions such as Nyanza and Rift Valley, but in areas such as Mt Kenya, there are unlikely to be predominant parties. UDA and Jubilee have not asserted themselves, so we are likely to see an array of all sorts of candidates,” added Lempaa.
According to him, such a development will be good for devolution, especially in ensuring better management of county funds.

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