Mandago versus Buzeki: The fierce battle for Uasin Gishu governor’s seat
The fifth largest town in Kenya is witnessing one of its fiercest political battles in the race to capture the Uasin Gishu County governorship seat.
Being the headquarters of the county, Eldoret has been the center of attraction in the North Rift region, Deputy President William Ruto’s home turf.
After being trounced by Governor Mandago in the Jubilee Party primaries, businessman Buzeki opted to run as an independent candidate citing a botched nomination process.
The race for the county’s top-most job has turned into a two-horse race, with businessman, Buzeki, giving the incumbent a run for his money in a bid to clinch governorship
There were rumors that Buzeki is an establishment project sponsored by Deputy President William Ruto, claims that the businessman has come out to refute strongly saying that is propaganda meant to derail his gubernatorial ambitions.
“My rivals are spreading propaganda that I am favoured by the deputy president. I want to tell them that no amount of propaganda will pull back my gubernatorial ambitions,” said Buzeki in an interview with Citizen TV’s John Wanyama.
DP Ruto, during one of the rallies in the county in June, 2017, called upon Mr. Buzeki to shelve his ambitions and support the incumbent in what was seen as a move to try to mend possible fallout within Jubilee.
But in a shot rejoinder that evening, Buzeki held a press conference to clear the uncertainty among the electorates vowing to be on the ballot on Tuesday, August 8.
“I will not resign to support Mr. Mandago as the DP has said. I have my own transformative agenda which will help the people of Uasin Gishu and I am determined to be governor come August. My name will be on the ballot in August,” said Mr. Buzeki when declining DP’s calls.
Uasin Gishu Voting Block
The county that has been dubbed Home of Champions owing to the many legendary athletes in Kenya coming from the area has six constituencies and has 450,055 registered voters according to the IEBC database.
Governor Mandago comes from Kuinet/Kapsuswa Ward in Soy Constituency that has 81,867 registered voters while Buzeki’s Ainabkoi has 54,797 eligible voters.
The four other constituencies Turbo, Moiben, Kesses and Kapsaret have 110,851, 68,822, 67,136 and 66,582 registered voters respectively.
Kenyans have been advised on numerous occasions to shun tribal politics but unfortunately, the vice is taking center stage in Uasin Gishu with incumbent governor Jackson Mandago who hails from the Nandi sub-tribe facing off with his fierce rival, Zedekiah Bundotich aka ‘Buzeki’, from the Keiyo community, the second largest sub-tribe in the county.
However, the candidate who will be able to amass the non-Kalenjin votes is likely to clinch the seat.
In a witty move last week, Governor Mandago further wooed the non-Kalenjin votes when he endorsed an ODM candidate, MCA candidate Charles Okumu, for the Langas Ward seat spurning a Jubilee candidate, Francis Muya.
Buzeki has accused the incumbent of being tribal by allowing one sub-tribe to dominate county leadership positions, promising to form an all inclusive government once elected on Tuesday.
He further argues that Uasin Gishu residents have not fully reaped the fruits of devolution, promising to create an even more conducive environment for domestic and foreign investors to set up in the region.
“I am more experienced in business industry more than my competitor. I will transform Uasin Gishu into a business hub,” said Buzeki in one of his interviews with the Citizen Digital.
The governor has exuded confidence that he will trounce his competitor, boasting of improving service delivery in terms of health, security, education and bursary funds to students of the county.
The outspoken governor has also maintained that Mr. Buzeki should wait for him to finalize on his second five-year term. According to the governor, Buzeki will be ‘ripe’ for governorship in 2022.
“Five years is not a long period. My brother Buzeki should support me as he waits for 2022, I will appoint him as my minister for trade,” Mandago advised Buzeki when the two joined the Muslim community in Eldoret in marking this year’s Eid-Ul-Fitr celebrations.
The ‘64 Stadium Declarations’
In a great twist of events in July 26 at the 64 Stadium in Eldoret, the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) endorsed the re-election of Governor Mandago.
“If my vote was for Uasin Gishu County, I could vote – without doubt – for Governor Mandago for a second term. We, NASA, are fully behind Governor Mandago,” NASA presidential running-mate, Kalonzo Musyoka said on that fateful day.
This is a move that political pundits have argued could be both the undoing and the making of Mandago’s bid to retain his seat.
NASA’s declaration could possibly help Mandago scoop the non-Kalenjin votes, most of whom pledge allegiance to the opposition coalition, in the agriculturally rich county that boasts of being among the food baskets of the country.
Equally, political commentators say that NASA’s backing could trigger Jubilee supporters to trickle and vote for the independent candidate arguing that it is better to back a project by Jubilee leader, DP, than a project for opposition coalition.
Last week during a rally at the 64 Stadium, President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto re-affirmed their support for Governor Mandago calling upon residents to vote for all Jubilee candidates from top to down.
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