I cannot imagine what it feels like to be the governor of a county.
Truly, it is a commendable accomplishment even to become president, let alone be an effective one, but, if each of us spent a day in the shoes of a president, we would probably speak differently.
The pressures must be many, with endless opportunities to fail, and no matter what you do, regardless of how good it might be, there will always be those who criticize you and/or scoff at you.
The intent of this column is not to throw stones or demonize our outgoing governor. Rather, it is to chart Jackson Mandago’s political journey thus far, from his quick exaltation to superstar status to his current, dramatic decline.
It was in March 2013 that Mandago suddenly became a household name especially in Uasin Gishu county, when he became the county’s first governor.
As always, the media was buzzing with story upon story from who he was before joining politics to his promises for the county, and the county’s general demographics and current situation.
Mandago hails from a village called Teresia in Kuinet, Usain Gishu County.
His family originated from Laikipia and settled in Uasin Gishu where he schooled in Eldoret Harambee school, before joining Kenyatta University for a course in Education.
He then proceeded to work at the Teachers Service Commission as an ICT clerk before he left under unclear circumstances. Sources within the commission say he was involved in the disappearance of some computer laptops before his ‘silent’ departure.
Shortly after, he set up SAVORY, a construction company in Eldoret, where he lived in a small bedsitter in Kimumu until 2013, when he ventured into politics.
It was after Mandago became governor that he changed from the ‘humble’ man who the locals elected, to a wild and proud, tribal dictator.
His transformation to an overnight millionaire with amassed wealth in motor vehicles, land and other assets, buying buildings and farms across the country, raised eyebrows, leading to a serious audit of the county.
Mandago was unstoppable. He toured the world with his passport indicating visits to over 50 countries within four years, treating the county as his personal property.
But it was in mid 2016 when he begun facing opposition to his leadership, that his pride took its peak as Mandago bragged that the likes of Serem are not his callibre.
Four years and one month later, Mandago’s position as governor is being threatened as his fortunes dwindle, what with the heated contest he is facing especially from his strongest opponent, Kiprop Bundotich aka Buzeki.
Uasin Gishu residents can finally breathe a sigh of relief from the brutal dictatorship that has been the Mandago led administration.
The residents have found hope in Buzeki, a leader that is listening and understands their needs.
The arrogant and proud Mandago has recoiled and retreated to tribal incitement, even in the era of globalization where tribe is a non-issue, the governor insists on the backwardness that is tribalism, promising to protect the town from ‘outsiders’.
While his county team continue spewing insults and spread falsehood in a desperate bid to bring down his opponent, all this has fallen on deaf ears – the people have decided that Mandago must go.
Today, Mandago is not only a soon-to-be lame duck governor – the eventual fate of every leader at the end of his tenure — but he has been labeled a “political corpse” by the Uasin Gishu voters, with the very real possibility that many of his proudest achievements as governor will be quickly undone, and done over by the incoming Buzeki administration.
Mandago set himself up to fall. No one can live up to the hype that initially surrounded him, especially since he was an inexperienced politician, and with expectations so high, especially among many residents, he was doomed to disappoint. It was inevitable, and much of it was his fault.
He brought his community organizer, racially divisive, identity politics into the governor’s office. That too is a path to failure, since the governor can only succeed to the extent that he is perceived as the leader of all the people.
Not only so, but the governor must be the ultimate patriot, someone who is proud of his county, despite its many shortcomings. Yet all too often, Mandago felt the need to build himself before building the people of Uasin Gishu, as if they did not matter. This too does not play well with the populace at large.
The social problems targeted by an earlier generation of politicians such as racial disparities in income and education and unemployment rates – all persist, yet Mandago’s election, ironically, marginalized those issues, keeping them off the political agenda.
It has been a reign of incompetencies never been seen before in Uasin Gishu county – ever!
Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the US, delivered a speech at the Sorbonne in April 1910, which he claimed, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Mandago didn’t dare greatly, and he has failed the great people of Uasin Gishu County!