Migori; Kenya: Details have emerged of how a controversial apology trip to State House organised by Migori Governor Okoth Obado last week could have cost Sh4 million.
The governor, who insists he did not spend public funds, led 600 elders, leaders and residents of Migori to apologise to President Uhuru Kenyatta over his recent heckling when he visited the county to launch an anti-malaria drive.
Obado, who has since broken ranks with CORD leader Raila Odinga, is now under pressure from a section of Nyanza leaders, demanding that he comes clean on the source of funds spent in the trip.
A day to the Tuesday trip, Obado assembled 200 people in Migori and hired college and school buses to ferry them to Nairobi, with some not knowing the agenda. Sources say part of the delegation were attracted by the money given to them and the opportunity to meet Uhuru and sleep in upmarket hotels.
But when the Migori delegation got to Nairobi, things did not go as planned. They had to wait at the Uhuru Park for hours as Obado frantically made desperate phone calls to State House.
A source who accompanied the governor said when the Migori group arrived in Nairobi, they were joined by another 400 people from the city. “It is this group that complicated matters for us. Initially, State House was ready to receive the 200 of us. But when the number ballooned to 600, we were told the President was busy and won’t see us,” the source said. Those who had made the long journey got disenchanted and began making calls to Nyanza politicians.
To the rescue came Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, who visited the group at Uhuru Park and gave them Sh500, 000 for lunch.
“I went to say hello to the Migori people because they had visited our county. I gave them Sh500, 000 to buy lunch. In the African culture, you don’t just greet visitors, especially those from afar, empty-handed, without giving them food,” Kidero says.
“Kidero gave us the money and promised to talk to the President to secure us an appointment the following day,” a man in the delegation said.
Sources also said Joshua Kutuny, President Kenyatta’s political advisor sent Sh500,000 from State House while Obado gave a similar amount to cater for lunch.
Each member of the group was given Sh10, 000 for food and accommodation. But given that most of them were new in the city, they opted to spend the night in the buses. “Some went to the Bomas of Kenya where three or two shared a bed,” one of them said.
Kidero and Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno called the President to secure an appointment for the group.
“I was with Dalmas when he called the President to allow the group meet him on Wednesday. People were not happy with the governor,” an ally of the Rongo MP said.
Some in the delegation were disappointed at the way their governor handled the matter.
“He gave us Sh7, 000 each in Migori and told us that after the meeting, we will come back. The governor called his allies who summoned other people in the city to ruin our day,” one of them says.
An insider says the trip cost Sh4 million, money which some Nyanza leaders now say Obado should account for. After the President said there was no need for apology because he was well received in Migori, some Nyanza leaders said they will make sure Obado is not re-elected in 2017. “I did not use county money. I didn’t withdraw any money from the county treasury. The money was contributed by well-wishers and some of those who accompanied us paid their fare to and from Nairobi,” Obado says.
He added: “Some of those who came with us paid for their air tickets from Kisumu to Nairobi. Well-wishers gave us some money that we gave to those who could not pay for their fare. We gave them up to Sh7, 000 to travel back to Migori.”
He labelled those saying he misused public money as ‘enemies of development’ out to kill his dream of developing Migori County.
Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo said he would lead an ODM delegation to Migori next week to start campaigning against the governor for politically disobeying those who supported him.
“He is unkind to them and does not appreciate that Migori people voted him into office. He takes them to Nairobi and abandons them in a park,” Midiwo said.
He says no crime was committed and therefore there was no need to apologise to Uhuru.
He said youths protested against the President for treating Nyanza as a lesser region.
“It is unfortunate that when the President visits Nyanza, it is either to attend burials or launch minor undertakings such as distribution of nets. When he is visiting other regions, he presides over launches of factories and infrastructural projects,” Midiwo claimed.
Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch said leading a delegation top State House was not the best way forward. “Apology is a personal responsibility and not a community affair. Those who heckled should apologise. Not all Luos heckled the President,” Olago says.
He adds, “Those who have gone to State House did so for their personal interests. They shouldn’t pretend that they represented the community.”
Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabbir said every Kenyan has a right to visit State House but Migori leaders shouldn’t pretend to represent the larger Nyanza. But Migori Town MP Junet Mohamed said it was important for Obado to go and apologise to the President.
“Obado should take the earliest responsibility to apologise to the President for mishandling his trip. He owes the President and Migori people an apology because he was behind it all,” Mohamed said.