Migori Governor Okoth Obado has stirred controversy in ODM after he rejected the direct nomination of his political rival Ochillo Ayacko as the party’s candidate in the forthcoming Senate by-election.
By midday yesterday, Mr Obado was already a marked man as senior party officials directed their anger at him further complicating matters for Mr Ayacko who has been in the political cold.
The governor’s rejection of his rival’s direct nomination meant he had reneged on a reconciliation pact brokered by ODM leader Raila Odinga during the burial of Senator Ben Oluoch Okello on July 9.
“That was a mere greeting just like you can greet a visitor from Tanzania. It had no political significance,” Obado said.
Ayacko lost to Obado in the 2017 governorship race. He promised Raila that he would withdraw the election petition appeal. However the case was dismissed with costs before he could formally withdraw.
But on Friday, the governor criticized Ayacko’s nomination saying it was undemocratic.
“We will not allow two or three people to sit in Nairobi and handpick for us a candidate. If we allow them, they will do the same in 2022 and they will bring governors, senators and MCAs,” Obado said.
He claimed he was well aware of plans to discredit him using social media. “Because of my stand, they now want to cook up stories linking me with EACC. I will not be cowed. Come October 8, the people will speak at the ballot.”
The governor’s sentiments have laid ground for a bruising by-election battle which could usher in violent campaigns like it happened in 2017.
On Tuesday, ODM gave Ayacko direct nomination in Migori Senate by-election, after an opinion poll showed he was the most popular.
The opinion poll showed he had 43 per cent support, followed by businessman Eddy Oketch who polled 16 per cent while former Minister Dalmas Otieno had 9 per cent.
A son to the late senator had 5 per cent while former University student leader David Osiany had 4 per cent.
But the opinion poll yesterday drew criticism from some Migori residents who questioned its accuracy. “The party just read the results but did not tell us who conducted the polls,” said Mark Okongo, one of Mr Otieno’s supporters.
ODM National Election Board chairman said the poll took three days with a sample size of 1,200 respondents.
Yesterday, ODM chairman John Mbadi told Obado to prepare for a bruising battle should he decide to support Ayacko’s opponents.
“The party machinery will not let go the seat. It will traverse the county with a powerful force,” Mbadi said.
He wondered why the governor was against Ayacko yet they had reconciled in Raila’s presence.
“This was a unilateral decision made by the party’s rank and file. Obado is an ODM governor. Its unbelievable what he said. It means he has no respect for our party leader,” Mbadi said.
“How does Raila come in? Does Mbadi wants to imply that Raila is anti-democracy or is he speaking for lack of better things to do? Obado posed. “Dropping Raila and Obado’s name will not help Mbadi.”
Mbadi said that some of the aspirants who were in agreement with the nomination mode were now coming out to contest the same.
“This is wrong. Aspirants such as former Rongo MP Otieno accepted and even advised the contestants against going to court after the nominations,” he claimed
But Mr Otieno yesterday said: “A decision has been made, we are now looking for an alternative party to make it to the ballot. We can’t argue over it.”
On his part, former Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga declined to comment although sources said he was being mentioned as a possible compromise candidate. “I will speak at the right time,” he told journalists.