The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has explained how it ended up with Ochillo Ayacko as its candidate for the Migori senatorial by-election.
While addressing the Press at Orange House in Nairobi, yesterday, ODM party leader Raila Odinga said they used an opinion poll to arrive at the decision.
Raila spoke as the battle for the seat took an interesting turn, with one of the front runners - former minister Dalmas Otieno, landing a Government appointment.
Mr Otieno’s appointment as a commissioner with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) could change the matrix of the race, should he accept the nomination.
Otieno, one of the longest-serving politicians in Nyanza, had broken ranks with ODM after it picked Ayacko and was running on a National Liberal Party ticket.
Appointment to SRC
His appointment to SRC by President Uhuru Kenyatta came amid speculation that it could have been done under the spirit of cooperation between the President and Raila, to give Mr Ayacko an easy entry to the Senate. Yesterday, Otieno confirmed his appointment to the salaries commission and said he was in a dilemma over the Migori Senate race.
“I’m now in dilemma. I was angling for the Senate race then this appointment came. I will have to take time to reflect on it... But I can’t let the President down,” he told The Standard in an interview.
Back in Nairobi, Raila, who served as chair of ODM’s Central Committee that settled on Ayacko, yesterday met with a delegation from Migori to deliberate on the forthcoming senatorial by-election.
He said nomination was done at party level, where members chose the candidate.
“We have nomination rules that we follow. It is a nomination, not an election,” said Raila.
He said their decision-making was inclusive and that after wide consultations and meetings, Ayacko still remained the preferred candidate.
The forming of the central committee was to ensure the October 8 by-election remains free and fair, Raila said.
At the yesterday’s meeting, other aspirants that had been eyeing the seat on an ODM ticket stepped down in favour of Ayacko and vowed to support him.
“It has been agreed unanimously that we support Ochillo Ayacko. Migori County is for ODM, no other party will take the senatorial seat,” said Edick Anyanga, the MP for Nyatike, a constituency in Migori.
Former MP John Pesa, who was also eyeing the seat, echoed Mr Anyanga. “I, too, have made consultations and found it fit to continue selling ODM ideas. All we need is a peaceful election. Let our Migori people freely support our candidate, Ochillo Ayacko”.
Willis Oluoch, a son to the late Senator Ben Oluoch Okello, who was also in the race, vowed to back Ayacko.
“We will support ODM’s manifesto. We will be loyal and support Ochillo Ayacko. We do not want betrayers in our party,” said Mr Oluoch.
The party’s final decision comes amid wrangles on who should replace the late senator, who succumbed to cancer last month.
Migori Governor Okoth Obado has been against the party’s decision to nominate Ayacko, a political rival. The governor had accused the party of using intimidation and being dictatorial in their decision-making.
Raila, however, took the opportunity at the meeting to dispel the fears.
“The governor has every right to disagree. It is his democratic right and he can formally come before the party and say why he has disagreed with the party. But he hasn’t,” he said.
Meanwhile, Otieno, an economist who has served in presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki’s regimes, fell short of confirming he was taking up the State appointment, though still expressing dilemma.
“I left unaccomplished business at the Public Service; and with this appointment I have to rethink whether to go and finish the business or opt out. But I would rather work for the State and all Kenyans,” he said.
Otieno, according to the official commission’s website, will be in charge of Public Service, an influential position, given that he will be instrumental in fixing salaries and allowances for millions of public servants.
Yesterday, he told The Standard: “It’s a critical decision to make. The people of Migori want me to be the senator and the State wants me to work for all Kenyans”.
Mr Ayacko turned down an ambassadorial appointment recently.