Raila Odinga, Fred Matiang'i influence looms large in crowded Nyamira battle

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga (right) with Interior CS Fred Matiang'i at a past event. [File, Standard]

The Nyamira County governorship race has attracted 12 candidates seeking to dethrone incumbent Amos Nyaribo.

It is a political battle in which Nyaribo, who will have served for 18 months, is seeking the electorate’s mandate to complete his projects.

Nyaribo, who was deputy governor, took over after the death of Governor John Nyagarama in 2020.

The contenders include Nyaribo under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Nyakundi Osiemo (PPOK), Timothy Bosire (ODM), Okioma Samson (Jubilee), Joseph Kiangoi (ANC), Henry Ongeri (DC), Ongwenyi Nyasinga (Safina), Walter Nyambati (UDA), Daniel Nyakundi (PPK), Bwo-Ndieki John (independent), Prof Marwanga Omwenga (Kanu) and Ben Momanyi of Wiper.

Political analysts argue the race will largely be influenced by the interests of Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga, his Kenya Kwanza opponent William Ruto and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i who hails from the county.

Governor Nyaribo of UPA, Bosire of ODM and Wipers’s Momanyi are in the Azimio camp. An interesting scenario is that of CS Matiang’i, who had previously shown interest in supporting the incumbent, but stated a week ago that he has no preferred candidate in the race.

Insiders say that apart from being privy to the intelligence of the ever-changing political dynamics, the CS would not wish to get into loggerheads with Raila whom he supports in the State House race.

Raila and Matiang’i attended Azimo rallies in the county for three days but tactfully avoided declaring their preferred candidates.  Nyaribo says locals will decide based on their track record. “Despite the challenges, I have achieved more than 60 per cent of what I promised a year ago.”

“I have heard some people here salivating for my seat. It will not be a walkover as they think. I’m keen to start a fresh five-year term in 2022. All departments are ready for take-off,” he added.

But even as the candidates pledge to transform the devolved unit, Governor Nyaribo believes he deserves re-election. Momanyi, however, accuses Nyaribo of poor leadership.

“Nyamira needs change in leadership. What we have experienced in the devolved unit is corruption that has led to poor service delivery,” says Momanyi. Bosire, an ally of Raila, hopes to ride on the Azimio leader’s popularity in the county. Nyaribo, on the other hand, has the advantage of incumbency.

“We have always said we need to respect one another. Let us not lose focus on the campaign trail. The electorate will decide,” Bosire said.

Ruto seems to have endorsed Nyambati who now enjoys an upper hand among Kenya Kwanza candidates. Early attempts to prevail upon ANC candidate Joseph Kiangoi to step down in favour of Nyambati failed.

Nyambati says it is only UDA that can kick out ODM from the county. “UDA candidates are doing well. No doubt we might even clinch all elective seats in the county. We have campaigned for our presidential candidate down to the grassroots and the effect can be felt,” he says. 

Nyambati and Bosire will have to share the spoils from Kitutu Masaba, a critical voting bloc in the county which has the largest number of voters of about 95,000 voters. The constituency has four gubernatorial candidates. The others are Okioma and Moseti. Bosire and Nyambati have faced each other previously at the constituency level.

North Mugirango has Nyaribo and Kiangoi while Borabu which is Matiangi’s home turf has Momanyi. West Mugirango, which is home to the current Deputy Governor James Gesami is a battleground given that almost all contenders have running mates from the constituency.

Prof Marwanga has been campaigning on the platform of transforming the education systems. “The county lacks a university. Even the current technical institutions which offer vocational training are wanting in terms of curriculum and the manner they are run. I will prioritise the education docket besides others like health and the fight against corruption,” Prof Marwanga says.

Okioma and Kiangoi agree that agriculture will be a priority should they clinch the seat while Momanyi and Marwanga want to improve education standards. “We have to start on empowering our families to educate our children. Education remains the strongest pillar in the development of our society,” says Okioma.​

Similar promises have been made by Osiemo, a former NEPAD boss, who says the county’s resources base has not been fully utilised.

[email protected]