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Oburu Oginga battles ageism as race for Siaya Senate seat takes shape

 East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Oburu Oginga. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

At 78 years old, East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Oburu Oginga is the oldest aspirant in the race to replace Siaya Senator James Orengo who is vying for governorship.

Dr Oburu is facing six opponents who believe the seat should be taken by a younger leader.

With political temperatures rising as the polls draw closer, the age factor has become a critical issue in the campaigns.

Oburu's opponents have turned it into a campaign tool while Oburu maintains his experience is what is needed in the Senate.

The parties that have nominated candidates to the contest have gone all out to portray their candidates as either being old and mature for the seat or young enough to bring a revolution and inject fresh blood into the leadership of Siaya County.

By fronting Raila Odinga's elder brother, a former MP and finance assistant minister with decades of experience in public service, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has sought to portray him as a mature and experienced leader who is capable of uniting leaders.

Oburu is hoping to be an elected leader again after being nominated twice, in 2013 and 2017.

In 2013, he was nominated as an MP after he was disqualified from contesting the Siaya governorship race by ODM's elections board.

In 2017, Oburu was nominated as EALA MP. He was nominated after he lost in party primaries to Dr Gideon Ochanda in the race to clinch the ODM ticket for Bondo parliamentary seat.

Oburu says he has a wealth of experience and wisdom to represent the people of Siaya in the Senate.

His candidature has split the opinion of locals with some claiming that he should pass the leadership baton to the next generation. Others insist that his experience and knowledge in policy-making are vital resources required in the Senate.

Oburu has cautioned political opponents against writing him off simply because he is "too old".

To him, age is just a number.

In the build-up to the August 9 polls, Oburu has been forced to defend his age as well as 'Odingaism' that have dominated the Siaya Senate race.

"We have seen older leaders who have successfully steered their nations to prosperity," said Oburu, adding that the Senate needs a mixture of young and old leaders.

 East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Oburu Oginga. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

He claimed that when he served as Bondo MP, he solicited resources to ensure that Bondo constituency was developed since there was no Constituency Development Fund (CDF) at the time.

"This is what I would want to do as a senator by ensuring that Siaya County gets additional resources outside the Exchequer," he said.

Unlike in 2017 when there were only two candidates in the seat, the current race has attracted seven candidates.

All his opponents have tailored their messaging with a focus on generational change.

His opponents include Tony Yogo (independent), James Wamban (Movement for Democracy and Growth), Oscar Omondi (DAP-K), Julius Okinda (Independent) and Ismael Atudo (independent).

Key agenda

Mr Yogo, 40, whose key agenda is to disrupt the status quo by agitating for new leadership in Siaya County, has promised to keep the devolved unit in check.

"Siaya needs a vibrant and energetic senator who will not only work hand in hand with the County Executive but will also not shy away from putting it to task on serious issues, especially on oversight," said Mr Yogo.

Wamban is hoping to give his party another seat by clinching the Senate seat.

He is another youthful candidate hopeful that the push for a generational change will work in his favour.

Wamban, a former president of the Kenya Universities Student Organisation (Kuso), said his party is lobbying for fish, rice, cotton and sugar development funds for Nyanza.

"It is the policy of MDG to develop our region economically and I will therefore push for the establishment of a financial institution for the entire Nyanza region," said Wamban.

The candidates have been keen to realign their messaging and present themselves as the best bet for the county.

 Senator James Orengo with East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) MP Oburu Oginga in Gem, Siaya County. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Mr Omondi, for instance, has been reaching out to the youth, asking them to support "one of their own" for the job.

"As a young man, I understand the challenges facing the youth in Siaya and will therefore offer better solutions," he said during a recent rally.

Political pundits argue that Oburu's chances of clinching the seat could be high because Mr Orengo is not seeking another term, and because of ODM's popularity in Siaya County.

For 53-year-old Okinda, his agenda is to ensure equitable distribution of opportunities for the people of Siaya as enshrined in the Constitution.

Okinda, who fell out with ODM following what he termed as shambolic nominations, slammed the six-piece voting pattern, saying it is a dictatorship.

"Oburu is to blame for underdevelopment in Siaya after he influenced the election of the outgoing governor Cornel Rasanga," said Okinda.

ODM politicians led by Alego-Usonga MP Samuel Atandi have been selling Oburu as a mature and reliable leader.

"With his experience and a father figure to the county politicians, Oburu is in a position to call these other leaders for meetings," argued Atandi.

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