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Migori County Governor Zachary Okoth Obado and his wife Helen Obado. [Caleb King'wara/Standard]
Zachary Okoth Obado, the man whose name has featured in the kidnap and subsequent killing of a 26-year-old university student, powered his way to big league politics in 2013.

The governor's name cropped up in the saga because his Personal Assistant, Michael Oyamo, is being held by the police investigating the incident.

His Press spokesman Nicholas Anyuor has, however, warned against linking the governor to the killing, saying he had nothing to do with it.

Still, the sugarcane farmer and former high school teacher is no stranger to controversy. And when push comes to shove, Obado's political career is proof enough that he does not easily bend.

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Obado was elected the first governor of Migori against all odds, after defecting from the most powerful party in the region - Orange  Democratic Movement Party (ODM).

Contesting on a small known People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he went on to trounce ODM's candidate Oyugi Akong'o, even after the High Court ordered a recount.

Obado soldiered on against an onslaught from ODM ward representatives and party officials who tried to impeach him at every available opportunity.

After failing to have his election annulled through the High Court, Obado’s opponents tried unsuccessfully to oust him using political machinations and other legal means, but failed.

Just before last year's elections, Obado returned to ODM and was received by party leader Raila  Odinga at a public rally, only to walk into a storm as local party leaders questioned his loyalty.

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Obado soldiered on as the hostility rose. A new office he had built for ODM was rejected by local party officials who opted to operate from an old block.

In the 2017 elections, Obado faced one of his most formidable opponents, former Energy Minister Ochillo Ayacko, who gave him a run for his money in a campaign marred by scenes of violence that saw the two summoned to Nairobi by the ODM disciplinary committee.

A few weeks to the 2017 elections, violence broke out at Migori’s Posta grounds, leaving many people injured after supporters clashed. Among those injured were bodyguards of senior ODM leaders. Ayacko and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed quickly blamed Obado for the violence, but the governor denied any involvement.

The Party’s disciplinary committee fined Obado Sh2 million for the violence, saying it had established that it was his supporters who stormed the meeting.

Despite the shaky relationship with ODM leadership, a determined Obado went ahead to win the chaotic party primaries, forcing Ayacko to decamp and contest against him as an independent candidate.

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Ayacko lost to Obado in the main election, filed a petition in High Court and lost that too. He went to the Court of Appeal, which threw out the case.

Obado has once again broken ranks with ODM after he rejected the direct nomination of Ayacko as the party’s candidate for the Migori Senator by-election slated for next month.

Friends and foes concede that Obado is a political schemer with widespread grassroots support, having been a farmer and teacher for many years.

He taught at Rapogi High School, where he is also an alumni. He graduated from Kenyatta University with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Masters of Strategic Management from the same institution.

Obado burst into the limelight when he was elected director of the then Kenya Sugar Board, representing the Awendo zone. He was later elected the board's chair and went on to establish powerful political connections.

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