Raila's headache as aspirants for governor seat jostle for ODM nod

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga addressing wanainchi in Kamukunji Grounds Kibera, Nairobi [Govedi Asutsa, Standard]

Rivalry in the race for the governor’s seat in Nyanza and Western is giving ODM leader Raila Odinga a headache.

Raila faces a tough balancing act in a region where his party enjoys widespread support.

Most of the aspirants are fighting for the ODM ticket, which they believe will give them an edge over their rivals.

There are fears there could be a backlash should Orange House repeat the 2013 and 2017 mistakes in the nominations, which were marred by claims of underhand deals.

According to the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission calendar, nominations start next month up to May 26.

In the past few months, Raila and ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna have assured that the party will hold free and fair primaries.

The party will have to balance between loyalty and the aspirants’ popularity in replacing governors James Ongwae (Kisii), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), James Awiti (Homa Bay), Migori’s Okoth Obado, Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia). ODM has also cast its eyes on succeeding Trans Nzoia governor Patrick Khaemba of Ford Kenya.

Kisumu’s Anyang’ Nyong’o and his Nyamira counterpart Amos Nyaribo are serving their first term. Vihiga’s Wilberforce Ottichilo, Bungoma’s Patrick Wangamati (Ford-K) are also expected to seek re-election.

Nyaribo is an ANC member but was elected alongside the late Governor John Nyagarama of ODM in 2013 and 2017. His deputy James Gesami is an ODM member.

In Nyamira, party National Treasurer Timothy Bosire is among those interested in the party ticket. “It is a democratic process. Let more people join us. ODM is the party of choice.”

Nyong’o is likely to face off with Senator Fred Outa, Prof Gordon Wayumba and East African Community CAS Ken Obura.

In Kisii, Janet Ongera (Woman Rep), Simba Arati (Dagoreti North MP), Senator Sam Ongeri and Roads CAS Chris Obure have declared their interest for the party ticket.

Deputy Governor Joash Maangi, who has abandoned his support for Deputy President William Ruto for Raila, is also interested in the seat.

Ongwae says he’ll support an ODM candidate. “It is their democratic right to seek any elective seat. However, we must be careful and vote for a leader who will unite the community and ensure that he continues with the legacy I have left.”

In Homa Bay, aspirants include ODM chairman John Mbadi, Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga, former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero and former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga.

The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers Secretary-General Akello Misori, Homa Bay Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata and the County Secretary Isaiah Ogwe also feature in the list.

Kidero insists that the delegates’ system is the best. “There are leaders who are never in touch with the party structures. Those who ignored and treated party structures and grassroots with disdain are now running around like headless chicken.”

In Siaya, Senator James Orengo, former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, county assembly Speaker Elisha Okode as well as former Police Spokesman Charles Owino hope to get the party’s nod. 

“The worst thing that can happen in this county is to have a governor who is not an ODM member. Let’s make Raila’s work easy,” Orengo said over the weekend.

The situation is replicated in Migori where Raila’s allies including Woman Rep Pamela Odhiambo, Senator Ochillo Ayacko, former MP John Pesa, Robert Okong’o, former Cabinet minister Dalmas Otieno and former Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga are rivaling to replace Obado.

A bruising battle is also expected in Busia and Kakamega. Ojaamong’s deputy Moses Mulomi, Senator Amos Wako, former Cabinet minister Paul Otuoma and Woman Rep Florence Mutua want the county’s top job.

Recently, some MCAs and elders endorsed Wako’s quest.

In Kakamega, Oparanya’s second in command Philip Kutima, Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito and Ketraco Managing Director Fernandes Barasa are in the race.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula’s recent decamping to the Azimio la Umoja could complicate things further for he is also nursing ambitions for the seat.

Savula, who was elected through ANC, hosted Raila on Monday and exuded confidence that he will win.