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They are over 70 years, they are in charge and they are here to stay

By Biketi Kikechi | Jan 16th 2022 | 6 min read

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) and his brother Oburu Odinga and other worshipers at St.Stephens ACK Parish in Kisumu on February 17, 2019. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

A number of aspirants say age should not be a barrier in politics and they will be serious contenders in this year’s General Election.

Apart from ODM leader Raila Odinga, 77, who is ageing like fine wine and is again the main protagonist in the presidential race, his brother Oburu Oginga, 78, is also gunning for the Siaya Senatorial seat.

Raila has put in a good word for Oburu, asking voters in Siaya to elect him because of the service he has delivered to them. Last month, Raila told worshippers in Bondo to back Oburu, saying it was a shame that he was begging for votes, yet he had served them and the country with honour in several capacities.

He told them that Oburu, who is an MP in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), deserves to serve in the Senate because of his experience. Some opponents have criticised Oburu’s candidature and asked him to quit politics because of his age. Oburu unsuccessfully sought the ODM party ticket for the Siaya gubernatorial seat in 2017 but lost to the outgoing governor Cornel Rasanga.

Oburu says he is coming back home to run for Senator and told off those claiming that he is too old and should leave politics to younger leaders.

Tried and tested

“Senate needs a wise mature leader who can protect the interests of the electorate,” says Oburu.

Interestingly, if Oburu is elected, he will have the company of 71-year-old Siaya Senator James Orengo should he also win the Siaya County gubernatorial race.

Born in 1951, the senator is still an articulate and energetic debater in parliament now seeking to succeed Rasanga who has served two terms. Exuding confidence, Orengo says: “Politics is tricky because there is defeat, victory and all manner of things. You must be tried and tested.”

He will be contesting against former Kenya Police spokesman Charles Owino among other candidates who have expressed interest in the seat. In the neighbouring Kisumu County, Professor Anyang Nyong’o 76, will be seeking to retain his seat because of the development projects he has undertaken in the lakeside region. Kisumu Senator Fred Outa has been one of his greatest critics saying he will push for the governor’s removal.

“We are in talks with other like-minded leaders in our political course. By January, white smoke will be seen. A candidate shall be known,” he said last year.

Nyong’o’s political career started in 1992 when he was among the young Turks who were elected to parliament on a Ford Kenya ticket and thereafter joined different parties among the Social Democratic Party, Narc and ODM. He was the first MP for Kisumu Rural Constituency and then also served as Kisumu Senator before vying for the gubernatorial seat in 2017.

Still in the Nyanza region, two other senior citizens Prof Sam Ongeri and Dr Chris Obure will be battling it out to succeed James Ongwae as the governor of Kisii County. Prof Ongeri, 83, says age is just but a number and he is still sharp enough to deliver for the people of Kisii as their governor.

His competitors among them deputy governor Joash Maangi however disagree, telling the veteran politician that he is too old and should quit politics.

Kisii Senator Prof Sam Ongeri addresses his supporters at St Vincent Hotel in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Time for youth

Maangi says it is time for a young leader to take over from governor Ongwae who will retire this year after successfully serving two terms.

“It is time for a young leader to take over the county’s leadership,” says Maangi.

Others who have expressed interest in the seat include Woman Representative Janet Ongera, Dagoreti MP Simba Arati, former assistant minister Omingo Magara, Manson Oyongo, Rachel Otundo, Alfred Akunga, Bishop Josiah Onyancha and Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu who is also a former long-serving District Commissioner.

In 2017, Ongeri dismissed opponents who repeatedly asked him to abandon his Kisii senatorial bid because he was too old and went on to win the seat on an ODM ticket.

Prof Ongeri said: “I am as fit as a fiddle, ready to serve the Omogusii as the Kisii Senator.”

Obure’s entry into the race has further complicated the race, especially for longtime rival Ongeri in Kisii supremacy wars. The 78-year-old last month declared his bid for the Kisii governor’s seat, raising the number of hopefuls to nine. He unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2017 on a jubilee ticket after decamping from ODM and emerged second to governor James Ongwae.

Obure, a long-serving minister who is currently the Transport and Infrastructure Chief Administrative Secretary, says he is entitled to run for the seat just like any other candidate and his age should therefore not be a factor.

“The age factor is an advantage which I will use to defeat my rivals because it shows that I have the required experience for the job,” said Obure.

It was reported last month that Obure candidature was endorsed by delegations from Bobasi, Kitutu Chache South, Kitutu Chache North, Bomachoge Borabu, and Bomachoge Chache. Last year, The Sunday Standard reported that Obure complained over what he described as propaganda on social media showing him dozing at public meetings.

“There was propaganda in social media prior to the 2017 elections in which some people could take a photo of the late Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe dozing in some meetings and liken it to me. As you can see, I am as fit as a fiddle,” he said.

Another over 70-year old who has promised to give younger candidates a run for their money is former Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere aka ‘Zipapa’ who is gunning for the Kwale gubernatorial seat. The former long-serving former Cabinet minister says this time around his opponents will be surprised, promising a stiff competition.

“Tell those who are calling me huyu mzee (that old man), that we will meet on the podiums and see who is more sharp and agile than the others,” says Mwakwere.

He said those claiming that he has grey hair should pray for God to grant them long life so that they can learn that wisdom and experience that come with age.

Mwakwere, 76, was trounced by the late Boy Juma for senatorial race in 2013 and lost to Mvurya for the gubernatorial position in 2017.

He will face off with governor Salim Mvurya’s deputy Fatuma Achani, Lunga-Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, county speaker Sammy Ruwa, PS Hamadi Boga and several others are eyeing the seat.

Also fighting the old age tag, is Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, 70. Four years ago his wife told off the then Meru Governor Peter Munya to stop calling her husband old. While supporting his wife Pricilla Murungi’s sentiments, Kiraitu said former President Jomo Kenyatta produced children at the age of 72.

Former Cabinet Minister David Musila, 76, is also seeking to unseat Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, who is expected to turn 70 in January next year.

Last year, he said he had sought divine intervention to defeat Ngilu and asked religious leaders in his journey to this year’s elections.

In Busia Senator Amos Wako 75 is expected to defend his senatorial seat.

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