Three hopefuls seek to succeed Ochillo Ayacko in Senate race

The candidates seeking to succeed Ochillo Ayacko.

The exit of Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko, who has now trained his sights on the governor’s seat, has paved the way for three youthful candidates who will be seeking to rebound after past election defeats.

ODM candidate Eddy Oketch, 30, who announced his entry into the political scene in the 2017 General Election and in a 2018 by-election, will be hoping to make amends in the August 9 elections following his two previous defeats.

The race has also attracted Jubilee candidate Sophie Dhibira, 40, who settled on the Senate race after failing to secure a ticket to vie for the Woman Representative position.

Billy Mijungu, 40, an independent candidate, hopes his luck will hold on August 9 after his attempt to win the seat in 2017 flopped.

The three candidates believe they have what it takes to represent the devolved unit at the Senate and have intensified their campaigns as elections draw closer.

Some of the factors expected to define how the race will pan out include party strength, the candidates’ goals and charisma, a proof of a development track record.

After all, the three novice politicians claim to be development-oriented leaders who understand the needs of Migori people.

Mr Ayacko, who won the seat in the 2018 by-election, leaves big shoes to be filled due to his long experience in politics.

Mr Oketch surprised many in 2017 when he staged a strong campaign against ODM candidate Ben Oluoch, who won the seat before passing away one year later.

In the ensuing mini-poll, Mr Oketch managed a strong showing against Mr Ayacko on a ticket of little-known Federal Party but he still came up short, garnering 60,555 votes against Ayacko’s 85,234 votes.

Four other candidates on the ballot performed dismally. Dickson Ogola had 654 votes, Jobando Osieko got 555 votes, Samwel Otieno had 457 votes, while Solomon Hodo managed 285 votes.

For next month’s elections, Mr Oketch is hoping to sweep to victory on the back of ODM’s popularity, and he has been campaigning closely alongside other party stalwarts in the county.

Unlike the 2017 polls and 2018 by-election where he described himself as an underdog, the tide turned after he was handed the ODM ticket and is now considered a frontrunner in the race.

Mr Oketch joined politics in 2016 fresh from college where he had just finished his master’s in global affairs. “At that time, I was running a youth business incubator where we were training young people how to run businesses successfully. I resigned from my company around July 2016 to join politics,” he said.

He participated in ODM primaries but was floored, leading him to vie as an independent candidate.

In the 2017 race he found himself facing off against prominent and seasoned politicians. They included former Suna MP Owino Likowa, former Migori Speaker Gordon Ogolla, Knut Secretary Charles Katego, veteran journalist Oluoch, Ogola Ogola and Mr Hodo.

Youthful voters

But he praised youthful voters for mobilising and backing his bid against his more experienced competitors who were not averse to mud-slinging.

“I remember that the energy the young people brought made it look more of entertainment than the typical bravado we see with seasoned politicians,” Mr Oketch told The Standard.

The candidate said he was not just dangling the youth card in the race, but has focused on improving oversight in the devolved unit should he win. “Leadership is about adding value to people’s lives. I believe both my skills and experience will be important in the service of the people.”

Mr Mijungu, who took a political break after losing the 2017 elections for the Senate seat, said his fresh attempt was influenced by his vision for Migori residents to ensure resources are secured not only from the National Treasury but from other donors and development partners.

He said he has been reactivating his grassroots networks as he traverses the county to woo voters.

Mr Mijungu described the political alignments of 2017 as ‘tricky’ because both he and eventual winner, Governor Okoth Obado, hail from Uriri constituency. He said clannism did not work in his favour after the people opted to back Mr Obado.

“I am open to working with like-minded leaders since Migori is a cosmopolitan county. I will aspire to unite all communities,” he said.

Mr Mijungu is a graduate of Bachelors of Business Studies from Charles Stuart University in Australia. He also has a Master’s of Business Administration from University of Wales at Cardiff in England.

He said that as a public policy consultant, he will institutionalise resource mobilisation in counties and regions instead of leaving governors to do so individually. “Politics and policy go hand-in-hand and by institutionalising resource mobilising, we will have a common approach in getting resources. That will be my main agenda once elected.”

Mr Mijungu said he would be keen to boost quality education and health, good transport infrastructure, and support agriculture through value addition to bolster food security.

When Ms Dhibirah’s Jubilee Party handed the Woman MP ticket to her former opponent Lillian Akugo after nominations, she knew she had to move fast or remain in the cold.

She said that managed to convince officials in the President Uhuru Kenyatta-led party to back her for the Senate seat.

Ms Dhibirah, who has worked for different media houses for two decades, said her decision was driven by her desire to serve the people of Migori.

Her entry into the race has stirred a contest between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition main partners- Jubilee and ODM - that will be angling for the lion’s share of seats in the county.