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Six aspirants in race to succeed Ojaamong leave nothing to chance

 

Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong speaks at a past event [Ignatius Odanga, Standard]

The race for the Busia governor seat has intensified, with battle lines drawn ahead of party primaries.

The contest promises to be between aspirants allied to Azimio la Umoja and the Kenya Kwanza alliance.

Already, five aspirants have declared interest to be governor, including former minister Paul Otuoma who narrowly lost to outgoing governor Sospeter Ojaamong’ in 2017 after running as an independent candidate.

Otuoma, who served as Funyula MP, faces the tough task of clinching the ODM ticket which eluded him in last election.

Governor Ojaamong garnered 92,358 votes against Otuoma’s 63,752 votes to win ODM nominations held in April 2017.

Come the elections, the former lawmaker gave Ojaamong a run for his money, garnering 125,905 votes while the governor won the seat with 135,153 votes.

There were concerns that the 2017 ODM primaries were chaotic, leading to doubts as to whether the outcome was credible.

Orange ticket

Busia Woman Rep Florence Mutua and Busia Deputy Governor Moses Mulomi have also declared interest in the county top job and will be battling it out for the Orange party ticket.

Mutua is serving her second term as the county’s Woman Rep. She has been meeting with women and youths to strategise. 

She has urged voters to give her a chance to serve despite her critics downplaying chances of residents electing a woman governor.

Others eyeing the seat are Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi (ANC) and former Agricultural Finance Corporation Managing Director Lucas Meso. There’s also Michael Oloo. 

Asked whether he could opt to run as an independent candidate again in case he fails to clinch the party ticket, Otuoma told The Standard he envisage a free and fair party nomination. 

“We are expecting political hygiene in the party so that people can be allowed to elect candidates of their choice unlike in the past,” said Otuoma.

He hinted at reaching out to the outgoing governor to seek his backing. “In a county like Busia which has two dominant tribes, you must embrace true inclusivity. I will convince Ojaamong to support my quest and reach out to everyone else,” he said.

Otuoma says he will consult widely before settling on a running mate.

Last week, Budalang’i MP Raphael Wanjala urged ODM leader Raila Odinga not to endorse any aspirant in the governor race.

The lawmaker said party members should be allowed to pick a popular flag bearer during the ODM party nominations.

“ODM governorship aspirants will have to be subjected to free and fair primaries and the best candidate will get the ticket,” said Wanjala.

Ojaamong had earlier indicated he will pass the mantle to someone he believes can steer the county to prosperity as well as maintain harmony among tribes in the county.

Unity of the people

The governor says he values unity of the people. “Busia, being a cosmopolitan town, needs someone who can bring all the communities together as I have done. That is why we have had a peaceful county,” said Ojaamong. 

The governor, who is an ally of Raila, is believed to be torn between supporting Mutua, Mulomi and Bunyasi, all of who are his allies.

He is the perceived Teso kingpin and those seeking to replace him have to contend with the fact that he could rally the more than 100,000 registered Teso voters to back his preferred candidate.

But Otuoma said politics is about interests “and therefore I will reach out to Ojaamong as a resident of Busia and ask him to back me.”

At a recent public function in Nambale, Bunyasi asked Ojaamong not to openly endorse his successor.

Bunyasi is keen on taking over the reins and has been galvanising support across the county. 

“I would not wish to see the governor endorse anybody. Let him remain neutral and allow us to fight it out,” said Bunyasi.

Bunyasi argues that residents want a leader who can steer development. “I have no doubt that I fit the bill,” he says.

Meso has been busy meeting elders and supporters at his home in Butula to get their blessings.

The former civil servant could not be reached for a comment but his allies say he could vie on the Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) ticket.

Good chances

Mulomi believes he stands a good chance to succeed his boss. “I am the second in command. I have no doubt that I will capture the top seat.”

Busia Senator Amos Wako said he was consulting various stakeholders before making a decision. 

“I was approached by more than half of members of the Busia County Assembly, elders, religious leaders, the youth and women. They want me to contest. I am in the process of considering their call and will announce the way forward soon,” he told The Standard.

However, Wako said if he is to vie for the governor’s position, he will fly the ODM flag, a party under which he has served as Busia County senator for two terms.

Yesterday, Ojaamong said he believes the right man or woman will succeed him.

“I will support whoever wins the primaries. We trust that the will of the people will carry the day,” Ojaamong told The Standard.

He said it would be important for the aspirants to face off in a competitive nomination rather than through consensus.

There have been proposals that ODM should use consensus to pick flag bearers to avoid post-nominations acrimony akin to what happened in 2017.