Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura is received by residents of Migosi in Kisumu during his campaigns. [Collins Oduor, Standard]
Kisumu Central constituency is the epicentre of Nyanza politics.
It is one of the two constituencies that came into being with the death of Kisumu Town constituency, once represented by Kenya’s first woman MP Grace Onyango, the late Dr John Robert Ouko and the late Job Omino.
Kisumu Central is also the industrial hub of Kisumu County and hosts the county headquarters. It is multicultural and the political hotbed where only the fittest survive.
This is why all eyes are on the seat as four candidates seek to topple Ken Obura. It is a packed race with some of the big names in politics from the region spending millions of cash ahead of the ODM nominations.
Those in the race include former TNA party Secretary General Onyango Oloo, who recently defected from Jubilee, former Kisumu Mayor Sam Okelo, former Kisumu Town West MP Ken Nyagudi and businessman Richard Ogendo.
Obura has defied claims of his alleged association with the Jubilee government and is defending his seat on an ODM ticket. He says he will be riding on his development record to retain his seat.
“My opponents have been spreading malicious rumours that I have links with Jubilee. I want to assure them that I am in ODM to stay,” he said.
Like other constituencies that surrounds Kisumu, the Central seat will not be easily won on fame and influence of money power. It will be about party loyalty, clan or factional interests.
Marketed as the ‘cultural melting pot,’ many factors will dictate its politics, including the ‘indigenous’ and ‘non-indigenous’ tags.
Going by history, the voting patterns of the constituency have always favoured non-indigenous people, thus re-affirming how the constituency has risen above the clan, tribal or racial divisions.
In the last General Election, the locals defied stereotype and cultural odds and elected Obura as their legislator.
Obura, who hails from Kano in Nyando sub-county, became the first MP to be elected in the Central seat, which was created in the fresh IEBC election boundary review done before the 2013 polls.
The boundaries review in Nyanza saw Kisumu Central hived off from East and West constituencies.
So in the new delineation of the boundaries, part of the voting population in the twin constituencies were pushed to form the Kisumu Central constituency.
Tuesday, Central constituency politics is gaining momentum with most inhabitants rooting for someone who will ensure cross-cultural unity or homogeneity, without bias to certain groups or ethnic races.
It is here in Central where 42 ethnic groups reside. Some like Asians have settled here for business, others for jobs and some for purposes of education and religious services among others.
Talk about investors in Kisumu and the place they are found is Kisumu Central, where they have put up big businesses in the hotel, real estate, and commerce and tourism sectors.
Most businesses in town are owned and controlled by the Asian community who moved and settled in here after they were chased away from Uganda by the despotic rule of former President Idi Amin.
Tuesday, the Asians are the owners of big shopping malls and industries in the town.
The minority community controls trade, from bakery, steel, automobile, construction, sugar, tiles and transport sector and have employed many people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds.
This willingness to embrace diversity is what makes Kisumu Central unique as compared to the rest.
With the Orange party nominations scheduled for April 13, most residents are looking forward to a good public relations MP.
Milton Obote, a member non-indigenous caucus in the Constituency, says they are looking forward to an MP who will unite all people.
Mr Obote said the people want leaders who can preach peace and development to ensure sustainable peace.
“We want whoever will bring both the Asian, local business and smallholder traders on board and woo more investors back in the town,” says Obote.
Obura tried to maintain cross-cultural unity and peace.
But it took the quick intervention of Raila and county authorities to plead with the investors to stay put because some of the unruly behaviour could have been actions of criminals.
It would be interesting to see how aspirants will win the confidence of voters given that political loyalty and brinkmanship will also influence the polls.
Oloo was welcomed back by Raila who pleaded with the electorate not to cast him as a lost sheep.
The animal analogy was used to express the theory that in politics there is no permanent enemy but only permanent interests.
He has been running around campaigning to edge out Obura, who is also working hard to reclaim the seat, claiming that he had initiated a number of projects.
They include putting up a new Sh68 million Ken Obura Secondary School in Ezra Gumbe estate and also giving thousands of bright and needy students’ bursaries.
Analyst foresee a tight race between Obura, Oloo and Ogendo who are arguably spending sleepless nights campaigning.
Raila has a lot of interest in Central and those close to his ranks will have an upper edge.
Although Okello also joined the fray to prove his political might, he is yet to be felt strongly even as he makes convincing points that he has a vast network of investors to woo to the town.
But the decision will lie with the voters as he runs round to cite some of the successful projects done during his mayoral stint.
Ouda, while blending with wananchi, may have to work hard to convince them why he is best suited to deliver.
Okello says he wants to win the seat to enable him continue with the development projects he initiated when he was the mayor.
He wants to create employment for the youth and create a conducive environment for new investments.