Butere MP Andrew Toboso. He is seeking the ODM ticket for his re-election. [Photo:Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]
Party ticket as well as clanism are some of the factors that could determine the outcome of the race for the Butere parliamentary seat.
Incumbent Andrew Toboso faces stiff competition from Marama West Ward Representative Habil Nanjendo, Tanzania-based cleric Ibrahim Mukolwe, businessmen Julius Matendechere, Tindi Mwale and Fred Aswani.
However, Mr Nanjendo and Mr Mwale have been touted as Toboso’s closest challengers going by latest opinion polls conducted by two universities and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the area.
Although Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who served two terms as Butere MP, has vowed to steer clear of area politics, there are evident attempts by the aspirants to identify with him to gain political mileage.
Both Toboso and Nanjendo are close allies of Mr Oparanya, who is also the ODM deputy party leader.
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Supporters of the two believe the governor could easily influence the outcome of the party primaries. The winner could go all the way to bag the parliamentary seat since the Orange party commands a big following in Butere.
The sitting MP argues that he has done a lot in almost all key sectors particularly education, roads and health.
“We put in place proper structures that have guided us to achieve almost all the initiatives we started for the benefit of our people, including infrastructural development in schools and giving scholarships to bright students from poor backgrounds,” said Toboso.
Marama Central ward has so far been allocated Sh62 million, Marama North Sh34 million, Marama South Sh38 million, Marama West Sh42 million and Marenyo/Shianda ward Sh56 million for infrastructural development in local schools.
Toboso disclosed that Sh30 million was spent on developing health centres including Shitsitswi, Imanga, Shinamwenyuli, Mabole, Shibembe, Shibimbi and Shasaba.
“We have also spent another Sh94.4 million on rehabilitating at least five roads and Sh2.5 million on protecting springs and tree planting,” he said, adding, “My record speaks for itself and I have no doubt the people will give me overwhelming support.”
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Nonetheless, poll findings placed Toboso in a tight spot and could come as a shocker to him.
Research by the University of Nairobi put Mwale (Amani National Congress party) ahead of the rest at 42 per cent followed closely by Nanjendo (ODM) at 39 per cent and Mukolwe at 18 per cent. Toboso finished a distant fourth at 16 per cent.
A poll by Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology ranked Mwale at 61 per cent, Nanjendo at 38 per cent, Mukolwe at 22 per cent and Toboso at 18 per cent.
The NIS placed Nanjendo ahead of the pack at 62 per cent, with Mwale coming second at 38 per cent, Mukolwe third at 18 per cent and Toboso fourth again at 16 per cent.
Toboso’s supporters have since dismissed the opinion polls, terming them biased and untruthful. It is believed that Oparanya sanctioned the research to ascertain how the electorate viewed the parliamentary hopefuls ahead of the August 8 polls.
In 2013, Toboso beat former Cabinet Minister Amukoa Anangwe easily after garnering 20,443 votes, representing 49.8 per cent of the total votes cast in the area, against Anangwe’s 12,306 votes, which translated to 30 per cent.
Matendechere managed 3,638 votes and will be trying his luck again to unseat Toboso.
At least seven candidates will be fighting it out to get a share of Butere’s 62,000 votes, up from 40,000 in the last elections.
Other than loyalty to ODM and Oparanya, the fact that Butere South has produced all the MPs in the area since independence could excite the mood for change this time round.
The late Martin Shikuku served between 1963 and 1974 and was re-elected in 1979 to 1983. He captured the seat again in 1992.
Other former MPs were Richard Litunya, Jesse Opembe, JA Okwara, Anangwe, Oparanya (2002-2007) and now Toboso who is seeking to defend the seat.
Nanjendo said the leadership mantle must be rotational.
“I’m ready to take Butere to the next level in terms of development and the people have shown a lot of faith in my style of leadership,” he argued.
The MCA faulted Toboso, saying the legislator had been discriminatory in allocating the Constituency Development Fund.
“He has done it is a skewed manner, causing some areas to look as if they are marginalised,” Nanjendo claimed. “We shall focus on education, agriculture, health, water and sanitation, and job creation for our youth if I am elected MP.”
Mungungune, Emajina, Iranda and Bululwe are some of the health centres Nanjendo helped to establish; he believes much more needs to be done to make health services more accessible and affordable.
There are however jitters about the ODM nominations scheduled for April 15.
Nanjendo is touted as the one likely to capture the ODM ticket but the Toboso camp has vowed to ensure that the MP wins the nomination by hook or crook.
Toboso believes his opponent is not as strong as he wants people to think and that his game could well end at the nominations.
In response, Nanjendo said, “We are aware of plans to cause mayhem during the party nominations and have my victory stolen, but we are on the look-out.”
In the event that Nanjendo alias Korokoro is beaten by Toboso, then the seat could be Mwale’s to win.
“People will cast a protest vote in favour of the ANC candidate in case there is a foul play during the nominations,” said constituents interviewed by The Standard.
The incumbent and Mwale are wealthy and could use their financial muscle to push their way through. However, it is unlikely that money will be a major factor in deciding who wins the race.
Another foreseeable hurdle for Toboso could be the fact that he is related to Mukolwe and two other aspirants eyeing the seat. This rivalry between relatives could hurt his chances.