Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o is led out of Posta Grounds in Migori town after violence broke out between supporters of Governor Okoth Obado and his rival Ochillo Ayacko. [Photo: Denish Ochieng, Standard]
The hour of reckoning is nigh for hundreds of aspirants seeking elective positions on Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party tickets as the dreaded primaries kick off next week.
In the party’s strongholds of Nyanza, Western, Coast and Nairobi, the looming nominations are causing jitters as the party grapples with logistical and security nightmares. For aspirants in these areas, winning the party’s ticket is as good as winning the elections.
Thus, many hopefuls are leaving nothing to chance, spending sleepless nights and their savings to the last coin to secure the coveted papers, hence putting one leg into Parliament, county governments or the senate.
The party’s traditional hot spots are already bubbling with tension, accusations and counter-accusations among rivals. In Migori, Kisumu, Siaya and Homa Bay counties, aspirants have clashed over composition of the county election boards.
The party’s biggest headache will be in these five counties, where political heavyweights are fighting each other. “Stakes are very high ahead of the nominations which in the ODM strongholds are even bigger than the General Election itself. We are likely to see pockets of violence and protests, but the party has the capacity to handle the aftermath,” said an Orange house operative.
The party will use the secret ballot system of voting and only registered ODM members will participate in the primaries.
In Siaya, focus will be on Governor Cornel Rasanga as he fights for the party’s ticket ahead of the August 8 polls. He is fighting it out with Rarieda MP and Chairman of the powerful parliamentary Public Accounts Committee Nicholas Gumbo, his 2013 challenger William Oduol and former PS Carey Orege.
Rasanga has the support of Nominated MP Oburu Oginga and Ugunja’s Opiyo Wandayi and is fighting off an alliance between Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo and Gumbo. Midiwo, himself facing a challenge from his nemesis Elisha AKuba Odhiambo, has vowed to ensure Gumbo becomes the new governor.
The race for the county top seat could get murkier should Senator James Orengo, who has kept everyone guessing on his political moves, decide to take sides. The battle for the Bondo parliamentary seat will form another battleground as Oburu eyes the sat he held for close to two deacdes, currently held by Dr Gideon Ochanda. The two have been exchanging bitter words over the impending primaries, with Ochanda claiming there are plans to rig the polls in favour of Oburu. “There will be trouble if the nominations are rigged. I know they may try to lock me out through rigging, but I want tell them that will be the worst mistake they ever make in their lives,” Ochanda said.
Stakes are high in Bondo, with Raila saying he will not support any of the aspirants, not even his older brother. “Everyone is on his or her own. Let the best candidate win,” Raila said in Bondo on Wednesday.
Oburu held the seat for 19 years, winning it for the first time in 1994 following the death of his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. In 2013, he contested the governor’s seat but he was disqualified alongside Mr Oduol following chaotic primaries.
In Kisumu, Governor Jack Ranguma is fighting a bruising battle to retain his seat. He is facing a crowded field of wealthy and aggressive opponents including Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o, businessman Hezron McObewa, Geospatial Scientist Gordon Wayumba and architect Chris Ondiek. Although an Infotrack Poll released on Friday gave him an approval rating of 58.7 per cent, the governor is taking nothing for granted. The same poll put Prof Nyongo’s chances at a distant 8.7 per cent and Dr Mc’Obewa at 6.8.
Police in Kisumu say they are on high alert. “Tension is rising, but we want to warn the aspirants that anyone found fanning violence and propagating hate speech will face the full force of the law,” says Nyanza regional police boss Willy Lugusa.
The county’s constituencies, especially those in the town, have equally attracted fierce rivalry. Kisumu Central MP Ken Obura is facing stiff competition from former Kisumu Mayor Sam Okelo, former TNA Secretary General Onyango Oloo and businessman Richard Ogendo. The party holds nominations here on April 24. Shakeel Shabir, the Kisumu East MP, will be facing off with forensic accountant Calvin Oselu Obondo, former Kenya Sugar Board Director Nicholas Oricho, former area MP Gor Sunguh and businessmen Job Ndege and John Anditi.
Migori and Homa Bay counties are also on police radar, following sporadic violence that has left many people injured in the past few weeks. Last week, supporters of Governor Okoth Obado and rival Ochillo Ayacko clashed where several people, including Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s bodyguard, were injured.