Battle lines have been drawn in Kisumu West with six candidates seeking to represent the constituency after August 8 elections.
Incumbent MP John Olago Aluoch, who survived the ODM tide in 2013 on a Ford Kenya party ticket, beating his then arch rival, Kisumu Woman representative ODM nominee Rozah Buyu, is staring at another bruising battle.
Mr Aluoch is facing stiff challenge from former Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman John Awiti of ODM and Mr Kennedy Onyango Obiero, who is contesting on an independent ticket.
Other candidates in the race include Geoffrey Omondi Dienya (Amani National Congress), Michael Okidi (Citizen’s Convention Party) and Joram Abayo (Jubilee Party).
NUMBER OF VOTES
Even though the latter three candidates have been dismissed as lacking the stamina to win the seat, they have vowed to “pull a surprise win”.
The constituency has more than 73,970 registered voters spread out across five wards.
Central Kisumu ward has the highest number of registered voters standing at 19,375, followed by Kisumu North ward with 15,781 and South West Kisumu Ward with 13,910 voters.
West Kisumu ward has 12,530 voters while North West Kisumu ward has 12,374 registered voters.
MARGIN OF VICTORY
All the three main contenders – Mr Aluoch, Mr Awiti and Mr Obiero – have exuded the confidence of winning the seat come August.
Mr Aluoch defied all odds amid the ODM wave in the constituency and the entire Nyanza region during the 2013 elections to win the seat by a margin of 1,597 votes.
He garnered 22,946 votes against Ms Buyu’s 21,349.
Israel Kodiaga, running on The Independent Party then, got a paltry 499 votes while Judith Kerubo of The National Alliance (TNA) managed 160 votes.
Mr Aluoch, in an interview, said he is banking on various development projects he initiated in the constituency for his re-election.
“Insecurity was the main challenge particularly in main trading centres like Maseno, Obambo and Otonglo. I have liaised with sub-county security committee to remedy this situation by ensuring more police posts are put up,” Mr Aluoch said.
He also cites the construction of Tieng’re Secondary School as a centre of excellence and improvement of school infrastructures all over the constituency, as well as coordinating with the national government and rural electrification authority that has made electricity accessible.
“We don’t have any mud-walled classrooms in the Constituency.”
“The construction of the constituency and new CDF headquarters at Ojola bringing services closer to the people is also one of my major projects,” the MP said.
But Mr Awiti argued that education structures have not been well revamped in the constituency.
The former St Mary’s Yala High School Principal said he intends to set up a teachers’ training college in the constituency as a replacement of Siriba Teachers College, which was elevated into a University.
“I am happy that Nasa has proposed free primary and secondary education, which is in line with my agenda to ensure all poor pupils and students access education,” Mr Awiti said.
He said he will also strive to improve the health sector. Mr Obiero also says he is keen on investing in tertiary training.
“I will ensure I work hand in hand with relevant authorities to improve manpower in Kisumu West. I will make sure we have at least a medical training college and other training institutions here,” he said.
He went on: “I will also ensure access to medical care for all my constituents to ensure a healthy society.”
Mr Aluoch argued that he is not worried about ODM dominance in Nyanza region but maintains that the fact that his party, Ford Kenya, and ODM are in Nasa makes it easy for them to campaign for the opposition Presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
“I do expect that the ODM brigade will be sent to Kisumu West. But that does not worry me because my loyalty has been to the people of Kisumu West and they know it,” he said..
“I have been loyal and dedicated to serving them. So I am really not scared of the ODM brigade descending on Kisumu West.”
He adds: “In 2007 and 2013 I was pitted against a seasoned political activist from ODM. But she has now decided to vie for a different post. This time am pitted against an ODM greenhorn.
“But I don’t underrate my opponents. He is a greenhorn in the sense that he is new in the race.”
But Mr Awiti on his part told the MP that his time was over after serving for 10 years in Parliament.
In a scathing attack on the legislator, Mr Awiti said: “He (Mr Aluoch) only does well at funerals. He attends most of them but in terms of development he has done little and on a scale of one to 10 I can give him 3.”
“I want to assure our supporters that this time round ODM will reclaim the Kisumu West Parliamentary seat. We know the incumbent’s strengths and weaknesses,” Mr Awiti said.
Mr Obiero who claimed his victory had been stolen in favour of Mr Awiti in the ODM primaries prompting his move to vie on an independent ticket said: “ODM will be very lucky if they secure position three in Kisumu West MP race.”
“We expected much from ODM. We believed we would have free and fair nominations this time round and that the party would not repeat its past mistakes, but we only had worse nominations compared to the 2013 primaries since votes from an entire ward – Central Kisumu – which is my stronghold and has the highest number of registered voters was not included in the final tally,” Mr Obiero added.
On a scale of one to 10, Mr Obiero awarded the incumbent an average of five.
He also said he is behind Raila Odinga, the Nasa Presidential candidate’s presidential bid.
“I am very independent but leaning towards Mr Odinga. But I only urge him to be flexible and appreciate our efforts because we are working to help improve voter turnout that will be to his benefit,” Mr Obiero said.
Mr Aluoch observed that in order to avoid unnecessary animosity between ODM and Ford Kenya, which are both in Nasa, he has told his party leader Moses Wetang’ula, a Nasa co-principal, that he should not campaign for him.
“The fact that we are both in Nasa makes it easier to campaign for Mr Odinga,” the MP said.
Political analyst Adams Oloo argued that Nyanza leaders who overcame the ODM wave in the region in 2013 did so as a result of nominations, which were highly disputed.
“In the long run, they defected to other parties and got sympathy votes. However, one choosing to avoid ODM from the onset could not be so favourable for them in the region.”
But Mr Aluoch thinks otherwise.
“Last time I did not win because of sympathy. I relied on people who had voted for me in ODM who were sure I was rigged out. Staying in Ford Kenya in my view this time round is a demonstration of my consistency in politics.”
“Consistency is important. With the wisdom of hindsight, it is well I did not crossover to ODM because had I done it, I would have been embroiled in the nomination fiasco and branded a non-loyalist. It is a question of dedication and service to the people.”
Political analyst and a lecturer at Maseno University Tom Mboya observed that ‘bungled’ ODM primaries in 2017 won’t play out in Kisumu West Parliamentary politics this time round.
“This is because Olago Aluoch did not participate in the ODM nominations. The winner will this time round be determined by how the three main candidates resonate with the electorates,” Mr Mboya said.