The race for Migori Senate seat promises to be a hotly contested one.
The battle had initially attracted more than 15 candidates.
However, after the chaotic party primaries held in April, it has now narrowed down to four main contenders, who have all launched campaigns on an unprecedented scale to take over from the incumbent, Dr Wilfred Machage.
The four candidates are Ben Oluoch Okello, John Magaiwa, Billy Mijungu and Gordon Oluoch.
Mr Okello enjoys a clear head start having won the coveted ODM ticket in the recent party primaries.
In what surprised many, Mr Okello, a former radio presenter, garnered 68,194 votes to trounce his closest rival, former Migori County Assembly Speaker Gordon Ogolla, who raked in 28,696 votes.
Mr Ogolla and the rest have launched their bids for the seat as independent candidates.
The seat has been left wide open after Dr Machage decided not to defend it and instead chose to vie for the Kuria West parliamentary seat through the Democratic Party ticket.
Dr Machage had, in March, resigned from ODM, which had previously sponsored him to the Senate.
In the last General Election, the eloquent lawmaker was a beneficiary of negotiated democracy between the majority Luo community and the minority Kuria.
In the agreement, the Kuria were to get the senatorial and the woman representative positions and the Luo the powerful gubernatorial post.
Dr Machage became the senator and Ms Dennitah Ghati the woman representative.
The Kuria were, in turn, to vote for Raila Odinga as the presidential candidate in the last elections.
However, it emerged that the Kuria did not meet their end of the bargain as they voted overwhelmingly for Jubilee and the two MPs from the region — Kuria West’s Mathias Robi (URP) and Kuria East’s Shadrack Manga (KANU) — are Jubilee leaning.
Consequently, deep-seated mistrust has cropped between the two communities as the Luo alleged their counterparts betrayed them.
This mistrust is one of the factors shaping the race to the senatorial position.
The majority of the aspirants, especially from the Luo community, have vehemently opposed another round of negotiated democracy.
This partly explains why Mr Okello, from the Luo side, was overwhelmingly voted for as an ODM nominee and not a candidate from the Kuria community, which was widely expected to provide Dr Machage’s successor.
This turn of events, political analysts say, is likely to lead to voter apathy in the larger Kuria region, particularly when it comes to the senatorial, woman representative, and gubernatorial positions, which are all likely to be taken by the Luo.
Having won the ODM ticket for the post, it is apparent that Mr Okello’s chances of clinching the seat are high.
This, owing to the fact that this is a predominantly ODM zone and that the party leader Raila Odinga enjoys a near fanatical following among the residents.
However, Mr Okello, who holds a masters degree in Development Communication, is not resting on his laurels yet as he knows that he is facing stiff competition from independent candidates.
He has launched a massive campaign aimed at widening his popularity and convincing people to come out in large numbers to vote.
“I am confident of victory not because I’m an ODM candidate but because of my agenda, which I will continue to sell to the people,” he said in an interview on a local TV station.
He believes that he will win because he has a better agenda for the people of Migori.
“As a journalist, I have interacted with the people and I know their problems. I believe I have solutions. Migori needs a senator who will stand for the people,” he said.
He added that if elected he will champion for the interests of the people of Migori.
“This is a vital office in the devolved system and I intend to use it to actively defend the interests of my people.”
However, despite losing the ODM ticket, former Migori County Speaker Gordon Ogolla maintains that he is firmly in the race.
Indeed, he is touted as one of the contenders likely to give Mr Okello a run for his money.
Mr Ogolla will vie as an independent candidate.
He is heavily banking on the political networks he developed while he was serving as the speaker.
His vast experience as an advocate for 16 years gives him much mileage for the senatorial position.
He further argues that his time as the speaker has given him an opportunity to know the type of legislations that he will focus on to benefit the people.
“I have all it takes. I know the kind of laws that will benefit the people of Migori. Some of the bills I will work on will concern tobacco, cottage industries and livestock, areas that directly affect the people,” he says.
The former speaker also pledges to ensure the cordial relationship between the Senate and the county government.
Mr Mijungu is another strong independent candidate capable of giving Mr Okello sleepless nights.
Mr Mijungu, a youthful business information expert, says he is running on an anti-corruption platform.
“I will ensure accountability for county funds. I believe this will go a long way in ensuring that county money is used for the full benefit of the people,” he said.
He added that he will champion for the interests of the youth in the county.
Mr Mijungu’s strength lies in the youthful electorate that he has targeted heavily in his campaigns.
On the other hand, Mr Magaiwa is from Kuria West and is a close ally of the ODM leader Raila Odinga.
In the 2013 elections, he vied for the ODM senatorial ticket and won but was prevailed upon to give way for Machage, who was then considered the senior-most politician in Kuria.
BACK IN ODM
Disillusioned, Mr Magaiwa ditched the party but later rejoined it after the 2013 elections and was until the nominations, rooting for another round of negotiated democracy.
“Due to the numerical weakness of [the] Kuria [community], only negotiated democracy will help us. It is time Raila reciprocates for the unflinching support I have given him,” he said.