Kisumu county senator and gubernatorial candidate Anyang Nyong’o (center) with his running mate Mathews Owili (left) and Nyando mp Fred Outa during a press briefing in Kisumu on June 9th 2017. The leaders urged Nyanza residents to elect only candidates who contest in ODM ticket, arguing that doing so would strengthen the orange party. PIC BY COLLINS ODUOR
Clannism appear to be overshadowing other campaign issues in the fight for the Kisumu governor’s seat after two protagonists both picked running mates from the same clan.
The county has four major clans; Kano, Seme, Nyakach and Kisumo.
However, Nyakach Clan, which occupies Nyakach Constituency, stood out as the most sought-after as Anyang’ Nyong’o and Jack Ranguma picked their running mates from the same clan, a fact that has complicated the political arithmetic for the duo.
Prof Nyong’o, who is the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate, settled on Nairobi-based pharmacist Mathews Owili from Upper Nyakach while incumbent governor Ranguma picked seasoned labour activist Ephraim Kanang’a, the current Kisumu branch treasurer of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
Nyakach has about 69, 000 votes according to recent data from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The area has recently been mentioned in bad light after it played host to the county tallying centre for the disputed ODM primaries, which declared Nyong’o and his team victors at Thurdibuoro Secondary School.
In 2013, the clan missed out on four elective positions at the county level – governor, senator, woman representative and deputy governor.
Kano had governor Ranguma and woman rep Rose Nyamunga, while Seme had Senator Nyong’o, with the “diaspora” voters scooping the deputy governor’s position through Ruth Odinga, sister to Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has her roots in Siaya County.
And after the five-year stint in the cold, Nyakach clan has become the centre of focus ahead of the forthcoming elections.
The ODM primaries again saw the clan miss out on the governor, senator and woman representative positions.
Seme already holds the party’s gubernatorial ticket through Nyong’o, while Kano and Kisumo hold the senatorial and woman rep tickets through Nyando MP Fred Outa and ODM Deputy Organising Secretary Roza Buyu respectively.
This left Nyakach with the option of deputy governor’s position, with Nyong’o picking Dr Owili as his running mate.
Nyong’o, however, downplayed talks of clan balance in his line-up, claiming that he had picked Owili to help him actualise devolution.
Owili, 44, graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery.
The father of four also holds two master’s degrees; in Pharmacology and Toxicology, and another in Public Health, and is the founder of Maxim Pharmaceuticals, one of the leading importers and distributors of medicine in Kenya.
But a week after Nyong’o unveiled his running mate, Ranguma, who contentiously lost to Nyong’o in the party primaries but moved to defend his seat as an independent candidate, raided the same clan, picking on the fiery Knut politician, Kanang’a, in a move viewed as a scheme to neutralise Nyong’o’s influence in Nyakach.
“I am ready to defend my seat and that is why I am also choosing a youthful running mate to be part of the team to take Kisumu forward,” said Ranguma as he unveiled his running mate.
Kanang’a, 51, boasts of influence within and outside the clan, and has been instrumental in trying to win the hearts of teachers within the county to re-elect Ranguma.
“I have been running Knut campaigns in Nyakach, Nyando and Muhoroni constituencies so I know what our people need. We don’t need someone from Nairobi to be imposed on us,” he said.
But even with the two gubernatorial candidates focus on the clan, more factors have emerged over which running mate the community should rally behind.
Kanang’a, however, comes from the smallest clan, Kandaria, which occupies parts of the lower Nyakach.
“It is true that there are discussions along such lines, but as professionals, we have come out to offer civil education to the voters, telling them that they need someone who can bring development,” said educationist Dr Caleb Gudo, a lecturer at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology.