Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma who is defending the seat on Independent ticket addresses mourners at Korowe during the burial of former Maseno University lecturer Phillip Aduma on Friday. [Photo: Phillip Orwa, Standard]
NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga is facing a delicate balancing act in achieving a six-piece vote after he appeared to recognise independent candidates in his Nyanza backyard.
Independent candidates have now refused to let go of Raila’s coat tail after he said last week that ODM and Independent candidates were his people.
This has emboldened the Independent candidates who had been branded outsiders and Jubilee moles in the opposition strongholds.
But observers and NASA presidential campaign team in Nyanza now say the candidates misinterpreted Raila’s comments to mean he was supporting them.
They explained that the NASA flagbearer meant that he had no personal problem with the Independent candidates but was only supporting those vying on ODM tickets.
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“What Raila said in Homa Bay was clear and must not be misunderstood. He said the Independent candidates were free to hunt for votes but insisted on six piece vote,” said NASA Nyanza presidential campaign coordinator Gladys Wanga.
While speaking in Homa Bay, Raila endorsed Governor Cyprian Awiti’s re-election bid on ODM ticket but urged him and the Independent candidate Oyugi Magwanga to stop trivial fights that could jeopardise voter turn out.
During the rally, Raila who paraded all ODM officials and candidates for various seats said: “Awiti is my man. Magwanga is also my man. I want them to stop these small fights down here and allow focus on the bigger picture. NASA will form a big government and those who will lose will be offered jobs.”
Following this statement, the independent candidate’s supporters took to the streets to celebrate his ‘recognition’ by Raila. An upbeat Magwanga announced that he will use his resources to support NASA’s adopt-a-polling station programme. He revealed that he was recruiting up to 300 agents to guard Raila’s votes.
But in a swift rejoinder Ms Wanga and Nominated MP Oburu Oginga told Magwanga to keep off the project, as he was not a NASA member.
Saturday , Wanga who issued the statement on behalf of the Nyanza presidential campaign team, told Independent candidates that ODM and NASA have their own mechanism of recruiting agents and guarding presidential votes.
“NASA is capable of protecting its own votes. Once you are an Independent candidate, you are on your own. You are not NASA,” she said.
She termed Magwanga’s move a populist strategy aimed at seeking sympathy votes.
Wanga argued that there are no legal provisions that allow independent candidates to recruit agents for other party candidates.
“The independents are just opportunists. How will they even present the agents they are claiming to recruit for NASA to IEBC?” she posed.
But Magwanga and Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, who is defending the seat on Independent ticket, have been riding on Raila’s comments to win support.
The Homa Bay Independent governor aspirant thanked Raila for “clearing the air over his relationship with the Independent candidates.” “Raila said that we are all his people and that the people should decide who is best suited for the county’s top office,” said Magwanga
Ranguma, while addressing mourners during the burial of a Maseno University lecturer, Prof Philip Aduma in Kano on Friday, also thanked Raila for recognising them (Independent candidates). “We have been maliciously labelled Jubilee moles but our leader Raila made it clear,” he said.
Other Independent candidates in the region are Rarieda MP, Nicholas Gumbo who is seeking to unseat Siaya Governor Cornell Rasanga, former Energy minister Ochilo Ayacko who is vying for Migori Governor, James Gesami who will battle it out with Nyamira Governor John Nyangarama and Gem MP Jckoyo Midiwo who is defending the seat.
The confusion over Raila’s comments has now put the NASA presidential campaign team in a tight spot as they campaign for the six piece vote.
“We want to make it very clear that Independent candidates are out brothers and sisters but there is no way Raila can endorse them at the expenses of those from his own party. They must not misrepresent facts. Raila was speaking like a statesman who wants peace to prevail,” said Dr Oburu.
Raila’s decision to tone down attacks on the Independent candidates was informed by the fact that their supporters will vote for him.