• Okumbe's declaration that he is running means there are now three strong candidates gunning for the Siaya top job.
• His first hurdle will be whether he can secure ODM nomination ahead of Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and Siaya Senator James Orengo
The race to succeed Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga has been thrown open with the entry of deputy James Okumbe.
Rasanga is serving his second and last term in office and has said he will give direction on his preferred successor who will drive development in the county.
Okumbe's declaration that he is running means there are now three strong candidates gunning for the Siaya top job.
His first hurdle will be whether he can secure an ODM nomination ahead of Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and Siaya Senator James Orengo.
Wandayi has said he is running for governor but Orengo has yet to declare his intention. The senator's allies, however, say he will ditch his oversight role in the Senate and seek to run the county.
Already, the governor's position has drawn the interest of Siaya leaders and residents alike, with many jostling to make a case for their preferred candidates.
Those close to Rasanga say the governor is only comfortable handing over the seat to a development-oriented leader who has supported him during his tenure.
Wandayi and Okumbe have worked closely with Rasanga and one of them is likely to get his endorsement.
Okumbe said he has had a cordial working relationship with Governor Rasanga. He believes he will be among the top in the list of the governor's preferred heirs.
Siaya-based political analyst Chris Owala told the Star the next governor must be able to bridge the gap between the government and the people.
Owala said there cannot be development if there is a disconnect between the county government and the people.
"When the county starts to do its things with no regard to lawful processes like public participation, the people lose out on development," Owala said.
He said the next Siaya governor should be someone who can unite the county regardless of political affiliation.
"Look at the 2013 General Election between William Oduol and Rasanga; there has been no unity between Rasanga and Oduol's people," Owala said.
He added that even after the 2017 duel between Nicholas Gumbo and Rasanga, no one has been ready to initiate a unity pact.
Owala said in 2022, the county needs a leader who will ensure that even the losers feel that they are part of the government.
The analyst said that the next governor should be someone who can listen to the views of the people and ensure that youths, women and people living with disability are catered for.
Siaya ODM youth representative Charles Onguko said young people want the next Siaya governor to be someone with a clear development track record.
Onguko said youths must ensure that the next governor is someone who can sit down with them, discuss job opportunities and give them 30 per cent tenders as recommended by the national government.
He added that they are also looking forward to supporting someone who will not congest his executive committee with old people under the guise of experience.
"We will also support someone who has been analysing issues touching on the current government without fear or favour," Onguko said.
He urged the next governor to consider gender equality especially when choosing the deputy.
During the launch of Ugunja constituency strategic plan, seven Siaya MCAs rallied behind Wandayi for the top seat.
The MCAs said Wandayi is the best fit to succeed Governor Rasanga because of his development achievements.
They recalled the overwhelming support Wandayi and Ugunja people accorded Rasanga during the last election, saying they will also return the favour in case the MP goes for the seat.
The MCAs said that because Rasanga hails from Alego Usonga, his clan should not expect to field another candidate for the position.
"If you decide to give us Wandayi as your preferred Siaya governor in 2022, we will have no option but to support him," Siaya Township MCA Obiero Otare said.
The MCAs led by Winny Otieno said Wandayi has demonstrated good leadership as National Assembly Public Accounts Committee chair.
"We, the people of Alego, will give him the total support in his political endeavours without conditions," Otieno said.
Otieno said they will align themselves with leaders with bright visions like Wandayi in the 2022 general elections.
Other MCAs who supported her remarks included Otare, Nick Ochola (North Gem), Samuel Olasi (West Uyoma), Odero Rambula (Ugunja Ward), Winny Perpetual (Central Gem) and Joseph Wandera (Sidindi Ward).
Earlier, Alego Usonga boda boda riders had also endorsed Wandayi for the Siaya governor's seat.
The riders led by Peter Oleguna noted that Wandayi has the best development record in the county.