EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

How I defeated Raila's ODM in Ugenya - David Ochieng'

Avoided media, shunned big rallies, sometimes rode his bicycle, went door-to-door, appealed to women

In Summary

• David Ochieng' says Deputy President William Ruto had nothing to with his victory

• He says his story is one of resilience and courage against Raila and his ODM party 

Ugenya MP-elect David Ochieng
Ugenya MP-elect David Ochieng
Image: LAMECK BARAZA

Ugenya MP-elect David Ochieng’ has for the first time opened up on how he decimated the ODM political machine and left Opposition chief Raila Odinga pondering his strategy.

It was the first victory since Independence in Ugenya by a candidate of a party not associated with the Odinga family.

But Ochieng’ strongly disassociated himself from Deputy President William Ruto and his allies and asked them to stop taking credit for his decisive personal victory in the Ugenya by-election last Friday.

 

The 39-year old lawyer trounced ODM’s Chris Karan in the parliamentary contest that has left ODM leaders in shock.

He garnered 18,730 votes against the ODM candidate’s 14,507 in the four-man race.

In an exclusive interview with the Star yesterday, Ochieng’ took a swipe at Siaya Senator James Orengo who led the ODM campaigns, saying his style of politics no longer works in the modern-day scenarios.

“Orengo’s politics is gone. He has refused to change his university type of politics which no longer works for the masses,” Ochieng’ stated.

He attributed his sweet victory win to his development track record, his campaign tactics largely driven by women voters and his determination not to cast the by-election as a contest against Raila.

According to Ochieng’, during the 63 days of intense campaigns, he took a low profile by avoiding public rallies as well as ‘staying off microphones and media interviews’.

Unknown to many is that Ochieng’ singlehandedly built and prosecuted his election petitions from the High Court to the Supreme Court.

 

Ochieng’ said he was sure the media would bill the vote as a contest between him and Raila.

“It was a strategy to defuse the rumour that I had a lot of money. It helped in a big way to make my opponent relax. I avoided the media like the plague since they were going to hype it as a war between me and Raila,” Ochieng’ told the Star.

Ochieng’, believed to have a formidable financial war chest, traversed the constituency like a simple man, once in a while on a bicycle. No big entourage.

The move, he said, made his opponents relax, thinking that he did not have enough resources to wage a serious political contest against the Raila-led party.

However, Ochieng' confesses that the vote was extremely expensive but friends and colleagues, some of whom he did not expect, pitched in.

“There are guys who could send me Sh2,000, Sh5,000 at times Sh20,000. My lawyer friends and those we worked with at Igad also came in handy. There were days we could spend up to Sh1 million in a day,” he said

Ochieng’ adopted a door-to-door campaign which allowed him to drive home his well-honed development message.

Meanwhile, ODM held huge rallies ‘laden with all manner of verbal slurs and name-calling’ mostly tailored for 2022 presidential contest.

“Our opponents’ big rallies helped us as we would revisit those areas the following day to explain my mandate. I was truthful to them [voters] and told what we were going to do,” he recalled.

As a young university graduate, he used to take loans to buy 80 tonnes of maize seed every year for residents to plant, putting him in touch with the people.

It was the maize that would later become a symbol of his campaign and is, indeed, the symbol of his party, the Movement for Democracy and growth (MDG)

During his first term as MP, Ochieng’ successfully built three colleges — Ugenya Teachers Training College, Ugenya KMTC and Ugenya Vocational Training College.

A forestry college is also underway.

Ochieng' was credited for lobbying for the tarmacking of the Ugunja-Rwambwa road which had been in the planning books since the 1970s.

Part of his development track record is also a full-scholarship programme he initiated to help KCPE exam high performers.

Ochieng’ also attributed his victory to the commitment of women voters, whom he said are more consistent than men.

He was helped by projects in schools, women and youth groups and efforts to ensure government services reached the people.

“It was in my term since Independence that Ugenya got subsidised fertilisers. When my opponent took over, people saw none of that and were not sure of their future,” Ochieng' said.

Despite his good prospects of retaining the seat, the politician intimated to the Star that a number of his close friends discouraged him from going to the ballot.

“They felt that I would not manage to win against the ODM wave in the by-election,” he said of the victory. 

Despite defeating  ODM, Ochieng is full of praise for Raila and says he has no qualms with the ex-Prime Minsiter whom he says was among the first leaders to congratulate him.

“I have no issue with Raila. In fact, we kept talking even when I was in court. There is no bad blood between him and myself. I respect him. I support the handshake, which is the best thing to ever happen to this country,” he said.

“My relationship with Raila is okay as it is. If it were not for his democratic ideals, I would not have been elected on MDG.”

The MP-elect also said he had no problem talking to the Deputy President William Ruto since his office has programmes that can benefit Ugenya voters

Others who have called to congratulate him are DP Ruto, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi.

He said his campaign was made easier as his competitor had done nothing tangible in the 16 months he was in office.

“He (Karan) had never moved a motion or bill in Parliament. This was basically a ‘fait accompli’. Very few people understood my resolve and where I want to go politically,” he said.

Ochieng’ added that he also made up his mind that he would "not want to play politics of lies, personality cults where you identify a figure to hate".

The MP-elect said claims that had killed electoral agency ICT manager Chris Msando, that he was a being a Jubilee mole, and that his campaign was funded by Ruto did not work.

“The Ugenya voter is quite informed. People told ODM no anytime they tried to sell Ruto. The propaganda, which made it difficult to sell my agenda in the 2017 vote, did not work.”

“Our message was targeted. I told voters how I would work to improve agriculture, water, health, infrastructure, education and what I would do for the young people and the widows.”

“Our message was better than the other side's who were selling Arror, Kimwarer, impeachment and the 2022 presidency,” Ochieng’ added. “I targeted the people’s needs. I felt nothing while being linked to Ruto. Our people knew it was a lie.”

Revisiting his exit from ODM, the politician said he got tired of the propaganda mounted to label his development projects as Jubilee-oriented.

He said people in the party who were not doing very much in their constituencies were against his rising star.

“The party machinery was not taking my views. There was a lot of suspicion about me and how I work. At some point, I felt that I did not want to go to Parliament.”

He said his woes were exposed after his bill seeking to change the election date from August to December was defeated for lack of quorum.

“My former party did not like people who are innovative or those giving their views. I thought I did not want to go through that, hence, the birth of MDG.”

“I informed ODM that I would not take part in the party nominations. I went direct to the 2017 polls with MDG,” he added.

Ochieng’ said his “win is about the commitment to serve and having a clear focus on what you want to do for your people.”

“I wasn’t seeing the future for myself and for my people but I followed my heart. Courage is the most important thing in politics. When I decided to go to court, I knew I would be in it for the long haul. I put God first. He has given me three victories.”