- Okoth Obado and Ruto's friendship can be traced back to the governor's tenure at the defunct Kenya Sugar Board when Ruto was the Minister for Agriculture.
- On Wednesday, Obado declared the party has no numbers in the assembly and that the push was an exercise in futility.
The push to impeach embattled Migori Governor Okoth Obado is promising to snowball into a full-blown political duel between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The details emerged as it became apparent that the removal of the two-term county chief facing murder and corruption charges will not be a walk in the park.
Obado, a long-time friend of DP Ruto, has openly dared Raila to bring it on, saying the party has no numbers to kick him out.
“That is why they placed MCAs in a closed meeting and intimidated them,” Obado claimed on Wednesday during an interview on Ramogi FM, a Dholuo radio station.
Allies of the DP in the Senate — the House that will have the final say in the impeachment process — have rubbished the removal bid as politically motivated.
“We expect if MCAs are to impeach Governor Obado, they need to have solid grounds as provided for by the Constitution. At this time, it is for political expediency because as a party which prides itself in democracy ODM is applying double standards,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei told the Star.
He went on: “The other day they [ODM] were telling us on the Kemsa heist that we wait until a special audit is done. What has changed? Why are they speaking from both sides of their mouth? It means they are being pretentious and it makes us believe that there is much more than meets the eye.”
Obado is a long-time friend of DP Ruto dating from the time of the governor’s tenure at the defunct Kenya Sugar Board when Ruto was the Minister for Agriculture.
He has hosted the DP several times against ODM's wishes, including shortly after he was released from prison on bail over the murder of his pregnant girlfriend Sharon Otieno. The case is ongoing.
Then, he alluded to ODM’s hand in his woes and asked his constituents to allow him to work with Ruto.
“As your governor, I want you to permit me to walk alongside the Deputy President everywhere so that my people of Migori can get development… I am seeing a few people want me to be swallowed by crocodiles. I want you to pray for me so that I am not swallowed by the crocodile,” Obado said in November 2018.
Laikipia Senator John Kinyua, another Ruto man, said ODM has no justification to push Obado out.
“What is haunting Obado is that he is not in very good books with the party. We may pretend about it but it is politics at play,” he said.
Impeaching Obado in the Senate is expected to be fierce but easy for the Raila team.
ODM backed the Uhuru faction of Jubilee to kick out former Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu.
However, the removal of Obado will be a real litmus test for the Orange Party in the Migori county assembly.
For the impeachment to sail through, the motion will need approval of at least 43 members in the house which has 57 MCAs.
ODM has 41 MCAs, seven are independent, Jubilee Party has three, Ford Kenya two while PPOK has one.
Out of the 37 ODM elected MCAs who attended the meeting, 14 refused to sign up for the impeachment bid and only 23 appended their signatures despite persuasion from the party’s top leadership.
Mbadi who chaired the meeting confirmed that 23 signed up but stated that only five refused.
Mbadi – speaking on Wednesday morning - said out of 41 ODM MCAs in Migori, four skipped the function with apology for being sick and 23 "willingly without any intimidation signed and agreed to the impeachment.”
“In the Tuesday meeting there was no intimidation, actually we had about five MCAs who were openly against the impeachment, others were itching for it. The party took a decision and all members will follow it,” Mbadi said.
Apart from raising the numbers in the assembly, MCAs also expressed fears of possible violence especially from those spearheading the drive to remove the governor.
During the closed-door meeting, most MCAs said they dreaded attacks by Sangwenya, a political gang allegedly operating in the county that has reportedly invaded the assembly twice in the past.
Mbadi acknowledged that the exercise will not be a walk in the park.
Several MCAs who spoke to the Star on Wednesday said both sides have gone into intensive lobbying for their support for and against impeachment through intimidation, coercion and open bribery.
“During the meeting Mbadi told MCAs that the decision to impeach me was directed by government and that police will be availed in large numbers at the assembly, which I see as intimidation and dictatorship to subvert the will of Migori residents,” Obado said in the interview on Wednesday morning.
Obado also refuted claims by Mbadi that the deputy governor had been denied access to his office and official vehicles taken away.
“Those claims by ODM against my deputy are a political means to push through the impeachment agenda in Kuria region where I enjoy good support. [Deputy Governor Nelson] Mahanga has his official vehicle, access to his office and we have a good relationship,” Obado said.
Mbadi said Obado, after being barred from office, could not deliver on his mandate and should vacate the office for Mahanga to finish the remainder of the two terms.
On Saturday at Bogembo SDA Church, Mahanga said there was no leadership vacuum in Migori county and refuted claims that his relationship with the governor had gone to the wire.
“I would like to tell Migori residents and Kenyans that we don’t have a power vacuum in Migori. The county will continue to function well and we have robust county executive committee meetings,” he said.
On Friday, there was excitement in Migori town when Mahanga was spotted in his official vehicle after a long time.
“I have been away because of ill health, and it is only now that I am able to rise. And I want to assure residents that our development agenda will still move on,” Mahanga said.
The Kuria community with less than 30 per cent of population in Migori has slim chances through the ballot to produce a governor, which makes this impeachment as the only viable means of ascending to the governor post.
Obado now remains with the assembly as the only place he could exert some political clout after being pushed away from Raila Odinga’s inner circles for his dalliance with Ruto.
“When I was in cells only one Migori MP out of 10 visited me, the others were told by senior party officials to keep off. Even when your sick relative is in hospital, you don’t buy a coffin,” Obado said.
Only Jubilee Party’s Kuria West MP Mathias Robi, the only Ruto supporter in Migori among elected leaders, has openly stood by the governor.
“Obado has dragged leaders' names of being behind his woes. He should use that energy to prepare his defence against the impeachment motion,” Migori Senator Ochilo Ayacko said.
MCAs who signed the motion have complained of intimidation and skewed development across the 40 wards despite passing budgets.
“I am among MCAs who were first to sign the impeachment motion against the governor and I believe we have the numbers to send him home. These two remaining years are enough to bring what we missed in development,” Hevron Maira, the Muhuru Bay MCA, said.
Maira said MCAs who have been raising corruption issues in Migori assembly have been intimidated and harassed.
“Obado should do the honourable thing and resign before we table the impeachment motion. We have the numbers to send him home,” Maira said, insisting they were not afraid of being attacked by Sangwenya.