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EATING HUMBLE PIE

Raila's intervention saved ODM from shame, not Obado

Just before Raila's intervention in the impeachment razzmatazz, Obado had already ignited the ounty into the frenzy of an impending election.

In Summary

• Migori is home to various ethnic groups whose political alliance does not necessarily follow the tribal thread.

• It's this ethnic mix that Obado has mastered to his advantage. And everyone was on his side.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event
Migori Governor Okoth Obado and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event
Image: FILE

That ODM leader Raila Odinga saved Migori Governor Okoth Obado from the planned impeachment is not in doubt. His intervention was a stitch in time that saved nine. As the old adage goes, what an old man sees while seated, a young man can't see even from atop a tree.

The wise Raila saved ODM from ignominy that would have had far-reaching ramifications not only for his the party but also for himself as a national leader. 

His dominance of Nyanza politics was in jeopardy, save for his timely announcement at a funeral in Awendo last week that he will intercede for a truce between warring party factions in the county. His 100 per cent support in Nyanza for BBI was in limbo. Migori county had gone to the dogs, much to the chagrin of the ODM honchos whose poor strategy would have damaged the party.

Raila’s opponents were ready to reap huge benefits from the fallout.

Obado is facing serious charges of corruption, which he denies.

Governor Obado was ululating, "Bring it on, Baby" as he had pressed the right button, setting the ball rolling. The polarised county assembly engaged in chaotic planning sessions while Obado was sitting pretty in his palatial home in Rapogi watching the unfolding events for any eventuality. 

He must have anticipated dissolution of the county government in event the impeachment failed. Obado won his first gubernatorial contest in 2013 on the little-known PDP party ticket against ODM’s candidate, the renowned history Professor Edward Oyugi.

He prides himself of an impeccable network of ground mobilisers who include youths (christened sangwenyas), women's groups and elderly people, among them community elders’ councils. 

Migori hosts various ethnic groups whose political alliances do not necessarily follow the tribal thread. It's this ethnic mix that Obado has mastered to his advantage. He occasionally plays the Joker card to outsmart his adversaries whenever his survival is threatened.

Just before Raila's intervention in the impeachment razzmatazz, Obado had already ignited the whole county into the frenzy of an impeding election. He had put his army of supporters at the ready and reconnected with old allies in a political rendezvous akin to the grandstanding of a general election.

It was all systems go. His reactivated campaign networks ran awash with slogans targeting specific voters in their constituencies. Friendly social media channels went bonkers with warnings of an unprecedented political tussle never seen before. They sought to inoculate the populace against the ODM leadership, which was seen to be pushing for the governor's impeachment. 

In the two Kuria constituencies, where MPs Mathias Robi (Kuria West) and Marwa Kitayama (Kuria East) are Jubilee-Tangatanga affiliated, respectively, word was circulating that if the BBI report will not recommend a Kuria county, then that would be recipe enough for rejecting all recommendations in the expected plebiscite.

 

A Kuria county is a weighty matter to the community. Kuria provides a swing vote in the county’s political jigsaw with their 90,000 registered voters (2017).

In February this year, before the BBI task force wound up its validation sessions, the community demanded its own county. They complain of excessive discrimination in allocation of resources in Migori county. The community is viewed as a spoiler vote within the county, whose political affiliation in never assured in every election circle.

There are 12 MCAs from Kuria, all were elected by a mixed blend of parties. Political observers say the Kuria provides fodder for any isolationist seeking to loosen ODM's grip in the county. Uriri constituency with 56,600 registered voters is Obado's home. Four of the five MCAs from the constituency are his close associates. They provided the base ofthe trouble during the impeachment schemes on the floor of the county assembly.

Most are youthful, energetic and well-schooled. Uriri remains under lock of the governor as the constituency enjoys the benefits of  incumbency.                   

Another presumed major obstacle to the impeachment planners was said to be county speaker Boaz Okoth. 

Okoth is said to be a close ally of Obado. He hails from Nyatike constituency, which is the most populous subcounty with more thqn 70,000 registered voters. There are seven MCAs from the constituency, most of them loyal to Obado. Okoth was a second-term MCA in Nyatike before he was elected speaker. He had orchestrated the removal or Speaker Gordon Ogola while serving as deputy speaker. 

Obado enjoys overwhelming support from Nyatike, his mother’s birth constituency. Leading political lights from the constituency, such as former MP Edic Omondi Anyanga, have recently been gravitating towards Obado in what pundits say is an effort to get his endorsement for his gubernatorial bid in 2022. 

Suna West constituency provides a complicated political arithmetic for vote seekers. It's home of ethnic Subas, Luos, Somalis, the Luhyas, the Kurias and other smaller ethnic groups that add value to any election.

The current MP, Peter Masara, was elected on an independent ticket. The constituency is the backyard of the well-grounded county secretary Christopher Rusana. He is viewed as a close ally of Obado and is touted as the heir apparent of the governor.

During the impeachment hullabaloo, outspoken Suna East MP and ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed conspicuously went mute. Sources close to him say he held the view that impeaching Obado would be setting a bad precedent as he is said to be eyeing the Migori governor's seat himself. Going against Obado would thus be starting out on the wrong foot.

Suna East is also the home of Obado’s wife Hellen Odie, whose Chacha Bwiri’s extended family dominates the constituency. Chacha Bwiri was a paramount chief in the colonial era. Rongo and Awendo constituencies habour bitter critics of Obado, including his arch rival Senator Ochillo Ayacko, but overall they have a negligible vote count to threaten the incumbent. They have only eight elected MCAs in a county assembly of 40 elected representatives.                         

Matiko Bohoko is a journalist and director of The Concord Media Consultancies based in Migori