• Kidero entered the race for the governor seat when there was not much excitement about the contest
• His decision to contest in Homa Bay threw a spanner into the works and forced other contestants back to the drawing board.
ODM leader Raila Odinga while addressing BBI proponents at Tourist Hotel Homa Bay said the county gave Kenya devolution.
By this, Raila meant that the concept and framework of devolution as contained in the Constitution was designed by Dr Crispin Odhiambo Mbai, a son of the county. Dr Mbai was ostensibly assassinated for his stewardship of the devolution debate at the 2003 Bomas Constitutional Conference. He therefore became the sacrificial lamb for devolution by paying the ultimate price for good of the nation. Ironically, his county of birth has remained the laughing stock of devolution in Kenya.
Homa Bay county has been and remains a bastion of high-octane politics.
In the run-up to the first two elections after the 2010 Constitution was promulgate, tension was part and parcel of the campaigns. In 2013, shoes were choice missiles at public rallies, while in 2017, some candidates brandished guns openly.
The 2017 elections were hotly contested, ending up at the Supreme Court. The ODM party nominations were the first frontier. The incumbent governor, Cyprian Awiti, was facing stiff opposition from his erstwhile supporters, two of whom were candidates.
Oyugi Magwanga and Ochieng’ Kanyadudi had been strong mobilisers for Awiti in 2013 but were now in the race. After unprecedented chaos marred the nominations, the party decided to cancel the process and handed Awiti the ticket through the direct nomination rule. Magwanga proceeded to stand as an independent candidate but lost in the general elections.
He appealed the IEBC declaration and every court agreed with him except the Supreme Court that affirmed Awiti’s win. The protracted process polarised the county and put government operations in peril.
Homa Bay county literally was at a standstill for the two years that the court process was onoing. Matters became more complicated when the governor was taken ill and had to spend a lot of time out of office.
Meanwhile, Evans Kidero had lost and handed over the reins of power to Mike Sonko in Nairobi. He chose not to contest the outcome of the general election even though he maintained that he won. He had become the victim of a vicious struggle by the Jubilee administration to wrest control of the city county from rival ODM. He has his ancestral roots in Homa Bay.
As the dust settled in Homa Bay after the Supreme Court ruling, political formations began to emerge in readiness for Governor Awiti’s succession. Awiti was serving his second and last term in office and this threw the 2022 race wide open.
Three of the five 2017 candidates practically were not keen on reentering the ring. Only Magwanga was left standing and demonstrating a determination to capture the county top seat and succeed Awiti. He sought to mend fences with ODM, which he had served as the county secretary before the acrimonious falling out after the nominations.
He was readmitted to the party fold together with the other bigwigs who had ditched the party to pitch tent as independent candidates. He was still a favorite of the masses and maintained regular contact with his campaign agents and grassroots networks.
Magwanga, therefore, appeared to be the early frontrunner. However, the emergence of two other formations soon started to erode his momentum. The first front was comprised of party stalwarts. They included ODM national chairman John Mbadi who began a campaign to discredit the Awiti administration for having let down the Homa Bay people.
The National Assembly Minority leader has been seeking the support of local party officials at subcounty level as his entry points to the people. His challenge has been the issue of at least two sets of party officials in every constituency and ward. Whichever side he chooses to use attracts almost equal opposition from the other camp.
Mbadi comes from the larger Suba region with Moses Kajwang’ as the senator. Having both senior county positions from the same region, which has the fewest votes, is an uphill task. This has forced him to seek an alliance with his maternal relatives of Ndhiwa to shore up his support base. But without a credible and strong leader from Ndhiwa subcounty to partner with, the alliance remains weak.
The biggest challenge to Mbadi in his quest to use the local party networks for his gubernatorial race is Gladys Wanga. The county woman representative is also the party coordinating committee chairperson.
While Mbadi is the national chair, Wanga has a direct supervisory role over the local party officials. She works with them on regular basis while Mbadi can only wait for reports from the counties to be submitted to him at Chungwa House.
Wanga has blended these efforts well with the NGAAF-financed Abedo and Aswekra Women's initiatives to build a formidable network of grassroots supporters.
Wanga has, therefore, emerged as the foremost grassroots mobiliser and has dethroned Magwanga from this lofty perch. Her strong connections with ODM system and 'deep state', as it were, should be cause for worry to any serious candidate.
At the opportune moment, she will as well not hesitate to play the gender card to her full advantage. She is also young, intelligent and full of energy. She learnt her trade at the feet of the legendary Otieno Kajwang,’ the founder of the current Homa Bay leadership arrangement.
The other formation can be considered to be that of the county movers and shakers.. They are the homeboys of the county invisible hands. They have served in the outgoing regime and by dint of their pervasive influence determined who else served.
This is the duo of Isiayah Ogwe and Nicholas Koriko. They served as the county secretary and finance executive, respectively. They come with the promise of stability and continuity.
The dismal performance of the county in every ranking is their Achilles' heel. To the locals, they embody everything that is wrong with the county, especially ineptitude and administrative malaise. On the fringes of these formations is the youthful Jared Kiasa. He hails from Ndhiwa subcounty that has the highest number of votes. His introductory campaigns don’t seem to have elicited a strong attraction, though.
Kidero entered the race for the governor seat when there was not much excitement about the gubernatorial contest. The candidates appeared to be more of the same, if not sides of the same coin.
His decision to contest in Homa Bay threw a spanner in the works and forced the contestants back to the drawing board. He comes into the race with a strong brand name. He is credited with bringing Mumias Sugar Company from the ignominy of collapse at the hands of Booker Tate Management Company.
Mumias sugar dominated the supermarket shelves during his leadership and is created for healthy competition with other local sugar brands such as Sony and Nzoia. Cane farmers were paid promptly and regularly.
His candidature has attracted strong local opinion leaders from across the regions of Suba, Ndhiwa and Rachuonyo. This has enabled him to build a leadership of coalition and teamwork around himself instead of the lone ranger model.
Kidero's leadership approach, therefore, appears to be reassuring to local interests and not divisive. Kidero’s illustrious career affords him vast and solid international and national connections. These are necessary for partnerships that would assist in resource mobilisation for the development of the county.
Since he comes from Rangwe constituency, he poses a direct threat to Wanga’s candidacy as they share a supposed stronghold. He, however, faces the challenge of corruption allegations while at Mumias and Nairobi county. The cases are still in court. He denies any wrongdoing.
The ODM party dynamics will be a hard nut to crack given the presence in the race of party stalwarts such as Mbadi and Wanga. Kidero has been branded a rank outsider given his previous stint in Nairobi.
However, he seems to have handled this allegation well during one of his recent tours of the county. His roots and relations are all within the county and straddle the three regions of Suba, the greater Homa Bay and Rachuonyo areas.