ODM chairman and Suba South MP John Mbadi has bolted out of the hotly contested Homa Bay gubernatorial race to focus on selling the candidacy of Azimio la Umoja presidential hopeful Raila Odinga.
Mr Mbadi’s decision to withdraw from the race to succeed Governor Cyprian Awiti now narrows it to Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, former Kasipul Kabondo MP Joseph Magwanga and Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata. They will square it out in nominations set for next month.
Mr Mbadi, the minority leader in the National Assembly, said on Monday that although the decision was difficult to make, he had to do it so as to focus on supporting Mr Odinga’s campaign.
“What has, however, made it doable is my unquestioned commitment to the ODM national agenda, the quest for national growth and stability and of course my unwavering support for Raila Odinga’s presidential bid,” he said.
The Suba South MP, while thanking his supporters, also said he would focus on ensuring that ODM sweeps the majority of seats in the August General Election.
“In the interest of these, I have today withdrawn my bid from the Homa Bay County gubernatorial race,” said Mr Mbadi, who has been MP for 15 years.
“I will therefore henceforth place more effort in the Azimio presidential bid and the nationwide bid to have ODM secure as many seats as possible, tasks I am sure I can positively add value to.”
Mr Mbadi’s withdrawal came hours after Mr Kidero dismissed information circulating in Homa Bay WhatsApp groups that he was planning to join the Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K).
But he asked his followers to prepare for the party primaries slated for April 18 while reaffirming his commitment to ODM.
“Please avoid the rumours being propagated by desperate groups. ODM is a democratic entity and no one will be favoured. The will of Homa Bay people will be exercised by the people of Homa Bay,” Mr Kidero said.
Mr Orata, the deputy governor, confirmed to the Nation that he had hit the campaign trail as he seeks to succeed his boss and he is banking on his 10 years of experience as deputy to ascend to the country’s top seat.
He said he is not in the race because someone has told him to do so but due to his understanding of how devolution works to improve the livelihoods of Kenyans.
“I am firmly in the August race. None of those who I am competing with have the kind of experience when it comes to matters of county governance,” he told the Nation.
He added: “I did not want to start campaigns early because it could be portrayed as sabotaging my boss. As a deputy, you must be loyal, not like William Ruto’s scenario with President Uhuru Kenyatta.”
In April 2019, Governor Awiti delegated his duties to Mr Orata as he took time off to recover after surgery.
This is after the governor, who had not been seen in public for some time, returned to Kenya following an operation on his eye in Germany.
By then, Mr Awiti’s absence had sparked speculation about his ability to run the county, with local politicians criticising its operations.