A two-horse race is shaping up in the Homa Bay governor contest between former Nairobi County chief Evans Kidero and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga.
Dr Kidero opted to vie as an independent after Ms Wanga, his main challenger, was awarded a direct ticket by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party. He has vowed to go against the wave to be the second county boss after second-term Governor Cyprian Awiti.
This year’s election broke a pact signed ahead of the 2013 General Election that was to see top county seats distributed fairly among four sub-regions. While the same agreement was postulated in the run-up to the 2017 polls, ODM seems to have disregarded it this time round after issuing a direct certificate to Ms Wanga, a move that made other aspirants drop out of the race. According to the initial arrangement, the governor was to be fronted from the populous Rachuonyo, which consists of Kasipul, Karachuonyo and Kabondo Kasipul constituencies.
The deputy governor position was to be reserved for Ndhiwa, which has 85,056 registered voters, while Suba (North and South) were earmarked for the Senate seat. Rangwe, which comprises Rangwe and Homa Bay Town constituencies, was slotted for the position of woman representative.
The deal saw election of Mr Awiti as governor (Karachuonyo), Hamilton Orata as deputy governor (Ndhiwa), Otieno Kajwang’, whose brother Moses Kajwang took over after he died, as senator (Suba) and Ms Wanga (Rangwe) as Woman Rep.
The pattern is, however, set to be broken in this year’s contest as both Dr Kidero and Ms Wanga are from Rangwe. However, in an effort to tap into the support of the populous Karachuonyo votes, Ms Wanga has picked former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga as her running mate. From the same region, the party has picked Woman Representative candidate Joyce Osogo, popularly known as Bensouda.
While Dr Kidero has yet to make public his running mate, he, too, has hinted at picking a person from Karachuonyo.
The past month has seen a lot of activity in the two camps as both aspirants endear themselves to voters. Ms Wanga has held several meetings with different groups, including the youth, whom she uses to enhance her presence in social media. The meetings have also seen her win the hearts of other ODM candidates, including Senator Kajwang’ and some MPs who previously opposed her bid.
The ODM lawmakers include Kasipul’s Ong’ondo Were, Kabondo Kasipul’s Eve Obara, Lillian Gogo (Rangwe), Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), and Millie Odhiambo (Suba North), Adipo Okuome (Karachuonyo).
Also running on an ODM ticket is former party leader Raila Odinga’s aide, Caroli Omondi, in Suba South, a seat currently held by national party chairman John Mbadi, who had earlier declared interest in the governor.
The other aspirants who sought the ODM ticket for governor included Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers secretary general Akelo Misori, former county secretary Isaiah Ogwe and Finance executive Nicholas Owaka.
Dr Kidero claims he was locked out of the consensus meeting that settled on Ms Wanga for governor. He accused the party of letting down its members by favouring one person. “Consensus is not applicable if one person, who was contesting, is missing in a meeting,” he said and told voters to ignore party tickets when voting.
Dr Kidero plans to establish a multi-fruit processing project in Ndhiwa, a maize meal factory in Suba, fish cold rooms on Lake Victoria beaches, a dairy project, and a cotton textile centre. He also plans to upgrade the county referral hospital at Sh500 million.
Ms Wanga plans to upgrade the referral hospital within 100 days of assuming office, especially maternity and theatre wards, provide universal health coverage, establish value addition facilities for cotton, sugar cane, and fruits, improve roads, provide water by piping from the lake, improve semi-skilled labour, improve tourism sites, and increase local revenue.
Dr Kidero, who has been cleared to use EK-Dawa as his symbol, has organised meetings and won over aggrieved aspirants who decamped from ODM to vie as independents. So far, he has won the support of most independents and some politicians from parties within the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party. His team has also rebranded his campaign cars and posters from orange to blue.
Ms Wanga has accused Dr Kidero of double standards. She says Dr Kidero was among the people who were pushing for consensus on the basis that voting by party members would be tiresome, hence the need for a quick and effective nomination method to give aspirants ample time to market Mr Odinga’s presidential bid.
“I stand to be corrected if I’m wrong. It’s Kidero who was at the forefront of asking aspirants to sit down and agree among themselves on who should take the lead,” Ms Wanga claimed.
The legislator has been playing an audio clip of Dr Kidero purportedly asking the party to use consensus.
“Because Raila has a big task ahead of him of seeing how he can take power to lead the country, let us not put him in the dilemma of having to solve issues at the grassroots. Give him time to concentrate on national politics. We can achieve this by settling on a simpler process of nomination and I prefer consensus,” said the undated audio in Dholuo language.
Ms Wanga said Dr Kidero cannot be trusted: “He forgets that he was also given direct nomination in 2013 and 2017 to contest the governor seat in Nairobi. He feels bad when another person benefits but wants the rest to support him when he benefits from the same.”
Ms Wanga said the methods the party used to nominate candidates were part of what delegates had agreed upon during their annual conference in February that was attended by Mr Odinga.
Some of the issues that have dominated their campaigns include lack of development in the county, unemployment, corruption, fishing and crop farming.
TOMORROW: The race to succeed Jackson Mandago in Uasin Gishu County