Supremacy battles threaten to tear apart Raila's campaigns in Isiolo

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses a campaign rally at Garba Tula town in Isiolo County on June 21, 2022. He said Deputy President is not capable of fighting corruption.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

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Supremacy battles between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition candidates in Isiolo appear to be far from over, threatening to hurt its fortunes in the August 9 General Election.

The differences among the candidates were laid bare during presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s visit to the county on Tuesday.

Although Mr Odinga received a warm reception – compared with last October’s ugly scene when host Governor Mohamed Kuti was heckled and forced to cut short his speech – supporters of various candidates clashed during the event.

Supremacy battles between some of the politicians supporting Mr Odinga’s fifth stab at the presidency played out as the candidates marshalled their supporters to cheer them and shout down their opponents.

The meeting had been slated for last week but was pushed to Tuesday, June 21, under unclear circumstances although some leaders said it was to allow them to resolve differences between some warring groups.

Nairobi County Assembly Majority Leader Abdi Guyo, whom Governor Kuti recently endorsed to take over from him, is leading the county’s Jubilee team of Senator Fatuma Dullo, former Isiolo North MP Joseph Samal, who is seeking a comeback, woman rep hopeful Mumina Bonaya and former Isiolo assembly Speaker Mohammed Tubi, who is vying for the Isiolo South MP’s seat.

Rival groups

Another team is led by former governor Godana Doyo and has Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha, Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa and Senate candidate Mohammed Nuh.

Other leaders vying on parties in Azimio include former EACC boss Halakhe Waqo, who is eyeing the governor’s seat under ODM, nominated MCA Sumeya Bishar, seeking the woman rep seat under DAP-K, Isiolo Deputy Governor Abdi Issa and assembly Speaker Hussein Roba, both vying for the Senate seat under PNU and Kanu, respectively.

Isiolo North MP contender Mwenda Thuranira (PNU), Ali Dida (ODM) and Abshiro Halakhe are also supporting Mr Odinga’s candidacy.

There had been suggestions among some leaders that Mr Odinga hold three rallies to accommodate all rival groups.

But the ideas were rejected, with organisers settling on the initial plan to hold rallies in Merti and Garbatulla, leaving out populated and vote-rich Isiolo town and its environs.

Keen not to expose the cracks, all leaders vying under Azimio-affiliated parties and independents supporting Mr Odinga’s bid had before the meeting been asked to prioritise selling the former Prime Minister’s agenda and pertinent issues affecting locals.

But it was not long before they started campaigning for themselves and others in their camps as each sought to show their teams were mightier than those of their opponents.

Mr Odinga was with Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli, Jubilee vice-chair David Murathe, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed and his Ugunja counterpart James Opiyo.

Ms Halakhe struggled to calm violent youths shortly after she led the leaders to observe a moment of silence for the 11 people killed in bandit attacks in the last 11 days.

Calm the crowd

“Let us remain calm. I want to recognise the outgoing Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha for doing what he could have managed but large horsepower like the one in me is needed,” she said, appealing for the creation of more sub-counties and the activation of recently created ones.

When it was Mr Nuh’s turn to speak, he said Isiolo residents had decided that it was their team of independent candidates that they would elect in the August polls and that the only remaining work was to take Mr Odinga to State House.

For allegedly having been rigged out in Jubilee nominations, he said, Mr Odinga should appoint Devolution CAS Abdul Bahari to his Cabinet and also offer the region a principal secretary post to “wipe their tears away”.

The differences between Mr Doyo’s team and Mr Tubi, who was initially in their camp before he got the Jubilee ticket, also played out as the former governor skipped his name while drumming up support for his colleagues.

His supporters and those of Mr Waqo clashed with MP Odha, who was the master of ceremony before Mr Junet took over and tried to calm the crowd, including by speaking to them in the local language.

“Stop shouting. It’s Mr Odinga’s day. Our time to sell our agenda is coming…,” he said amid “Doyo” chants.

A contest over who between Ms Bonaya and Ms Jaldesa controls Merti votes also played out as the former said she was the only one, who knew the challenges area residents faced and the most suitable to offer lasting solutions.

“Here is my home place and I understand the local challenges more than anyone else here,” Ms Bonaya said, asking Mr Odinga to empower pastoralists if he wins in August.

Ms Jaldesa said that though Merti was not her backyard, it was her political “bedroom”.

Mr Odha said despite the political differences between various aspirants, Mr Odinga would reap big as all their supporters were solidly behind his bid.

Some of the leaders snubbed the Merti meeting to avoid confrontations and embarrassment in the presence of Mr Odinga, with others claiming that Mr Guyo and Mr Doyo’s camps had sidelined them in planning the meeting.

“Some of us who opted to keep off were not involved in the planning despite vying on parties under Azimio,” one of the aspirants said.

Mr Odinga promised to tackle water challenges, insecurity and infrastructure issues in the region if elected. He then flew to Garbatulla, where a group of other leaders had gathered.

Cut short his speech

Mr Guyo, Senator Dullo, Mr Samal, Mr Tubi, Ms Bonaya, Ms Bishar and Isiolo South MP Abdi Koropu were among the leaders who hosted Mr Odinga in Garbatulla.

The divisions also featured during the rally, with Mr Tubi and MP Koropu among the victims.

Mr Tubi had to cut short his speech as the crowd turned violent, while Mr Koropu addressed the crowd amid the noise.

“As the area MP, I welcome everyone, including my competitors, to Garbatulla,” Mr Koropu said amid shouts.

Mr Guyo publicly condemned the heckling and warned residents against shouting down leaders but instead listen to their agenda and make informed decisions at the ballot box.

“That behaviour of heckling leaders must end. Mr Tubi is my Jubilee candidate and deserves respect. Leaders should seek votes by selling their agenda and not embarrassing others. Even if you don’t love them, allow them to sell their agenda and make the final decision,” he said.

Insecurity, land issues, youth unemployment, poor roads and hunger featured prominently during the meeting, with the leaders asking Mr Odinga to address the challenges if he becomes the next President.

The governor hopeful took the opportunity to hit out at Mr Doyo’s camp for asking Mr Odinga to give one Cabinet Secretary slot to a person of their choice, terming them “a small group of leaders”.

“There is a group that has told you what they want but here is the true face of Isiolo. We have all communities here and the leaders who will form the next government are all here,” Mr Guyo told Mr Odinga.

Mr Murathe at one time asked residents to pick their preferred leaders for other elective seats but overwhelmingly vote for Mr Odinga.

“I appeal to all of you to elect leaders vying under Azimio parties,” he said while likening the situation to a man with several wives who play significant and equal roles.

Different from past elections, party politics could have a huge impact on the elections in the county, which is seen to be firmly in the grip of Mr Odinga.

Senator Dullo in 2017 trounced Jubilee candidate Mohammed Liban, just like Kenya Patriots Party’s Hassan Odha and Abdi Koropu defeated then Isiolo North MP Joseph Samal and his South counterpart Abdullahi Banticha, respectively.

Governor Kuti also defeated his predecessor, Mr Doyo, who was vying under the Party for Development and Reform, and Jubilee’s Abdul Bahari to become the second county boss after garnering 22,669 votes as an independent candidate.

Ms Jaldesa, the woman rep, was the only county MP elected on a Jubilee ticket in 2017, with ODM getting only one MCA seat for Chari ward, Ali Dima.

The aspirants at the time, Kabelo Adan Wario (ODM) and Mr Bahari of Jubilee Party, now Devolution CAS, garnered 1,081 and 13,636 votes, respectively.

Clan, ethnic and political alignments, aspirants track records, mobilisation skills and financial muscles to mount spirited campaigns in the vast county and inclusion politics could influence the outcome of the polls.

Wave in the region

“I don’t think party politics will have any influence on who becomes the next MP. I was elected under a little-known party, showing our people vote for individuals and not political outfits,” Mr Odha said recently.

Political analysts say the top seats could be captured by aspirants allied to Azimio due to Mr Odinga’s wave in the region.

By campaigning for one single candidate – Mr Odinga – the Azimio team in Isiolo is perceived to be stronger than Deputy President William Ruto’s UDA side, which is led by governor aspirant Hussein Tene.

Mr Tene’s team also has Winfred Kagwiria and Abdilatif Abdi Boru, who are seeking the woman rep and Isiolo North MP seats, respectively.

Campaigns will be concentrated in Bulapesa, Burat, Wabera and Ngaremara, which have a total of about 50,000 votes. Whoever wins in the four wards is likely to clinch the seats they are seeking.

Among the issues featuring prominently in the campaigns that could influence the polls are water, health, insecurity, unemployment, land disputes and incomplete projects.

While Governor Kuti has declared his exit from active politics on health grounds, after serving in various elective seats in the past 20 years, he will influence the outcome of the polls.

Analysts say the veteran politician, who served as Isiolo North MP for two terms and senator before becoming the governor, still enjoys a huge support base and whoever he endorses will have an edge over his competitors.

The frontrunners in the governor’s race are Mr Guyo and Mr Doyo.

The Senate contest has narrowed down to a race between incumbent Senator Dullo and Mr Nuh. 

The woman rep race remains a three-horse race between Ms Bonaya, Ms Bishar and Ms Jaldesa.

MP Odha, Mr Samal (Jubilee) and Mr Thuranira (PNU) are the perceived frontrunners in the Isiolo North MP’s race that has attracted 16 aspirants, while former Isiolo South MP Abdullahi Banticha (Kanu) and the former Isiolo assembly Speaker, Mr Tubi (Jubilee) are the favourites for the Isiolo South MP seat.

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