Former South Mugirango MP Manson Oyongo Nyamweya’s dream of becoming Kisii County governor has been thrown into disarray after his running mate abandoned him to join Simba Arati's team.
Dr Alfred Ndemo announced he had quit the ticket, potentially ending Mr Nyamweya’s ambitions of contesting the governor’s seat in the August elections.
But Mr Nyamweya insisted his deputy’s defection will not dampen his resolve to contest.
“I will be on the ballot together with my deputy, Dr Ndemo. It is good that he left, but that does not stop me from campaigning and seeking votes,” he said.
“I will win this election. Legally, the defection holds no water. His name cannot be pulled out from the ballot as at now and I cannot replace him.”
Dr Ndemo made this surprise announcement in a meeting held at his Kitutu Chache North home and attended by Mr Arati and his team, among them Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka.
Dr Ndemo said he had discovered that the Arati group was the winning team and that there was no way Mr Nyamweya or any other candidate would beat Mr Arati.
Mr Arati has been described as extremely popular even beyond the borders of Kisii County due to his humility and willingness to embrace the poor and tackle corruption.
“I, Alfred Ndemo, swear before God that I will be faithful to Arati's government-to-be and we will make our county great. God help Mr Arati to help win this election,” swore Dr Ndemo in what sounded like an oath of allegiance.
Dr Ndemo described the event at which he decamped from Mr Nyamweya’s Kenya National Congress party as the “Motonto Bogetutu declaration” and vowed to help campaign for votes for Mr Arati and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
“We have vowed today as Bogetutu that we will not split our votes. And even those of us who are elsewhere are pleading with you to join this ship. We will not insult you, but come back home and let us join hands and vote for Mr Arati,” said Dr Ndemo.
He explained that he withdrew his support for Mr Nyamweya because he discovered that his boss was not a serious contender but a spoiler in the political game.
“When I joined him a few months ago, and we agreed to run for the Kisii gubernatorial seat on a KNC ticket, I told Nyamweya to get out so that my brothers and sisters can see you, he declined,” Dr Ndemo said.
“I gave him youths to take around and sell him, he refused to get out. I went back to my people and asked them for the next course of action and they told me to join team Arati.”
Dr Ndemo, who hails from Governor James Ongwae’s Bogetutu backyard, told the outgoing county chief to support Mr Arati and stop fighting him politically.
“I am telling Mr Ongwae that he has left Bogetutu in a poorer state than he found it. Please let Mr Arati look for his votes without obstructing him for whatever reasons,” he said.
“We don’t know what it is Ongwae is worried about not allowing an independent leader who’s not his sycophant taking over the Kisii County leadership."
Speaking during the function, Mr Arati thanked Dr Ndemo for his move, stating that he had joined the team that would form the next county government.
“Yesterday, they tried to bribe Dr Ndemo with Sh12 million to remain with the losing camp. We were together with him when they were calling him instantly,” Mr Arati said.
He added: “They are some of my competitors in the gubernatorial race and some top county leaders. They asked him how much I had given him and said they were ready to give more cash. I gave Dr Ndemo no single cent. He has come home and together we shall build a prosperous Kisii County.”
Mr Arati stated that he was for peace and promised to run a sober, credible and accountable campaign, noting that he had held over 100 campaign rallies and none had been marred by any violence.
Meanwhile, Ochwang Mengo, a former confidant of Governor Ongwae, came out strongly in defense of Mr Arati and urged his boss to go home peacefully after finishing his 10 years in office.
Mr Onyonka said Mr Ongwae was fighting the Arati team because he was worried about alleged skeletons in his closet that might be exposed if a person of his choice did not win the seat.
Out to antagonise
Mr Onyonka alleged Mr Ongwae was out to antagonise other communities in Kisii County against the Abagetutu after he was supported in leadership for 10 years without questions.
Mr Ongwae (ODM) is campaigning against his party’s governor candidate, Mr Arati, on vernacular radio and TV stations, to the chagrin of many ODM supporters.
Many have questioned why ODM was eating itself from within instead of consolidating its support to take advantage of the general goodwill from voters to defeat Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance.
Mr Ongwae last week mobilised several former MPs from Kisii County and urged them to reject the ODM candidate, stating he was not fit to be elected governor.
Mr Ongwae, who used unprintable epithets against Mr Arati, urged Kisii County residents to vote for either Prof Sam Ongeri or Chris Obure instead of Mr Arati, who seems to enjoy near fanatical support across the county.
ODM leader Raila Odinga for the first time revealed that his efforts to unite the warring political factions in the party in Kisii had failed.
He observed that there had been chaos at Kisii Azimio rallies and that he had personally talked to and urged the leaders to set aside their personal differences and consolidate their energies and focus on the campaigns to win as many seats in August as possible.
Mr Odinga said: “I have been condemning the chaos. I have in the past sat down with the leaders from Kisii and advised them that there should be no hatred when you are facing a formidable enemy in the political campaigns because they all belong to the same family of Azimio-affiliated political parties, which include ODM, Jubilee, UPA, DAP-K and others.
“I am going to call them again, sit down with them in a meeting and agree that they should conduct their campaigns with dignity and decorum without undermining each other.”