A move by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to suspend the putting up of campaign posters and billboards in Kisumu County until May 25 has triggered uproar among aspirants, with some viewing it as a ploy to give undue advantage to select candidates.
Another issue that has angered gubernatorial aspirants is the decision by some party delegates and branch officials from Kisumu’s seven sub-counties to endorse Governor Anyang Nyong’o for a second term, coming just months before party primaries.
Posters and billboards help aspirants to maintain their visibility to the electorate, so the ban has elicited grumbling from various quarters, with some calling it unfair.
The resolution to ban posters was made during a Kisumu County ODM delegates conference held on Monday.
Participants felt politicians were already erecting their campaign posters in crucial locations that they said should be used to market the lakeside city and welcome guests ahead of the ninth edition of the Africities summit that will take place between May 17 and 21 this year.
The proposal was first tabled by a delegate from Kisumu West before it was endorsed by the delegates and read by Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathews Owili as among the resolutions.
Dr Owili said that hosting the summit will be beneficial to Kisumu and the lake region and it needed to get the visibility it deserves.
“We have a major continental event coming to Kisumu but our major concern is before we even put up Azimio or Africities billboards, the city we love is already full with campaign billboards for aspirants. How shall we even welcome our guests?” he said.
He added: “We propose that the county government suspend the erection of billboards by aspirants until the Africities summit ends on May 25th.”
But politicians such as senatorial aspirants Prof Tom Ojienda and Mr Phillip Pande, who are making their debut in politics and already have billboards on major highways, criticised the resolution.
"In no way do the billboards or posters interfere with the Africities summit…campaigns are a showcase of our democratic space which we have fought for," Prof Ojienda said.
His counterpart, 24-year-old Mr Pande, called the decision ridiculous, while citing the example of Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, who started erecting billboards as early as 2021.
“Candidates must popularise their bids. This resolution is another sign of cowardice,” Mr Pande said.
During the meeting, delegates also endorsed Governor Nyong’o for a second term, a move some see as signalling that there are already preferred candidates.
The Africities summit will be held as Kisumu, just like the rest of Kenya, will be in campaign mode. If the ban stands, it will mean that aspirants will only have June and July to market their candidacies before the August 9 polls.
It costs between Sh100,000 and Sh110,000 per month to advertise on a 12-by-10-metre billboard in Kisumu, said Ben Ogombe, an outdoor advertiser.
Mr Ogombe, director of Red and Yellow Outdoors Ltd, also charges Sh10,000 per month on every street pole or light box.
For digital screens, advertisers charge Sh50,000 per month.