Discontent over ‘preferred candidates’ rocks ODM in Migori

Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno has said the public service employer needs a “clean break” from corruption, nepotism and skewed hiring June 19, 2012. FILE

A major political realignment is taking shape in the Migori governor’s race, with some aspirants abandoning the Orange Democratic Movement ahead of the August 9 General Election.

The discontent was fuelled by perceptions that ODM may not conduct fair primaries.

Governor aspirant Dalmas Otieno has settled on Jubilee as his vehicle to face off with others who are expected to follow suit.

On Thursday, Mr Otieno was received at Jubilee headquarters by top officials. The party is under the Azimio la Umoja coalition.

"As you are all aware, the entire Jubilee leadership comprises people we have worked with for a long time,” Mr Otieno said moments before he was ushered into President Uhuru Kenyatta-led party.

“I settled on this party because of its strong orientation on development matters. We have an agenda for Migori County that will emphasize the development of our people and spurring growth.”

The move is seen as snubbing both ODM and Governor Okoth Obado, who had earlier courted Mr Otieno to vie under the People’s Democratic Party.

The governor’s seat has attracted, among others, Senator Ochillo Ayacko, Woman Representative Pamella Odhiambo, former Migori MP John Pesa, US-based Prof Mark Ogutu, businessmen Philip Mwabe and Robert Okongo, and former Mombasa County executive Seth Odongo.

There had been talk that ODM had preferred candidates, with aspirants accusing its leaders of favoritism, ODM leader Raila Odinga maintaining that nominations would be free.

Dr Odhiambo castigated ODM chairman John Mbadi for fronting Senator Ayacko as the preferred successor to Governor Obado, who is serving his second and last term.

“Such claims are detrimental and risk polarising the party and should not come from a person of Mr Mbadi’s calibre. All we want is a level playground for everyone without intimidation,” she said.

“We have an equal stake in the Orange party, and I will walk closely with my bosses, both nationally and at the grassroots. This stake will not be taken away by rumours.”

But Mr Ayacko has dismissed the claims as “mere propaganda peddled by those who had sensed defeat”.

“We know these rumors are created by those who have sensed defeat and are looking for an exit plan from the party by tainting the image of other leaders,” Mr Ayacko told the Nation.

He said he was keen to clinch not only the ODM ticket but also the General Election.

With rising discontent over ODM tickets, politicians from the county are openly courting other parties to secure their slots on the ballot. But ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna sought to assure aspirants that the party had no preferred candidates.

Other parties keen to make inroads on Mr Odinga's turf have also capitalised on the grievances and are opening their doors to aspirants who may miss out on the party’s tickets.

Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Governor Obado’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are already offering themselves as alternatives for ODM aspirants if the latter party’s nominations are disputed.

“PDP is merely offering an alternative to what is already on the ground to ensure that there is a fair competition. Some of us have taken the party as personal property which is dished out to the highest bidder and this is the culture that we want to stop,” Mr Obado said at a past function without mentioning names.

Equally, UDA is making forays into the county through a membership recruitment drive targeting 150,000 members.