Migori Governor Okoth Obado has fought off suggestions he backed Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid as he skipped the DP’s rallies in his county on Sunday.
Mr Obado, who has in the past accompanied Dr Ruto while touring the region, fuelling speculations that he was allied to the DP’s “hustler movement”, Sunday insisted he, too, is a presidential aspirant.
The governor was re-elected on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket in 2017 but has consistently clashed with the party and its leader, former prime minister Raila Odinga, amid a dalliance with Dr Ruto.
But the absence of Mr Obado, who has acquired the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), at the DP’s rallies in Migori County Sunday signalled cracks in their political collaboration.
“When I host the DP in Migori, I only do it as a matter of courtesy because he is the deputy President ... it doesn’t mean I have defected to the ‘hustler nation’,” Mr Obado said.
Asked why he didn’t host the DP on Sunday, Mr Obado responded: “I was holed up in an emergency at a gold mine where some of my people were trapped and I also had a patient. Please don’t read too much into this.”
The governor questioned why some presidential aspirants were not deemed to be working with their opponents when they attend their events.
“Why do you get concerned with my issues? Why is it that when I attend the DP’s meetings I’m deemed to have defected to his camp but when [Mr] Odinga attends Kalonzo Musyoka’s and Gideon Moi’s [political events] he is not accused of defecting to their parties?” Mr Obado posed.
Mr Obado was conspicuously missing from the DP’s itinerary in Kuria on Sunday, perhaps signalling the shift in their earlier plan for a partnership between the Ruto-led United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and PDP.
Last year, Mr Obado hosted the DP at his residence in Migori twice and announced he would back Dr Ruto’s State House bid.
But the push by allies of the deputy President to have the governor abandon PDP and join UDA appear to have jolted the plans. On Sunday, close allies of Mr Obado told the Nation that he had decided to skip the meeting for “obvious reasons”.
“The ground has shifted politically. The governor is weighing his options and [decided on a] strategic retreat. His dalliance with the deputy President has earned him the ‘traitor’ tag, which he is keen to shed off,” said a close aide of the governor.
During Sunday’s rallies, Dr Ruto said he was confident of clinching the presidency in the August 9 elections. He was accompanied by MPs Mathias Robi (Kuria West), Kitayama Marwa (Kuria East), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Sylvanus Osoro (South Mugirango), Njuguna Kawanjiku (Kiambaa), Johana Ngeno (Emurwa Dikiir) and Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango). Mr Robi accused Mr Obado of rocking Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign by clinging on to PDP, which he described as a village outfit.
“PDP has no appeal in Migori. Our plan is to popularise UDA in Nyanza and Governor Obado’s association with UDA has brought about unnecessary tension in the party since he has come up with a list of aspirants and delegates,” said Mr Robi.
Protect his votes
Dr Ruto vowed to protect his votes.
“I have heard people say I will win the elections but will not be declared President because some people who refer to themselves as the ‘deep state’ will not allow it,” he said.
“If you look at me, do you think even for a minute that someone can steal my votes? I know how deep state works since I’m in government,” Dr Ruto said.
He told his supporters to brace for an epic battle against those he said had been endorsed by the government.