Migori governor hopeful Ochilo Ayacko has picked a new running mate from the Kuria community, dropping Lucas Mosenda, his ally in the 2017 polls.
Senator Ayacko announced the pick on social media on Monday afternoon.
“Following wide consultations with the ODM Party and various stakeholders in Migori County, I have today appointed Mr Joseph Gimunta Mahiri, PhD as my running mate for the gubernatorial position in the forthcoming General Election to be held on 9th August 2022,” Mr Ayacko posted on his Facebook page.
Dr Mahiri, a lecturer in the geography department at Kenyatta University, “brings in a wealth of managerial experience and expertise both at local and national levels” and will be of great benefit to the people of Migori County as a deputy governor, Mr Ayacko said.
“I wish him all the best as we purpose to serve the great people of Migori County,” he wrote.
Dr Mahiri comes from the Burira clan in Kuria East sub-county.
The announcement ended speculation on who Mr Ayacko would select as his running mate in the August 9 elections.
Blow to female aspirants
Mr Ayacko was earlier said to be considering appointing a female deputy from the vote-rich region so as to consolidate his support base. Mrs Rhoda Nchagwa and Ms Rahab Robi, who have been campaigning for Mr Ayacko across the community, were some of the people suggested.
In the last polls, Mr Ayacko, then an independent candidate, picked Mr Mosenda as his deputy. The pair lost to outgoing Governor Okoth Obado, who vied on an ODM ticket.
Last month, the Raila Odinga-led party handed a direct ticket to Mr Ayacko, sparking outrage from other contestants for the governor’s seat.
Pundits, however, argue that picking a different running mate may not yield much as the Kuria community has long stood with the Jubilee administration
“The position of deputy governor is merely a flower girl’s post and may not yield much in the August polls. The community is inclined towards [Deputy President William Ruto’s] UDA party and nothing may change the narrative,” noted Mr Dansam Ouma, a political scientist.
The community, which holds the county’s swing votes, is yet to reach a pact on how to share elective seats despite several attempts by their Luo counterparts to negotiate.
At the onset of devolution, the community bagged the woman representative, senator and deputy governor seats before tables turned in 2017.
Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama said the community wants a county of their own carved from the larger Migori and will do anything to break away.
Mr Odinga and DP Ruto are on a charm offensive to win the region.
“While Mr Odinga has stronger ties to make the pact like he did in the 2013 General Election, he has completely avoided the topic, the same as Dr Ruto, and they are busy trying to get presidential votes and don’t want to rock the boat,” Mr Kitayama told journalists in a past interview.
He maintained that the 2013 negotiated democracy between the two communities pushed by Mr Odinga fell through and there is no goodwill after the community failed to "return the favour" when they overwhelmingly voted for Jubilee’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“There are trust issues between the two communities after the Luo failed to [surrender] key positions in the last elections. We cannot sign a similar pact in the August 9 elections,” he said.
In 2013, Mr Odinga steered negotiated democracy, with plum positions taken by the Kuria through Senator Wilfred Machage, Woman Representative Dennitah Ghati and Deputy Governor Mwita Mahanga, while the Luo community only got Governor Okoth Obado on the ballot.
“The agreement was for the Kuria community to vote as a bloc for Raila, which we failed to do. Equally, despite Kuria communities getting the three seats, we realised individual voters had nothing to show on development,” Mr Kitayama said.
In 2017, the Luo community shunned the pact and instead elected Mr Obado and Dr Pamela Odhiambo as woman rep, while the late Ben Okello wrested the Senate seat from Dr Machage. The Kuria only retained the deputy governor’s seat.
In the August 2017 presidential polls, President Kenyatta garnered 41,951 votes (65 per cent) in the region against Mr Odinga’s 21,202 (34 per cent).
In the rerun, Mr Kenyatta won in both constituencies, with 19,587 votes in Kuria West against Mr Odinga’s 214.
In Kuria East, Mr Kenyatta won 13,156 votes against Mr Odinga’s 180.