Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi says he will not contest in the 2022 Siaya gubernatorial race.
The move has surprised many of his supporters, as he was considered one of the frontrunners to succeed Governor Cornel Rasanga, who is serving his second and last term.
Governor Rasanga, on the other hand, is eyeing the Alego Usonga parliamentary seat.
Announcing his decision on Thursday, Mr Wandayi said he will now focus all his energies on ensuring Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga becomes the fifth President of Kenya.
In a statement, the Ugunja MP and ODM director of political affairs said his action was in tandem with the aspirations of the party.
“Following extensive consultations with ODM leadership…and having listened keenly to the voices of my Ugunja constituents, I wish to make it known that I shall not be a candidate for the position of Governor of Siaya County in 2022,” he stated.
Mr Wandayi, who is serving his second term as an MP, sits on the party’s National Executive Committee and the Central Management Committee.
He said Siaya has no shortage of men and women who are capable of serving it as governor, and exuded confidence that residents will make an informed choice when the time comes.
But he did not say who he will support in next year’s gubernatorial race, pointing out that he will rally behind the ODM nominee.
“As a disciplined and loyal member of the progressive movement, I will lend my full support to the candidates that ODM shall have duly nominated for the position of Governor and other positions in that election,” he said.
But although he has dropped his bid, he said that he had met all qualifications for the office of governor.
He then asked leaders and his supporters to ensure that devolution works for the benefit of current and future generations.
Mr Wandayi has been a frontrunner in the race to succeed Mr Rasanga, putting him on the warpath with Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, who is also said to be eyeing the position.
Also in the race are former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, former principal secretary Carey Orege, Siaya Deputy Governor James Okumbe and former police spokesperson Charles Owino.
While Mr Odinga had ordered a stop to early campaigns, leaders continue lobbying quietly on the ground as they seek to endear themselves to the electorate.
As a result, camps had developed in Siaya, with some supporting Mr Wandayi while others backed Mr Orengo.
Mr Orengo has marshalled the support of half the MPs from Siaya, including Samuel Atandi (Alego Usonga), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Otiende Amollo of Rarieda.
The Siaya senator also enjoys a cordial relationship with the party leader's elder brother and the East Africa Legislative Assembly member, Oburu Oginga, who is seeking to contest the Siaya senatorial seat next year.
Meanwhile, Mr Wandayi had the support of Mr Rasanga, as well as other leaders at the national level.
While Mr Wandayi did not provide another reason for his move, Mr Odinga has always moved to reduce tension among his allies who are gunning for various political seats in his backyard.
Thus, Mr Wandayi’s move could be seen as part of the party’s ‘negotiated democratic process’ to avert a falling-out among ODM candidates and to ward off rivals who would want to take advantage of any tensions and cause defections.
Political commentator Salim Odeny reckons that Mr Odinga has everything to do with Mr Wandayi’s move, saying the competition might affect the ODM leader’s own political prospects.
“When leaders say they want to help Raila, they should be ensuring that they reduce fierce competition at his bases and that is what Mr Wandayi has done. You can’t help him when he keeps getting distracted back home,” Mr Odeny said.
He projects that other candidates in Mr Odinga’s backyard are likely to follow suit.