ODM gasping for breath in Gem by-election

Siaya Governor James Orengo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo talking

Siaya Governor James Orengo (right) and Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo. They have camped in Gem to campaign for ODM’s Polycarp Wanga after it emerged that some strong opponents had combined forces against the party. 

Photo credit: File | Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

The race to pick the next South Gem ward representative on Thursday has narrowed down to two strong candidates, ODM’s Polycarp Wanga and independent candidate Brian Anyango.

Siaya Governor James Orengo and Rarieda lawmaker Otiende Amolo have camped in the area to campaign for the ODM candidate after it emerged that some strong opponents had combined forces against the Raila Odinga-led party.

The election in South Gem was postponed after the death of the ODM candidate Nick Wanga ahead of the August 9 polls.

The incumbent, David Audi, shelved his ambitions to support Mr Anyango after his party, UDM, shifted allegiance to the Kenya Kwanza coalition immediately after Dr William Ruto was declared the President-elect, reducing his chances of retaining his seat in an area that is Mr Odinga’s stronghold.

The runner-up in the ODM party primaries held on April 13, Mr Geoffrey Goganyo, also ditched the party and threw support behind Mr Anyango.

Mr Goganyo had expected to get a direct ticket from ODM after the death of Wanga weeks before the August 9 polls but ODM officials instead awarded the ticket to the brother of the late candidate, Mr Polycarp Wanga.

Drumming up support for the Orange candidate, Mr Orengo pleaded with voters not to disappoint the party leader.

“I am asking you as your governor to kindly allow me to have Mr Wanga represent you in the Siaya County Assembly. We have good plans for this region and we cannot disappoint Mr Odinga,” said Mr Orengo when he addressed voters in Siala Kaduol, South Gem.

He added: “I will camp here with you till you elect Mr Wanga because this is an ODM region. This is the right time to have an ODM party MCA because we are working on the budget and he will bring a lot to you people.”

Dr Otiende called on voters to allow the assembly to have a voice by electing the Orange party MCA.

“By electing an ODM candidate, you will allow him to have a direct conversation with the governor and other ODM leaders and bring development to the people,” Dr Otiende said. 

“If you elect another person from a different party, then there will be a disconnect in communication because this is an ODM zone.”

The decision by the Orange party to issue a direct ticket to Mr Wanga drew resistance from some residents, who held that Mr Goganyo should have been the flag-bearer.

Voters accused the party’s grassroots officials of imposing an unpopular candidate on them.

“We shall not allow some unscrupulous party officials to subvert the will of the people of South Gem. We know there are some officials who want to use money to shortchange the most popular candidate for another candidate who is not known by the people,” complained Mr Nelson Ogutu.

He added: “In 2017, the Orange party did the same thing and an independent candidate won South Gem ward. This will be the same case because they have followed the same trend.”

Siaya ODM party chair Oloo Okanda had hinted that the party would consider the first runner-up for the ticket, which did not materialise.

Other candidates in the race include John Adino (LDP), David Audi (UDM), David Aketch (independent), Enock Okinyi (CPK), Benard Otieno (MDG), Kenneth Omolo (Jubilee), and Christopher Ouma (independent).

The other regions in Kenya that will also have by-elections include Bungoma, Narok, Kitui, Nairobi and Kakamega.

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