Azimio la Umoja Presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s ODM party faces a litmus test in his Siaya backyard following the joint gubernatorial ticket between former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo and ex-police spokesperson Charles Owino unveiled on Tuesday.
The two officially joined Mandera Governor Ali Roba’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) and unleashed what observers termed as a “lethal secret card” against Siaya Senator James Orengo who is poised to clinch the ODM ticket to vie for the governor seat.
The lineup however, could have far reaching consequences on ODM on other elective positions including Senatorial, Woman Rep, Parliamentary and MCA posts, depending on how the Orange outfit conducts its primaries.
Until Tuesday, Mr Owino had been thought to be preparing to face off with Mr Orengo in the battle for the ODM ticket but had apparently resigned from the party on March 24 and joined UDM on whose ticket they will run with Mr Gumbo as the flag bearer and himself as running mate.
Reiterating the party's commitment to Azimio la Umoja, Mr Roba said the party will vigorously campaign for Mr Odinga’s presidential candidature while supporting its own candidates for various seats.
“Let it be known that Gumbo and Owino have partnered as candidates and running mate.
Both had very serious stakes and were front runners in Siaya. When they join hands you can just imagine the outcome,” Mr Roba said.
Mr Gumbo said he and Mr Owino were front runners and their coming together will lead them to victory.
“I can say without any fear of contradiction that coming together of the two of us, over three quarters of the voters in Siaya are behind us.
“We command that and therefore our coming together is one way of ensuring we don’t have voter apathy in Siaya and we will with immediate effect roll out an all-out campaign for Raila Odinga as we also seek the people of Siaya’s mandate for the governor position,” said Mr Gumbo.
Mr Owino said the move was secret and was actualised after realisation that the ODM party was determined to offer its ticket to a different candidate – Mr Orengo.
“I am cognisant of the fact that you cannot belong to two parties and moved long before the March 26 deadline for (party hopping),” the former police spokesperson told Journalists at the UDM headquarters yesterday.
He went on: “I paid the nomination fee and was to participate in the ODM primaries but I was prevailed upon to stand down for an individual and as our character dictates I said I would not oppose that kind of request.
“But unfortunately my supporters said I must run so we decided to team up with Gumbo and have a formidable force.”
ODM National Elections Board (NEB) chairperson Catherine Mumma however, moved to quell tension in the party over claims that certain individuals had been handed direct tickets.
She revealed that the party has at least four nomination methods including consensus, issuance of direct ticket, nomination by delegates and by universal suffrage by party members.
“We encourage members to speak to each other and not to be negatively competitive against each other while the second method is direct nomination where we have single candidates or candidates who come from communities who use their own cultural nominations and give us nominees.
“The rest is determined by the central committee which sits and decides on the basis of different methods including the look at scientific methods – opinion polling and making a decision but so far we have not sat to determine who is getting direct tickets on the basis of the polls,” Ms Mumma said.
She went on: “The third method is voting through delegates which however, we won’t apply this time. We only applied for the nomination of the presidential candidate and the final method is universal suffrage by registered ODM members.”
Mr Gumbo and Mr Owino’s move could send ODM back to the drawing board in Siaya.
With Mr Odinga’s elder brother Dr Oburu Oginga, 78 gunning for the Senate seat, he is likely to bag the ODM ticket against Architect Julius Okinda thus throwing the Orengo camp into disarray.
Mr Okinda yesterday appealed to ODM to deliver free, fair and credible elections, promising to beat Dr Oginga in a fair contest.
“Let the party exercise intra-party democracy and allow the electorates to freely pick their candidates without undue interference to curb voter apathy that could affect our presidential candidate Raila Odinga,” he said.
On Saturday, Odinga lamented that most of his political backyard did not meet their full potential during the two phases of mass voter registration exercises organised by the electoral commission.
Speaking in Alego Usonga, he blamed area MP Samuel Atandi over the poor voters’ records in the constituency.
Despite having a potential of close to 200,000 voters, Mr Odinga noted as regrettable that the numbers fell way below the target.
“I have been telling you to be ready (for elections) by registering as voters and you don’t take it seriously.
"Now Atandi is saying Alego has registered 123,000 voters. Alego Usonga is more populated compared to Sakwa and Yimbo (Bondo constituency) and ought to have registered 200,000 voters. Shame on you,” Mr Odinga said.
Mr Atandi had earlier at the funeral celebrated that the constituency had registered 123,000 voters attracting criticism from Mr Odinga.
“Our people registered 123,000 people as voters. In 2017 we were 103,000. We will all vote for you Raila Amollo Odinga,” the MP said.
But Mr Odinga faulted the slow pace of registration in the constituency which he insisted has a huge potential, lamenting that local leaders had failed to conduct proper mobilisation exercise.