Tension is palpable as contestants for Homa Bay’s governor’s seat rush to woo voters in a bid to fly the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party flag ahead of the 2022 General Election.
In what is billed as a race of might among the Orange party stalwarts and close associates of party leader Raila Odinga, various candidates have waged a do-or-die battle as they seek to outwit each other.
Aware of the fact that getting ODM ticket is akin to bagging the coveted seat, all the 13 contestants are seeking the party nod to take over from Governor Cyprian Awiti whose final term ends next year.
Out of the four Luo Nyanza counties that include Migori, Kisumu and Siaya, it is only Homa Bay where ODM has been able to bag all the top seats against other parties and independent candidates.
Considered as Mr Odinga’s strongest support base that usually gives him more than 90 per cent of votes during elections, the party is keen to ensure it retains the loyalty by picking the best candidate to succeed Mr Awiti whose term has been riddled by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Top contenders have, however, promised to exploit the fortunes of the county endowed with natural resources like Lake Victoria, rich agricultural land, national park and a number of tourist attractions.
Leading the race is former Kasipul MP Joseph Oyugi Magwanga, who challenged Mr Awiti in the last General Election. He, however, lost the case at the Supreme Court which overturned the two lower courts that had nullified Mr Awiti’s election.
Suba South MP John Mbadi who is also the ODM national chairman has also thrown his hat into the ring.
However, the clan factor could complicate his arithmetic if Senator Moses Kajwang’ who also hails from Suba will seek reelection.
Rangwe has also presented Ms Gladys Wanga and former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero who have positioned themselves as strong candidates in the throne.
On the other hand, the populous Rachuonyo region which has three constituencies of Karachuonyo, Kasipul and Kabondo Kasipul has on board Mr Magwanga and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary general Akello Misori.
Mr Magwanga who has anchored his campaigns on his development track record while serving as a Member of Parliament is hoping to maintain the support he enjoyed in the last general election.
Despite having the advantage of deep pockets and capable of marshalling a massive campaign, Dr Kidero who has shifted base from the city politics to his county has to contend with the baggage of alleged corruption.
Ms Wanga, who is also the county ODM chairperson, has been crisscrossing the county hoping to be the first woman governor from Nyanza region.
Having established Homa Bay women sacco, she is hoping to ride on the initiative, despite her opponents accusing her of impoverishing the women and challenging her to account for affirmative funds.
Homa Bay Town MP Opondo Kaluma has further accused Ms Wanga of deceiving residents that her close contact to Mr Odinga will see her deciding on who is going to be awarded ODM ticket.
“There will be no favours during the nomination exercise. She should also be prepared to bite the dust,” said Mr Kaluma.
From Governor Awiti’s administration, Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata, County Secretary Isaiah Ogwe and Finance Executive Nicholas Koriko want to succeed their boss.
While they have expressed confidence that their experience puts them in a position to turnaround the fortunes of the county, they are facing a herculean task of disassociating themselves from the ills of the current administration.
Others said to be eyeing the seat include businessman Sam Wakiaga, Louis Otieno Ogingo, Mr Cosmas Kanyadudi and Mr Jared Kiasa.