Raila Odinga threatens to drop presidential bid if Nyanza misses vote targets
Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has threatened to bow out of the presidential race if his Nyanza backyard fails to achieve its targeted number of new registered voters.
He expressed concern that support in his strongholds may not be realised because of low voter registration. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is engaged in the second mass voter registration drive after a similar one last year.
Last year, the commission failed to reach its target because of factors like lack of voter education. It registered 34, 203 new voters in Homa Bay against a target of over 100,000. Other counties in Nyanza had targets of nearly 100,000 but got less than half the number.
In Kisumu, 44,666 new voters were listed, Migori had 39,983, while Siaya had 31, 335.
In the current drive, the IEBC targets 112,000 new voters in Homa Bay, with other Nyanza counties’ targets in the neighbourhood of that number.
However, Mr Odinga cautioned that the commission may once again miss its target.
“I have observed IEBC clerks just seated with no one to register. This is making me think that my supporters do not want to register," he said.
Speaking in Homa Bay town yesterday after commissioning a Sh1.6 billion Belgium-funded water project, Mr Odinga told his supporters that he might decide to quit the race should he not get enough support.
"My rivals are having their people register as voters in large numbers because they have taken the presidential race in 2022 seriously. When I walk out there I am embarrassed because of the manner in which you are not taking this matter seriously.
“Do you want me to quit the race? If you do not register in numbers, then I do not see the reason why I should contest. We have to take this matter seriously and register," he said.
Last year, the Orange party leader said the number of new voters would determine whether he runs for presidency. He later announced his bid.
Yesterday, he was worried that he may not get the support he expects, giving an example of Kisumu County, which he said had only registered 3,000 new voters since Monday. He said the scenario replicates across other counties like Homa Bay where the commission had registered only 1,000 new voters by Wednesday.
Mr Odinga's statements are meant to encourage his supporters to register in large numbers.
He urged the youth and unregistered Kenyans to get ready for the August 9 polls, saying he will complete projects started by President Uhuru Kenyatta if elected. “I want many people to register as voters. Any youth who shall not have registered yet he or she is of age, should be denied food at home,” said Mr Odinga
He said good relations between him and the President have enabled the country to grow.
"I thank the President for the handshake. I will ensure there is continuity in the ongoing projects. The next government will ensure what starts now will help everyone," he said.
If elected, Mr Odinga said, his government will focus on water supply as one of his top 10 agenda. He said many families are suffering water shortage, yet some of them, like those in Nyanza, border a lake.
"It's a paradox that people have to suffer water shortage when a major source is just a stone’s throw away," the ODM leader said.
Part of what he intends to do is to build dams and other water storage systems which he said will help during the dry season. Most people in the county rely on rain as their water source for agriculture.
Mr Odinga said animals have died and families starve when rain stops.
"Rain in the country usually goes to waste when runoff drains into the ocean. One of my agendas is to build storage systems that will tap rain water and store it for future use," he said.
He was accompanied by water Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti, Woman Rep Gladys Wanga, Senator Moses Kajwang’ and MPs from the county.