By Lawrence Aluru
ODM’s National Elections Board faces an integrity test as party faithful prepare to pick the candidate for Governor of Siaya County.
Some aspirants are already crying foul saying the contest is predetermined in favour of Assistant Minister for Finance Dr Oburu Oginga, who also happens to be the elder brother of Prime Minister Raila Odinga .
Other aspirants for the seat Mr Felix Okatch, Mr Otieno Okanja and Mr William Oduol.
This is despite the PM criticising those invoking his name in their campaigns. The PM said his name should only be mentioned in connection with the presidential race, and distanced himself from the Siaya nominations.
But observers are waiting to see if he will indeed leave his key men in the county to battle it out in the January 17 nominations.
Oduol said he believes he might be denied the nomination certificate even if he wins the primaries.
He claimed party organs favour Oburu and he would be picked even if he is not the overwhelming favourite. He said the electorate should be given the chance of electing leaders of their choice.
“If indeed Dr Oburu is convinced that he is popular, why does he fear to face off with his competitors in a free and a fair nomination process,” he posed.
Oduol said he has been under immense pressure from party stalwarts close to Oburu to step down for the Bondo MP.
But he vowed that as a democrat and true believer in a new and changing Kenya, he was ready to face off with his opponents in a fair nomination process.
Initially, there were six contestants, out of which four have shelved their ambitions, saying they were doing it for the sake of peace in the county.
The four are Joe Donde, Cornel Rasanga, Okinda and Ochanda.
They said Oburu was an economist and a politician for many years and so should be accorded the chance to establish the first county government in Siaya.
Oburu, however, is poised to have a titanic battle for the seat when he faces Oduol and the other two.
The matter has taken a life of its own in the social media with many on Twitter condemning statements by ODM Joint Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo and Lands Minister James Orengo that suggested Oburu should get a direct nomination to run for the seat.
In case primaries are not held in a fair manner, Oduol said he is ready to defect to a party that will give him direct nomination to enable him face Oburu.
“I will not run as an independent candidate, but will vie for the seat on a different party ticket,” he said.
Okatch said even though he was in competition for the nomination, the main protagonists will be Oburu and Oduol.
Okatch noted the party’s stalwarts want their preferred choice picked and are not ready to conduct free and fair elections. For Okatch, running as an independent candidate is his choice if he loses in the ODM nominations.
“I will be an independent candidate because I am sure that Oburu will be given the certificate for the gubernatorial seat,” said Okatch.
He claimed the primaries would be a warm-up and the real race would occur after nominations.
Okanja said his candidature is neutral and believes it is up to the people to decide on who takes the mantle.
Okanja, 62, who has been on the campaign trail, said he does not believe in groupings because he has a vision for Siaya County and not for few individuals.
He said he would accept the verdict, but would not run to another party since he is an ODM life member.
“I started with the Kenya People’s Union as well as Ford Kenya, Ford, National Democratic Party, Liberation Democratic Party and now ODM and will continue with it for the struggle for justice,” added Okanja.
He said he was more concerned with his vision for the county rather than who will be given the certificate.
“Siaya has bigger challenges such as poverty, malnutrition and infectious diseases that need attention rather than looking at minor issues of who will be given the nomination certificate,” said Okanja.
Oburu said no one has endorsed him and that ODM would not nominate him directly.
He was initially eying the Senate seat but agreed to avoid a battle with Orengo last month by opting to seek the governorship.
“I feel this is the best decision. The party is bigger than all of us,” said Oburu.
Mr Gideon Ochanda said he stepped down for Oburu because he found it difficult to work with Oduol.
“You cannot go competing when you know you are losing. I tried working with him and could not move,” said Ochanda.
Joe Donde, who has been campaigning for the seat said he would forego his ambition if Oburu vies for the same seat.
Mr Donde said, “I will join the campaign camp for Oburu to drum up support for him in the nominations.”
Many are beginning to accept Oburu in parts of Gem, Rarieda and Bondo. But he will have to work extra hard to change the attitude of the voters in Alego and Ugenya, where Oduol and other candidates are popular.
It remains to be seen between the two protagonists, Oburu and Oduol, who will carry the day when the time for nominations come.
According to ODM election board, nominations in strongholds will be done by voters while in non-stronghold areas, delegates will decide who carries the mantle.
Siaya County remains under scrutiny since it is Raila’s home area.