That the ODM Party is undergoing moments of reckoning after the just concluded primaries was witnessed this week in Migori County when area governor Okoth Obado returned for ‘home-coming’.
While Obado had created the image of a populist performer with passionate grassroots support; the empty streets that welcomed him back to Migori yesterday is being discussed within ODM circles in hushed tones. Did he lie to the party about his popularity?
The governor had to change routes and only addressed two public rallies, both in heavily guarded venues, and one deep in his village.
In Migori town, he was booed and heckled and could not address any gathering, forcing him to speed off towards his village, over one hundred vehicles in tow.
Earlier, he had changed routes to avoid passing through the key towns of Rongo and Awendo.
The governor was given direct nomination by the ODM Party after the party’s National Appeals Tribunal found that the the nomination exercise in Migori was marred with widespread irregularities and nullified the certificate that had earlier been awarded to Governor Obado.
The ODM Central Management Committee awarded Obado the ticket, disappointing thousands of Migori County voters particularly supporters of former cabinet minister Ochilo Ayacko.
“It will take a direct endorsement by the party Leader of ODM for Obado to win. Raila will be forced to carry Obado’s hand otherwise the ground has really shifted to Ochilo,” a resident of Migori told Kenya Today, adding that Raila will have to decide whether he wants to die for Obado or he wants to win the presidential election.
“In 2013, it was him who was not favored, and people voted against favouritism, not so much on his credibility. He wasn’t known. He had no money and people still voted for him. This is what has changed. Now it is him being favoured and he believes, like Oyugi Akong’o believed in 2013, that having the ODM ticket is enough for him. He’s in for a rude shock,” he added.
Supporters of Governor Obado however dispute the claim that their candidate is weak on the ground, saying as an incumbent he has the resources to bankroll his campaign without burdening ODM party or NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
For Ochilo supporters, the claim that Obado used money – millions – looted from Migori County coffers to buy ODM certificate despite being defeated by Ochilo during the nomination is making them see the race between Obado and Ochilo as one of protecting county funds.
They also claim Obado brought in police during the tallying to interfere with the exercise just as he had earlier stormed a political rally presided by ODM Deputy Party Leader Hassan Joho. This was during the launch of Suna East MP Junet Mohammed’s re-election.