By Oginga Randiki
Thirty five year years ago Mr. David oKIKI Amayo, then a former assistant minister for commerce and industry, went back to the electorate in Karachuony on Monday 22 September1980 to try and reverse the outcome of the general election in Novembers 1979 when he lost his seat to Mrs. Phoebe Muga Asiyo.
For Amayo it was not a simple duel with the woman whose election had just been nullified a month ago by the high following an election petition by Amayo; it was a battle against a whole array of Luo leaders, including the veteran and revered formaer Oginga Odinga.
Almost three and half decades later, another by-election with almost similar dynamics is being conducted in Homa bay. So exactly are the dynamics in the current election duel, and what are the similarities?
First, the Mzee Kajwang family, the Mzee who gave us the ‘Mapambano’, the giant whose death occasioned the senatorial by-election and more specifically his son Musa Kajwang goes back to the electorate in Homa bay county on February,12, 2015 to try and reaffirm the outcome of the general election on March,4, 2013 when his elder brother Otieno Kajwang aka Bado Mapambano’ allies ‘Okil Maloka’ won his senatorial seat and took the cup home to the Kajwag family.
For Phillip Okundi, just like Amayo, it is not a simple duel with the youthful resource constraint Musa Kajwang whose ODM nomination caused a huge disaffection among the aspirants resulting in his defection to a little known, almost nondescript party called Maendeleo Party of Kenya, a member of the ruling coalition, Jubliee.
Like the election duel in Karachuanyo then, now it is Okundi equally faces a battle against whole array of Luo leaders, under the CORD coalition, including the veteran and revered former prime minister Raila Odinga.
The February 12 by election would be tough enough for Okundi without the interest which Luo leaders and CORD outside Homa bay have shown in the contest, it even tougher for him now that his backers are known Jubilee owners. I am saying this because when Musa announced that he was going to take on OKundi and Alila combined, he was at first given little chance of clinching the seat for ODM.
First, unlike Okundi, he is a youth with almost no known political network, influence and money and he has spent most of his private career in Nairobi away from active politics.
Neither fact made him a very credible contender against the monied and a household name in Homa bay like Okundi. Raila knew all these facts, yet he seemed to have seen something beyond all this in the young man, that anyone of us couldn’t not see. It is reminiscent of what Jaramogi actually did by seeing in Orwa Ojode what many Luo leaders could not see then.
As a matter of fact, many Luo leaders and MPs were opposed to Orwa Ojode’s nomination. But Jaramogi stood his ground, and one night we traveled to Ndhiwa to wake Mzee Ojode in the middle of night. Jaramogi did not even alight from his car. “Miya wuodi moro adhi atwe e loo Odira” ( Give me one of your son to replace Odira). Well, Odira was involved in the August first disturbances as Moi used to call the coup against and was hanged)
It is interesting to note that Asiyo too was faced with similar challenges. She was given little chance. She was a woman and she had spent most of her public career in Nairobi. Neither fact made her a very credible contender against assistant minister. The entire Kanu war cabinet including both old and young Nyayoist war horses were ordered to give full support to Amayo.
Out of the field of five there were three candidates who had in the previous elections done credibly in their unsuccessful attempts to unseat Amayo. These were Haggai Koyier,Amos Midamba,and Orinda Sibuor. And yet even before polling day in November1979, the race in Karachuonyo had boiled down to a duel between Amayo and Asiyo.
Here again the dynamic are almost the same. Out of the field of eight there is one candidate who had performed credibly well in the last senatorial race against Otien Kajwang and came close to unseating. This is Mr. Alila. And yet even before polling day, the race has boiled down to a duel between Musa and Okundi. Why sudden change of fate?
The change may be attributed to the fact that Baba is fully backing Musa, come rain come shine. In the one month in which Musa has been in the campaign trail he has already made a mark for himself as an outspoken candidate, focused and vibrant.
He impressed his supporters, both Cord,ODM MPS and senators sufficiently to be fully backed as a credible candidate. He has spent enough time and effort to respond to questions over his manifesto and specific projects left incomplete by his late brother back in his county to convince that is good value for money.
Musa is certainly likely to be on his own to give Okundi a tough time in the by-election, at least as his brother gave Alila in March 2013 election, now that there are only he and Okundi in the race for Homa Bay senate seat. Asiyo too gave Amayo tough time on her own.
Asiyo, too, did just that in her eight months in parliament she had made a mark for herself as an outspoken parliamentarian. She impressed her fellow Luo MPs sufficiently to be elected secretary to the Luo-Kuria parliamentary group,and had enough time and efforts on harambee projects.Unfortunate for Okundi the problems which Musa is having with his nomination being contested in the court paralleled similar problems Asiyo faced.
Amayo became involved in a controversy over the clearance of Asiyo by the ruling party for purposes of nomination. Though Asiyo had paid her life membership fee of shs. 1,000.00 it took her long time to obtain the necessary certificate without which the ruling party was not going to clear her. At the time Asiyo and her supporters claimed that Amayo was responsible for the delays in clearing Asiyo, though Amayo denied the charge.Musa too is being dragged along the High court corridors on the allegation that his nomination and that of his late brother was not lawful
Another political milestones are all kinds of obstacles that are being put in Musa’s way including physical violence being visited upon his person. The Kanu power barons had a field day wielding brutal force unleashed violence on Asiyo and her supporters. Just like then and now, the Establishment men like Omolo Okero, Mathews Ogutu,Okiki Amayo, John Okwanyo,Zablon Olang had for year been cast as anti-Odinga men.
The problems Asiyo was facing in Karachuonyo were taken by many of her supporters as part of a calculated campaign to keep Odinga and his friends politically down. This is exactly what is happening in Homa bay today. It is a political plot by Jubilee and its government to keep Raila down, in his own backyard.
In another vein,they seen by many Luo leaders as an attempt to keep the Luo divided, and Ogutu, Okero and Amayo were single out as the arch villains in the Nyayoist conspiracy.
In present set up Okero, Ogutu and Amayo have been wittingly replaced by Dalmas, Kidero and Rege. But what history is telling us is that Okero met his retribution in Gem when voters replaced him with a pro-Odinga man Otieno Ambala, Ogutu scraped through with a slim margin, only to have his election thrown out after an election petition filed by the Legion Maria Archbishop Ondiek Oluoch,another pro-Odinga man, though in the ensuing by-election Ogutu was defeated by a hitherto unknown young lawyer James Orengo another pro-Odinga man.
It was not only Jaramogi who was throwing his weight into the fray, but a large number of Luo leaders were arraigned against Amayo openly. A number of Luo MPs made declaration that they wanted Asiyo returned. To the surprise of many Luo leader, Zablon Olang, the then MP for Ndiwa, who was at that time the assistant minister for constitutional affairs, whose boss was Charles Njonjo,shocked politcial world by publicly expressing his support for Asiyo, a pro-Odinga woman.
He explained his support on the basis that Asiyo was the secretary of the Luo-Kuria parliamentary group and consequently deserved the support of all Luo and Kuria MPs.
In the current scenario, it not only Raila Odinga who is throwing his weight into the fray as ODM party leader, but a large number of Luo MPs and leaders are arraigned against Okundi, Alila and co.
That intervention of Luo leaders,especially, Luo Cord MPs from outside Homa Bay will make a huge difference to the outcome of the election on 12 march is obvious.With example of Siaya gubernatorial by election still so vivid in the memories of Luo politicians, no wonder the Jubilee-leaning MPs have already warned outsiders from getting involved in the campaign for the seat, just in the same manner Nyayo did in September,1980, when the Kanu South Nyanza branch, in which Amayo was still then very powerful, had warned outsiders from getting involved in the campaign for the Karachuonyo seat.
It is worth to note that there had been violence between the two camps, with presence of non-Karachuonyo politicians in the constituency serving as a ‘trigger’ for rise of tension among the voters. The provincial administration took sides by barring any outsiders from addressing public meeting and had made it clear that it would like to see the people of Karachuonyo conducted campaign without any interference from outside.
All this was done in the vain attempt to stop the impact the ‘influence’ from outside was likely to have on the electorate. It is interesting that three and half decades later,similar tactics are being applied today by Homa bay MPs such as Rege, Oner, Neto backed by the government.They have the backing of the county commissioners.
The second factor which is likely to affect the outcome is the reaction of Homa Bay voters to outside interest, whereas CORD may be deemed to be the ‘internal-outsiders’ due to the fat that Homa bay is a CORD strong hold, while Jubilee may be deemed as the ‘external-outsiders’ or the ‘extended-outsiders’. Its unpopularity and almost absence in the county is obvious.
Yet, people believed to be close to president, though, they are in ODM, have suddenly declared their interest to work with Jubilee and have already publicly declared their support for Okundi. It reliably learned that one the ODM ‘rebel’ governor who recently declared his interest to support Okundi has a strong backing of president Uhuru Kenyatta,who is said has openly called for campaign for a jubilee coalition candidate whom he called one of the staunchest Jubilee men.
In fact the president is said to have been instrumental in his choice of party sponsorship. Coupled with the fact that Jubilee is not only hostile to Raila and but also has disenfranchised the region,the favouritism shown to Okundi or any candidate has the effect of casting Okundi in th eyes of many Luo, including Homa bay,voters as an enemy of Raila, who remains a revered personality among the Luo.
More to the point, it makes Musa the underdog, giving him sympathies which he probably he would not have had. He seen now as a courageous man who is taking on the president’s coalition own man and there must be many voters who are going to vote him merely to express their determination to stay independent of the ‘external-outside’ pressure.