Besides the likelihood the by-election marks a new era for Nyanza counties to gain new leadership, it certainly poses challenges for the Orange Party
Besides the likelihood the by-election marks a new era for Nyanza counties to gain new leadership, it certainly poses challenges for the Orange Party to evolve – or else! This, I think, will be both exciting and nail biting.
The recently concluded Migori Senatorial by-election pitting twenty-seven year old Eddy Oketch of Federal Party of Kenya (FPK), against former Cabinet minister Ochilo Ayako of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) alongside four other contestants is a crucial pointer to the evolving political dynamics in Migori and possibly the other Nyanza counties.
The race, in an area long perceived an ODM stronghold, was won by Ochillo Ayacko who garnered 85,234 votes, followed by Eddy Oketc with 60,555 votes. Thought this by-election witnessed a low 38 percent voter turnout, it turned the age old adage numbers don’t lie on its head, because alot is indeed hidden in these numbers.
It’s instructive, that Federal Party of Kenya (FPK) fielded a political greenhorn, in this ODM backyard, and with a legion of supporters mounted a fierce campaign that seemed to successfully smoke the ODM top brass and its party rank and file out of their comfort zone into a near panic door-to-door campaign to fish for votes.
This by-election, no doubt provides some interesting lessons, and a possible sneak preview of future electoral contests in the Nyanza counties, not to mention a possible gubernatorial by-election in neighbouring Homabay county – sooner than later.
The Obado Factor
Occasioned by the death of Senator Ben Oluoch Okello in June 2018, the by-election saw the orange party, issue Ayacko with the party ticket to vie for the Senate seat in an acrimonious no-contest-direct-party-nomination. This was despite massive opposition from among others; the local Migori ODM branch, and Govenor Okoth Obado.
The Migori Senatorial contest was largely seen as an ODM party high-command Vs Obado duel. Notably, Obado himself, who is in custody in relation to a murder case of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, contested against the party grain on two previous elections [the latest in 2017 against Ayako] and won the gubernatorial seat.
A scenario that has left many among the electorate and analysts mulling over the Raila’s influence in South Nyanza
Maybe, maybe not, but the recent Migori poll results, is widely believed, would have been markedly different, and possibly weighed in favour of Eddy had Obado been out of custody and able to deploy his entrenched grass root network in campaigning for Eddy.
Ayakos’ victory should therefore give ODM little reason to celebrate, because the results, and dynamics on the ground, no doubt should instead give chungwa party some sleepless nights following this race that has left the party’s presumed dominance badly dented, and poses a serious question over future elections in the region.
The drift from the by-election, appears to suggest the days when a tosha endorsement by Raila was all one needed to win an election in Nyanza, are increasingly numbered.
A scenario that has left many among the electorate and analysts mulling over the Railas’ influence in South Nyanza and possibly, the other neighbouring counties.
Is a Political Tsunami Emerging – People Power?
Of all the storylines emerging from the just ended by-election, perhaps none has more impact on future Migori and neighbouring counties than the rise of a new generation of politicians. Not meerly young, but with a freshness of ideas!
Driven by a heightened sense of fairness, this new generation of politicians whose ideology it is to genuinely improve the quality of life in the county, seem to have given notice. And though Eddy did not deliver a decisive victory at the polls, he [as part of new generation] represents a turning point in the county and possibly the regions’ development starved politics.
A trend, making the current crop of senior politicians a worried lot.
And as the helicopters disappeared in the horizon, and dust settles, following a campaign which saw Raila, leading the ODM team crisscross the vast county in helicopters and countless vehicles to campaign for Ayacko and wad off the Oketch influence.
A campaign which even previously successful ODM propaganda of branding opponents andhoga, – a “traitor,” didn’t seem to resonate with the electorate, not even invoking the name of the Deputy President [considered a nemisis of ODM] as the sponsor seemed to matter as the support for Eddy continued to surge – and if anything, the intended negative propaganda even intensified Eddys appeal!
This steelier show by Eddy, not only represent the emerging new wave of smart young politicians and political activists in Nyanza, who are challenging its ageing leaders. A phenomenon noticeable across much of Africa and in the wider region, and which seems to be rearing its head in the local political scene, and is likely poised to dramatically change the regions’ political and development landscape.
Maybe, Maybe not! But this trend, is making the current crop of senior politicians a worried lot. Because, in this emergence of a well-informed and ambitious youth population, the region may have just seen the beginning of the full impact of a competitive dynamic between a resourced old elite and the next generation of aspiring leaders.
Unique Ingredients served by the Eddy Oketchs’ Candidacy
Eddy seems to mark the arrival on the political scene of a new generation of leaders who besides aspiring to bring a fresh perspective to governance and development in the region, they will not hesitate to challenge the established and entrenched power structures – especially where a development agenda is lacking.
One thing that seems certain among this crop of young leaders is also how they are increasingly unwilling to endorse the existing “rules of the game” in running for public office in the region, and they now have proved that they can potentially upend old political orders including political affiliation.
The by-election also demonstrates the Migori electorate are mature and more discerning.
Unlike in the past, the electorate were not hoodwinked by the regions’ orange party leadership who are increasingly under scrutiny for being starved of integrity and falling short of the standards of fair-play especially in the nomination process.
For a party that often presents itself as the champion of democracy, this trend in nominations have been its biggest undoing. The sheer obviousness, in identifying this historical ugliness that has lived in its shadows and is finally being dragged out into the national light is a serious eye opener for the electorate.
Further, it now appears, the curtains are coming down on an era when an ODM nomination ticket in Nyanza guaranteed a candidate election victory, even when the process was flawed and a loser declared winner.
When the giant awakened …….
The youth; are the biggest picture, they are rightfully rebellious, energized – and angry.- with the chungwa people for having subordinated them. They often cite having been uniquely disadvantaged by the political leadership in the region, and increasingly sense they are the regions’ impoverished generation – absent on the payroll – but encouraged to be present in political demonstrations.
The poor women; have also woken up as they struggle to make ends meet, and as their children fall sick, and do not find drugs in government hospitals. Some have mobilized themselves into small groups nyoluoro and have to contribute small monies to support each other in times of calamity. They now are rising beyond choirs that sing praise of politicians, beyond free packets of salt, beyond poor-quality-once-wash-campaign T-shirts and of course beyond kanga lessos dished out during electioneering.
County Level Solutions; This tide is truly turning, as the youth and women now recognize, that while in the past, the fight to tackle the challenges of poverty took place at the national level, today, the intervention can happen also at the county level and to a large extent a process which they can shape and influence locally.
The youth and women in the region, are therefore increasingly no longer satisfied with just casting a vote and hero worship, and are beginning to identify their age-mates and align with leaders who genuinely facilitate sustainable development.
They are shunning the historical political narrative placing the region as victims of outside forces, and are instead identifying the enemies of development – control through consistent politicking.
New political order in Nyanza – and beyond…
It’s time for the youth in other counties to emulate their peers in Migori, and to be emancipated from the stranglehold of the old brigade.
This thought and series of events is likely to cause some a running stomach especially those who believe the formula for ascending to political office in the region depends entirely on hanging on Railas’ coat-tails hoping for patronage.
A path which makes them dilute Railas’ influence, and turns ODM nominations and campaign into a nightmare, and increasingly pits Raila and the party against the electorates wishes!
The seizing of the new opportunities and squandering up of the new challenges will be done by this new generation of politicians and activists. They have shown they can, and will soon drive the vision, as they inspire and usher in a development agenda [beyond politicking] which the electorate in this region have craved for long.
I believe, the Migori by-election marks a new era of opportunity for Nyanza to gain new leadership and poses challenges for ODM to evolve. This, I think, will be both exciting and nail biting.
Little wonder, the region is embarking on a new era.