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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 17 August 2014

PUSH AND PULL IN HOMA BAY THREATENS TO WASTE AWITI'S FIVE YEARS



One day in politics is a long time as once expressed by Britain’s Second World War hero Winston Churchill. Nothing could be closer with this saying than the current political realignments in Homa Bay county.


Soon after the ODM victory in the Kibiri ward by-election where top county leadership were accused of secretly campaigning against their party candidate Kennedy Ondiek, a political twist has taken place in a twinkling of an eye. A new political rhythm shaping up in ahead of 2017 general elections.

Homa Bay governor Cyprian Awiti who went round the Kibiri ward campaigning for ODM flagbearer now seems to be under political siege from major political players including MPs, MCAs, political activists and professionals from his own county.


Sources revealed that Ondiek’s opponent received financial support and goodwill from some of Awiti’s staff. Ondiek is a brother of the late ward representative Boaz Odhiambo Ondiek who was murdered in cold blood by unknown assailants.

Back to the realignment saga, the position of the county governorship now in the hands of Awiti and his deputy Amilingtone Orata seems to be producing more political fireworks than any other seat in the county.

The governor’s grip on the county politics just like the county senator Otieno Kajwang is headed for a major challenge. The county political landscape is changing drastically as new power wielders emerge from their hideouts.

 
In the wake of resignation within Awiti’s government, a cross section of politicians in Homa Bay including youths and those in the party hierarchy are already plotting to manhunt for Awiti’s replacement  before 2017.

The resignation of his county public service chairman, a veteran advocate who chaired his campaigns in 2013 and the county internal auditor Oti Polo has complicated issues for the governor. Last week’s announcement by Karachuonyo MP James Rege that he is going for Awiti’s seat has sent the county government in a panicky mood. 

The situation has secretly put the lakeside county in an election mood with several MPs including Oyugi Magwanga of Kasipul, Agustino Netto of Ndhiwa, Millie Odhiambo of Mbita and John Mbadi of Gwassi asking for an independent audit of the county project.

Awiti has since dismissed his critics including the legislators saying some of them cannot even speak in parliament yet they are busy wailing loud in vernacular in funerals misleading the electorate.


Sources said Rege bowed to secret undercurrents and declared his candidature for the governor’s seat saying the pressure from the Homa Bay county voters has become unbearable. Other names being whispered as possible gubernatorial candidates include the former CPSB chair Mathews Oseko who resigned from his position citing frustration from Awiti and his kitchen cabinet. 

Although Awiti’s detractors are taking the advantage of his style of leadership to dismiss his second term, the warrior in the son of Simon Awiti Ogol of Kobuya village is likely to defend his seat, having recently declared that he will seek another mandate to complete his development projects. The big question however, is whether Awiti will still have Orata who has been his main liability as his running mate.

Sources close to Awiti say he is likely to have his current chief secretary Isaya Ogwe as his second in command. Orata seems to have sensed some danger and recently he secretly led a delegation to pay a courtesy call at the home of Awiti’s potential challenger Sam Wakiaga. Wakiaga is also under pressure to run for the plum slot.

The night visit and meeting at Wakiaga’s Kaswanga home was attended by the county chief of staff accompanied by the county information officer who hails from Kasipul. The visit has since raised eyebrows in the county government rank and file.


Wakiaga and Rege are said to be under pressure from locals to jointly form a winning alliance with other likeminded people that include the former Rangwe MP Philip Okundi and former Karachuonyo MP Lazarua Amayo. Even though the trio has not declared their intentions in a joint public function, their body language has caused discomfort in Awiti’s circle. 

Wakiaga, Rege, Okundi and Amayo’s political influences has been the talk in Homa Bay county. Their support comes across the political divide and should they decide to form a political alliance for the 2017, chances are high that they will pull surprises.


Other names secretly whispered to be ebbing closer to this camp include the  colourful former Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Nyanza chapter boss Eve Obara. The iron lady from Kasipul Kabondo constituency is said to be eyeing the position of county women representative currently held by the little known Gladys Nyasuna.

Recently, a group calling itself the Homa Bay County Salvation Front led by Aguko Mayora and a one Jack wrote a letter to Awiti requesting for county dialogue committee to initiate the county stakeholder forum to iron out contentious issues within the county. “We requested the governor to consider having dialogue with the people since nobody from outside will come to solve our problems,” said Mayora

Another team led by Rege and Magwanga team is mad that Awiti has failed to initiate any tangible development project one and a half years in office.

The ODM party fraternity however fear that Awiti dines and wines with those opposed to Raila Odinga. The founder of Kalausi movement Dalmas Otieno is Awiti’s close friend. Awiti has since appointed one of Dalmas’ wives as an executive for tourism in Homa Bay despite the fact that Dalmas hails from Migori county.


ODM family became suspicious with Awiti over what he said during fundraising in Kisumu to offset Adhu Awiti’s funeral expenses, Governor Awiti and his Kisumu counterpart Jack Ranguma attacked the ODM party leadership alleging that the party is full of corrupt elements out to mint money during the nomination period. Awiti ompletely ignores the party when making decision in his county.

Most of his major appointees are not  ODM diehards, it is said. Of late, other parties have caused sleepless nights to ODM. Awiti’s newfound political axis comprises of Nyayo era orphans who include Tom Obondo.

Governor Awiti became even more vulnerable when he snubbed those who helped him win the seat. A number of his former close friends are now opposed to his style of leadership. He constituted a government enjoyed only by the rich politicians; the said highest bidders as they are infamously referred, who were determined to part with anything to get positions at the county, it is said.

“It pains me to see my governor honour and reward those who blocked his campaign trail in broad daylight and others who  hired thugs to disrupt his rallies,” said Errol Okumu who was in Awiti’s lobby group dubbed the “Youth Volunteers for Awiti 2013”. The team was led by Awiti former Java House routine political advisers, Aguko Mayora and Jeff Akuku. 
   
Among those whom Awiti included in his government to the surprise of local pundits include two of his fierce competitors in the ODM party primaries.
Many thought that the governor would call his talented and well educated close associates and fellow combatants to join him in the running of his government, but the burly son of Kodondo did the reverse. He started war with some of his friends creating an excuse to fix them. His former campaign chairman Mathews  Oseko became a victim of this strategy. 


Those who were the pillars of his campaign and are conspicuously missing in his current lineup include, a former Kasipul ODM chairman Ken Jam, Gwassi parliamentary hopeful George  Mayom, Awiti’s first choice for running mate Mike Ouma, Rev Mark Okang, Joseph Marembo, Roy Odongo and others still scattered all over the country where they are absolutely of no benefits to their own county.

Back to the team that is plotting to dethrone Awiti and his team from the county top leadership, pundits predict that they already have advantages given the fact that they already have women and youth constituencies who are alleged not to have been treated well in Awiti’s government.

Still Awiti’s opponents are having good rapport with the ODM party leadership both at the grassroots and at the national level. It is said that Rege and his group  are mobilising skills and their down-to-earth approach on pertinent issues are added advantages.

As Martin Luther King once said: “The ultimate measure of a real man or woman is not where he stands in the moment of comfort and convenience but rather where he or she stands at the time of challenges and controversies.”