Why Ayacko’s Narrow Win in Migori Should be a Wake up Call for ODM

That a disquiet is brewing in ODM’s Stronghold of South Nyanza is no longer mere speculation.

A relative neophyte in politics Eddy Oketch waged a bruising battle against Raila’s political juggernaut, losing Monday’s mini-poll to ODM’s Ochillo Ayacko by a slim margin of 25,679 votes.

Oketch pulled 60,555 votes against the former Cabinet minister’s 85,234 votes, in a race that left the orange party’s presumed dominance badly dented.

Many are hitherto mulling over ODM-read- Raila’s influence in Nyanza.

Oketch initially sought the ODM ticket but announced his withdrawal after meeting with Raila. Two days later, he rejoined the race through the Federal Party of Kenya.

From the results, Oketch scored highly in Governor Okoth Obado’s constituency of Uriri where he got 14,000 votes against Ayacko’s 6,000.

Obado currently incarcerated pending trial over the gruesome murder of his pregnant lover Sharon Otieno recorded an audio from prison played in vernacular stations where he appealed to the people of Migori to vote for Eddy terming his woes political.

Oketch also defeated Ayako in Nyatike where he got 9,000 votes while his opponent managed 4,000.

Sources close to Raila said that the ODM party leader was concerned that Ayacko was struggling in some areas prompting him to unleash the entire brigade to campaign for Ayacko.

He then deployed his deputy party leader, Hassan Joho, and director of elections, Junet Mohamed.

“When we realized that things were not very good in some places, we asked all our MPs from the country and neighboring counties to take charge of their respective constituencies,” said Junet.

The party also sought help from its MCAs who, in some cases went door-to door to fish for votes for Ayacko.

Speculations are rife that a revolution amongst the youth from Nyanza against the ODM leaders is quickly brewing and that the Deputy President William Ruto and other rebel intellectuals and businessmen men from Luo Nyanza are behind it.

Take the case of Eddy who recanted his decision to support ODM’s nominee after being prevailed upon by a section of rebel ODM mandarins. The DP hand was also allegedly behind his financial muscles and spirited campaign.

Oketch’s campaign secretariat was heavily supported by some renegade ODM lawmakers, youthful politicians and professionals disenchanted with Raila’s dominance.

Other covert support is said have been extended to Oketch through professionals from the region who initially worked for Raila before breaking ranks.

Speculation was fueled by comments made by Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen and other people known to be close to Ruto.

“Who is this Eddy Okech who is giving baba a run for his money? The people of Migori county may want to look at him seriously,” said Murkomen last Friday.

Yesterday another Ruto ally, Nandi senator Samson Cherargei, was quick to congratulate not Ayacko, but Oketch for his impressive performance.

“Proud of Oketch. That was a resilient fight against dynasty. Migori youth just threw out their golden opportunity to lead,” he tweeted.

Ruto is known to be good friends with Migori governor Okoth Obado and has been trying to win over the minority Kuria community in the country.

During the last two weeks of the campaign, Oketch had at his disposal a chopper with which he traversed the county. It costs between Sh600,000 and a million to hire a chopper for one day.

Oketch also seemed to enjoy the goodwill and network of Obado’s political support base. The list he presented to IEBC was similar to what Obado presented in 2017. It included two people who died three months ago.

Junet confirmed to the Star that the mini-poll was a do-or-die duel for the Orange party that has been facing a hushed mutiny from a section of youthful politicians from Nyanza.

“This by-election was right in our bedrock. It was a must for us to win. It was an important by-election and the party fought hard,” said the Suna East MP who led the ODM campaigns.

Having sensed imminent danger from the youthful Oketch, Raila took leadership of the campaign machine in a three-day vote hunt in Migori that raised the stakes of the election.

Raila campaign included dozens of MPs from the region who literally camped in Migori from Thursday last week through Saturday.

It was unusual for Raila to roll out his sleeves in his own Nyanza backyard where he traditionally commands fanatical support.

ODM chairman Mbadi said Ruto’s hand in the by-election was evident from the nature of campaigns Oketch mounted.

“Oketch must have gotten some backing from somewhere. At 27 years, where did he get the kind of resources he deployed? He should tell us where he got the money to hire a chopper for days,” said the Suba South MP.

“He generally got support from our competitors at the national level. You don’t need rocket science to know where he got funding from,” the ODM chairman said.

Insisting that ODM was still the party to beat in Nyanza, Mbadi declined to link Oketch’s massive votes to Ruto’s backing saying Migori was a unique county with so many dynamics.

“I don’t think he got the votes because of money; its because of local political dynamics,” he said.

Asked if Raila’s three-day presence was a confirmation of his ebbing grip on the Nyanza politics, Junet said the party leader’s presence was symbolic.

He said it was part of ODM’s campaign strategy for the party leader to hit the road in the last days of the vote hunt.

“Raila goes to all campaigns. It is our strategy that he concluded the campaigns. Even if we have a by-election in Ugenya tomorrow you will still see Raila in the campaigns,” said the MP for Suna East, in the same county.

Junet insisted that the strategy is for Raila to appeal to his own supporters to back the party candidate.

“There are voters that just vote for Raila and not the candidate. Those are the people we target in campaigns by bringing the party leader,” he said.

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