Moment of truth for Migori Governor Obado

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
ODM chairman, John Mbadi (centre) addresses the media at a Nairobi hotel where they called on MCAs to impeach Governor Okoth Obado. With him is secretary general Edwin Sifuna (left) and executive director Odour Ongwen. Photo/PD/KENNA CLAUDE

Migori Governor Zachary Okoth Obado is soft-spoken, often sharply dressed and unbothered with his heavy mother tongue accent. 

He can be excessively calm, but the wealthy count chief’s stubbornness, tenacity and defiance is well documented.

Those close to him say that below his seeming gentlemanly mien is a calculating, devious and ruthless political animal.

Obado, a smooth political operator, has weathered many storms. He was thrust into the national limelight in 2013 when he dramatically won the Migori governorship contest on the little-known People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement force in Nyanza.

An ally of Deputy President William Ruto, Obado garnered 123,821 votes against Edward Oyugi’s 123,653, a difference of only 163 votes but after scrutiny and recount the margin increased to 577.

But the victory will be the subject of a protracted battle that saw his election nullified by the Court of Appeal in 2013 before the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in February 2014.

Obado quietly returned to ODM where he viciously fought off what he saw a scheme to rig him out during party primaries in the last General Election which he went ahead to win.

Now, with the lingering shadow of murder and corruption charges hovering above his balding head and a looming impeachment motion, Obado’s political and economic empire could be at the risk of crumbling, raising questions on whether he will weather the raging storm.

But a defiant Obado who was on Monday released on bail alongside four of his children after being charged with corruption, has been barred from accessing his office, but yesterday he was bullish that he would continue executing his duties unperturbed.

“I am still the Governor of Migori and will remain so until my term ends. There is no power vacuum and those who have now taken advantage of a case which is in court to plan something are dreaming,” he said defiantly.

 Obado said he was aware of a scheme by some ODM leaders to have him removed from office because of his relationship with Ruto, a fierce critic of opposition chief Raila Odinga. 

“There is one person who is now happy with the problem that I am facing. I want to state categorically that I am still the Governor of Migori County and I am going nowhere.

I was elected by the people and not by an individual. It is the people who have the power to remove me from the seat and not even the court that gave the ruling in my case,” he said during an interview with a vernacular radio station.

He said those plotting his ouster have linked him with Ruto since 2017. “They don’t want me to finish my term because they think that I will support Ruto’s presidency.

How can I do that yet I am a strong member of the ODM party,” he posed.

The former teacher’s friendship with the DP is thought to have started when Ruto was the minister for Agriculture and Obado chairman of the Sugar Board. The two have remained close since then.

Ruto made a visit to Migori and attended a church service to pray for the governor following his arrest after his October 2018 arrest over the murder claim.

As the embattled governor fielded questions during the radio interview, Ward Reps from his county were gathering at a Nairobi hotel where discussions about his impeachment were held.

The MCAs, who met a hotel on Denis Pritt Road in Nairobi, were joined by a section of the ODM leadership.

Those present included party chairman John Mbadi, secretary general Edwin Sifuna and chief executive officer Odour On’gwen. Hostile ODM youths manned the gate, locking out journalists.

 On Monday, Obado, his children and their co-accused were released on bail with strict terms to prevent them from interfering with the corruption case facing them.  

Magistrate Lawrence Mugambi of Milimani anti-corruption court ordered that ll state officers charged in the case be escorted by the investigating officers to the Migori County offices to collect their personal belongings and be barred from making entry into the offices thereafter.

Locked out

 By being barred from accessing his office, Obado joins Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his Samburu counterpart Moses Lenonkulal who are serving similar bail terms.

Besides, the risk of seizure of his properties — if found guilty like in the case of the Ngirita family — the governor has already spent a fortune to secure his freedom through cash bail and bonds.

The corruption matter is further compounded by the fact that it involves his children. Obado was released on a Sh8.7 million cash bail or Sh20 million bond.

For the children, Dan Okoth was granted Sh2 million bail, Scarlet Okoth Sh3 million, Jerry Okoth Sh2 million and Evelyn Okoth Sh2 million.

Obado’s family friend Jared Odoyo was granted Sh8.25 million cash bail and his mother, Peninah Auma, Sh2 million or a Sh4 million bond.

In addition to corruption charges, Obado is out on a Sh5 million bond in a case in which he is charged with the murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno and her unborn child in 2018.

As part of the bail terms, Obado was ordered to deposit all his travel documents in court, that is his Kenyan, East Africa and diplomatic passports.

Yesterday, the 37 MCAs who met in Nairobi threw their weight behind his impeachment.

 Mbadi called on the governor to resign from his seat until the cases facing him and his children are complete.

 “It is clear from the decision of the court that he will not be allowed to access his office soon.

So I think it is in the interest of the people of Migori that he leaves the position immediately,” Mbadi said. 

“The governor has occupied that seat for eight years and I believe that since he has a case, he should go and clear his name and give room for his deputy to continue serving the people of Migori.”

Mbadi said the ODM constitution was clear on the party’s stand on corruption, adding that it would create a negative impression if Obado continued to discharge his duties. 

“I am sure a meeting of the top organ will be called soon to discuss this matter and make a conclusive statement out of it.”

 ODM Secretary Sifuna urged Obado to carry his own cross. “As a party we have said time and again that we cannot support any leader who has been accused of corruption.

You have seen in the past the stand that we have taken. The buck stops with the MCAs to decide his fate.”

East African Legislative Assembly MP Oburu Oginga also asked Obado to step aside. 

“I think if you are a leader holding a public office and your name has been mentioned, it is in your best interest to leave the position and allow investigators to conclude their work.

In fact MPs should pass a law that any governor who has a corruption case should just leave office and go home,” said Oginga, ODM leader Raila’s elder brother.

Obado, however, said that even though the court ruled that he should not access his office, he will continue to discharge his duties as governor.

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