Raila in dilemma as Arati joins race for Kisii governor

Thursday, October 28th, 2021 00:00 |
ODM leader Raila Odinga. Photo/File

Robert Ochoro and Hillary Mageka

 The entry of Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati in the Kisii governor’s race has rattled the rank and file of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

From Chungwa House, Kisii County Government, to his rural constituency, Bobasi, Arati is a man under siege after announcing his intention to succeed Governor James Ongwae, a move that has thrown his opponents off balance.

Arati, Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri and Woman Rep Janet Ong’era are eyeing the ODM ticket, setting the stage for a bruising battle.

If the three resolve to go all the way, they will have to fight it out for the ODM ticket.

This will put party leader Raila Odinga in an awkward situation because all the three are his trusted allies. 

Deputy Governor Joash Maang’i, who is associated with Deputy President William Ruto, also wants to succeed his boss.

Others eyeing the seat are Roads Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure, Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu, Kenya National Congress party leader Manson Nyamweya and former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara. 

Some Kisii County Assembly members loyal to Ongwae are piling pressure on him “to identify his successor” so that they can rally behind him or her.

“I want you to be patient and allow your leaders to consult widely and build consensus on who will fly our party flag.

Let us not be in a hurry,” Ongwae said in response to calls to either endorse Ongeri or Ong’era.

He added: “It is members of the party who will definitely decide who will win the party ticket for the county top seat.”

Asked of Deputy, Ongwae said: “I have political issues with my Deputy Governor but we are working together.

On Tuesday, Maang’i told Arati to stick to Nairobi politics.

“He should protect his political tuff in Nairobi because that is where he was elected. We will not allow an outsider to come and insult us,” he said.

Maang’i is Ruto’s key pointman in the Gusii region.

There is growing suspicion that Ongwae, Ongeri and Ong’era may have struck a secret succession deal. 

In an interview with People Daily on Wednesday, Arati said he was aware of a scheme to sideline him as Ongwae succession  campaigns intensify.

“I am fully aware of their machinations but I will not be distracted by my would-be opponents. I know they are panicking, they should relax,” Arati said.

“I am determined to take over from Ongwae. He has done his bit and it’s my time to take over.

I want to take Kisii county to the next level,” he said, adding that he had officially moved his political base from Nairobi to Kisii.

Clan factor

“Together with my brother Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, we are determined to bring together our people as we build on the Azimio La Umoja clarion call,” he added.

Arati, who has teamed up with Onyonka in his campaign for the governorship, caused ripples when they opened ODM offices,  with county top leaders denouncing them.

The Dagoretti North lawmaker said he aims to uplift the standards of living of the region’s people.

“I am using my funds to build houses for people in Kisii and Nyamira counties. If elected governor, I will start programmes to uplift the lives of poor people,” Arati said during his campaign in Kisii town.

The clan factor is expected to play a key role in the sharing of top seats with locals saying the next governor should come from outside the Abagetutu clan of which Ongwae and Onyonka belong.

Ongeri and Machogu hail from the Abanyaribari clan while Ong’era and Arati come from the Ababasi ethnic group. Former MPs Magara and Nyamweya are from the Abagirango sub-group. 

Consensus or nominations?

Ong’era, who is banking on Ongwae’s support, says there is need for the aspirants to negotiate and settle on one of them. 

Ongwae has been attending key functions graced by Raila and is touted as among ODM honchos expected to play a significant role in the Orange leader’s 2022 campaigns.

While Ongeri is running on the platform of experience, the Woman Rep stakes claim to the seat for her loyalty to ODM while Arati banks on the support of youth and professionals.

“I respect Ongeri. He is a good leader. We can talk so that he can give me a chance or I give him a chance,” Ong’era said during the opening of the party’s offices in Nyamataro.

Kisii County Assembly Leader of Majority Timothy Ogugu said that those who have expressed interest in the party’s ticket can reach a consensus instead of going to nominations.

“I urge Ongwae to use consensus or nominations so that the party can get the best candidate to compete with our rivals,” said Ogugu, who is the Magenche ward MCA.

ODM county chairman Kerosi Ondieki has said the party will conduct free, fair and transparent nominations.

During a funds drive in Nyamira attended by Raila last week, area MP Ben Momanyi, Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiang’i (Interior) Mutahi Kagwe (Health) Eugene Wamalwa (Defence), Arati urged the ODM leader to accommodate Ongwae and Matiang’i in his government if elected president next year.

Nyamweya, who unsuccessfully ran in 2017, said he is ready to succeed Ongwae.

“I am tried, tested and accountable character in use of resources and my two terms (as MP) can confirm that,” said the former South Mugirango MP.

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