Will Obado break Raila stranglehold on Luo Nyanza?
Little was known about Zachary Okoth Obado before he was elected governor of Migori in the 2013 General Election.
In the lead up to the poll, the former teacher defected from Orange Democratic Movement party and joined lightweight People’s Democratic Party. He weathered the ODM wave in Nyanza and won the seat.
Although he later defected to ODM and won re-election in 2017 on the party’s ticket, the soft-spoken governor has been determined to chart his own path in a region dominated by ODM leader Raila Odinga.
While other Luo Nyanza leaders are fiercely pro-Raila, Obado has not hidden his dalliance with Deputy President William Ruto.
The Migori governor has also embraced his former party PDP which he has been popularising in the region.
Unlike the other governors who have endorsed the Building Bridges Initiative, Obado celebrated last week’s ruling by the High Court which declared it null and void.
“Those judges are heroes, they showed the world and Kenyans that while those who have been against the process like us have been intimidated, there are those who will stand up for the truth,” Obado said.
He said the decision to amend the Constitution was only done by two people, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila who, he claimed forced it on Kenyans.
Obado seems to be a man on a mission to succeed where others have failed in the past – upsetting the political status quo in Nyanza.
An attempt by the Migori County Assembly to impeach the governor last September over a corruption case failed despite the ODM leadership backing the move.
Political analyst and lawyer Martin Oloo said ODM is helpless when it comes to dealing with Obado.
“When ODM meets with fire from Obado, they freeze. Theirs is the case of not being able to walk the talk when it comes to compliance. ODM is absolutely helpless and clueless,” said Oloo.
Matiko Bohoko, a political analyst from Migori County argues that ODM cannot succeed in neutralising Obado because the party is caught in a Catch-22 situation.
Bohoko says if ODM succeeds in impeaching Obado, then the beneficiary would be his deputy Nelson Mahanga who hails from the Kuria community.
“If ODM succeeds in impeaching Obado, the people who will benefit are the Kuria,” said Bohoko.
Obado grew up surrounded by sugarcane plantations and when an opportunity came, he dropped the chalk and convinced cane farmers that he would champion their cause in pursuit of good returns from sugarcane.
They handed him the seat of director at the now defunct Kenya Sugar Board (KSB), where he expanded his networks.
When he vied for the KSB chairmanship, Ruto was the Agriculture Cabinet minister while Raila was the prime minister.
In the chairmanship race, Ruto backed Obado while Raila supported former MP Saulo Busolo. Obado won the duel.
In 2015, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) included Obado in a list of shame over impropriety concerning Sh600 million through an alleged flawed tender process. He successfully fought off the claims.
In September 2018, he was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Sharon Otieno, a Rongo University student.
The married governor pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Otieno, who had been in a romantic relationship with the governor, was pregnant at the time of the murder.
A post-mortem revealed she had possibly been raped, and stabbed eight times in the neck, abdomen and back.
In the same month, he was on the spot again after it emerged detectives were investigating what they believed to be suspicious transfers of county funds to his children abroad.
On February 8, Raila kicked Obado out of the podium after he allegedly arrived late to a meeting meant to reinforce support for BBI.
In April this year, some ODM officials in Migori started the process of kicking him out of the party, citing his support for PDP while he is still an ODM member.
“The process of removing Obado from the register is still ongoing,” said branch Philip Makabong’o said yesterday.
Last week, Obado dared the police to arrest him after he failed to appear before a Senate committee chaired by Migori senator Ochillo Ayacko.
“I heard that on June 4. I hear I will be arrested if I don’t honour the summons. I want to tell him (Ayacko) I am waiting for the police to arrest and escort me,” he said.