Dinah Ondari and Robert Ochoro @peopledailyke
As political campaigns reach fever pitch, the two counties of Nyamira and Kisii have emerged as battlegrounds where the two main protagonists Nasa and Jubilee have been staging battles not only for the presidential vote but also to strengthen their grassroots presence.
Unlike in 2013 when Jubilee started making forays into the region only weeks to the elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto this time round have toured the Gusii region 15 times, separately and together, as they seek to grab it from Raila Odinga’s Nasa grip.
Buoyed by the defection of majority of incumbents from the Opposition, particularly in Kisii county, Jubilee appears to have dedicated more resources in terms of time and strategy to make the region more friendlier.
Jubilee Party’s governor candidate, Chris Obure, has been leading the the party’s campaign and has been reaching to voters in their localities in a tactic that is seen to be bearing fruit. Obure, a veteran politician who wants to snatch the seat from governor James Ongwae, has been meeting select groups, a strategy the governor has also adopted to defend his turf.
“I can tell you with confidence that Jubilee has really gained ground in Kisii especially after the latest presidential visits. Where I used to get insults, the people are now more welcoming,” said Obure in relation to the impact of the president’s frequent visits.
Another Jubilee pointman Samwel Nyangweso says Jubilee is targeting to overturn the 70 per cent of the presidential votes Raila got in 2013 to share half-half.
The former Kenya National Library Services chairman says the launching of various development projects in Gusii region by Uhuru and Ruto and the payment of the Integrated Internally Displaced Persons ( IDPs) has increased the president’s traction to gain from the region’s 825,433. However, despite jubilee stepping up efforts to popularise itself, the Nasa brigade led by Ongwae has vowed that it will not be a walk in the park for their opponents.
As expected Ongwae has since rubbished the resettlement of IDPs as inconsequential in endearing the locals to Jubilee. “Senator Obure developed an ‘appetite’ for my seat. He is my worthy competitor and I am set to face and floor him during the August 8 polls” noted Ongwae.
Ongwae, who is seeking re-election on an ODM ticket, is also facing Manson Oyongo (Kenya National Congress), Boniface Omboto (Maendeleo Chap Chap), Dr Charles Omwega (National Liberation Party), Kefah Okioma (Progressive Party of Kenya), Patrick Lumumba (Wiper) and Charles Bagwasi (Chama Mwangaza Daima).
Oyongo, who supports Raila is using road shows alongside the party’s candidates for all elective seats to criss cross the county’s expansive constituencies. The South Mugirango MP who ditched ODM and joined KNC, Omboto, a newcomer, Obure and Lumumba who vied in 2013 and lost to Ongwae have accused the latter of poor development, claims the governor has dismissed, terming them baseless.
Competition for Jubilee and opposition parties allied candidates is getting stiffer given that the rivals have been seizing every opportunity at funerals, churches, public barazas, road shows and strategic board room meetings to campaign. It remains to be seen if Jubilee will smile in Kisii at last.