Isaack Omulo @PeopleDailyKe
Federal Party of Kenya candidate in the Migori senatorial by-election Eddy Okech lost the seat to former minister Ochillo Ayacko on Monday, but the political rookie stirred a hornet’s nest in the county’s political scene.
In an area where residents are expected to vote to a man for the dominant Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, Okech, popularly known as ‘Muok Ratego’, put up a spirited fight in the by-election that saw him garner 60,555 votes against the former Sports minister’s 85,234.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Senator Ben Oluoch Okello early this year.
Given that the young man is still single and lives in his father’s compound, his second bid for the seat, after last year’s unsuccessful attempt, sent ominous signs to ODM that he is not somebody to wish away in Migori’s political landscape.
Keen observers knew Ayacko, with his long experience and deep knowledge of the political terrain, would carry the day, despite the spirited counter-offensive by the pro-Okech lot, which enjoyed the emotional and financial support from Governor Okoth Obado.
Obado, who is facing murder charges over the death of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, loudly rebelled against the ODM party line to hand direct nomination to Ayacko.
His hard-line position has reinforced perceptions that he only needs ODM for his own convenience, rather than being loyal to the party.
It has made him an object of disdain to the fanatical followers of party leader Raila Odinga, and in the same breath, a hero for the growing bunch, complete with the massive war chest, agitating for an alternative political thinking in Luoland.
Unfortunately, for the alternative thinkers, ODM is still the party to beat in Nyanza. Critics think Obado’s political independence seems targeted at endearing himself to those harbouring 2022 presidential ambitions.
His followers claim Obado will be Deputy President William Ruto’s running mate in 2022 General Election, but his critics dismiss this as wishful thinking. In a strange twist of fate, Obado is still in remand, pending bail ruling tomorrow, as Ayacko heads to the Senate.
This might have been one of the reasons Ayacko was seen as having a head start, as rumours swirled that Okech was a project of the Obado-Ruto alliance. His strongest point seemed to be the novelty of a fresh young man roaming the skies of Migori in a chopper. Quite some money remained in his wake, with residents scrambling for freebies.
But on the flip side was his overt dalliance with Obado, and by extension, with DP Ruto, which he denied vehemently, and implicit defiance against ‘Baba’, an anathema, if a political suicide, in Nyanza region.
Ayacko, who also briefly served as Energy minister in the Ninth administration, declined an ambassadorial position, instead preferring to contest for the senatorial position.
After his unsuccessful bid for the gubernatorial seat in the last General Election, a fiercely-fought contest which was won by Obado, even after a protracted court battle, Ayacko is bidding time for the same seat come 2022, according to his courtiers.
His experience, legal training and analytical mind are seen as requisite asset to the Senate, which observers thought the young man lacked.
Observers were asking whether Okech could stand up to Governor Obado’s management style after the latter put his campaign arsenal at his disposal, as was alleged.
As for Ayacko, the ground seems to have shifted a lot since mounting an expensive campaign for the gubernatorial seat last year and since losing the (former) Rongo parliamentary seat in 2007 to former minister Dalmas Otieno.
He will have to rebrand his political style all together and drop the ‘bad boy’ tag his followers are associated with, for him to mount a successful fight for the gubernatorial seat come 2022.