September 19th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Bitter irony as defeated ODM governors cling to office while Jubilee counterparts bow out

In the areas where it has governors the party put the officials in charge of the process, such as in Busia and Homa Bay where officials in the county governments were instrumental in the process that led to the declaration of their governors as winners.

By Nyambura Muthoninmuthoni@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 26 Apr 2017 15:38 EAT

ODM leader Raila Odinga with Busia Sospeter Ojaamong.

Kenyans are animatedly debating the seeming ease with which Jubilee governor Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo), Joseph Ndathi (Kirinyaga) and William Kabogo conceded electoral defeat in the just-ended party primaries whereas their ODM colleagues Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), John Mruttu (Taita Taveta) and John Nyangarama (Nyamira) have tried to cling to cling to office after losing to their opponents.

While Mr Ojaamong and Mr Nyangarama have successfully won their party’s tickets after initial struggles by their oppnents, Mr Mruttu was eventually stripped of his win by the ODM Disputes and Appeals Tribunal while Mr Awiti's alleged win is under review by the same Tribunal.

In Kirinyaga County, nominations which were held on Monday April 24, former cabinet secretary Ann Waiguru was declared the winner with 52,185 votes against Kirinyaga Central MP Joseph Gitari who had 47,233 votes and third-placed Joseph Ndathi, the incumbent, who had 10,216 votes. Mr Ndathi has prevaricated on his next course of action after initially accepting defeat, albeit with protestations of rigging.

Mr Ndathi claimed that there was massive rigging, further citing shortage of ballot papers in select centers. Kirinyaga Central had excess ballot papers while other places suffered shortage. Also, people voted until midnight in some places and that there are people who voted more than 10 times because the ballot papers had no serial numbers.

In Kiambu County nominations which were held yesterday, Ferdinard Waititu won with more than 353,000 votes compared to incumbent William Kabogo's under 70,000. Mr Kabogo had however conceded the race after only 12,000 ballots had been counted and he was trailing significantly. He disowned nomination process in Kiambu alleging that someone within Jubilee power ranks who thinks he is a threat was determined to rig him out. All in all, he conceded defeat saying that he wished Mr Waititu well.

In Nandi County nominations which were held on April 25, the incumbent Cleophas Langat who was racing with the Nandi senator Stephen Langat and former ministers Henry Kosgei and Felix Kosgei lost the seat to Mr Sang who was leading with 31,177 votes. Henry followed with 12,431 votes, Felix 7921 and Langat was last at 6,611 votes. The governor bowed out of the race.

In Baringo nominations held on April 25, the incumbent Benjamin Cheboi had only 4,964 votes compared to former county Kenya National Union of Teachers Executive Secretary Stanley Kiptis who had 13,805 votes.

The ODM primaries presented quite a different and violent picture. In Migori, confusion reigned as both Governor Okoth Obado and his opponent Ochillo Ayako were declared winners. Mr Obado was earlier announced winner garnering 105,200 votes by the Returning Officer. A few hours later, Mr Ayako was declared the winner with 110,351 votes against the governor’s 56,656 by the chairman of the local elections board.

In Taita Taveta nominations conducted on April 12, Mr Mruttu who garnered 14,817 votes lost to the Wandunyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu who got 17,565 votes. Mr Mruttu complained to the ODM National Election Board that Mr Mwadeghu was being favoured and that he would not participate in the election unless guaranteed a free and fair election.

Among other complaints, he accused Mr Mwadeghu of tribal politics when he told residents that he would get rid of outsiders from the county should he be elected. However, Mr Mwadeghu was the underdog in a county dominated by the governor. He has since been issued with the nomination certificate after a week of standoff.

In Homa Bay, protests broke after Governor Awiti was declared winner ahead of his closest competitor, Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga. County returning officer Erastus Otieno said Awiti won with 46,346 votes against Mr Magwanga's 14,661. Residents were up in arms as they shouted that they will support Jubilee party leader Uhuru Kenyatta in August

In Busia, Governor Ojaamong was declared the winner with 92,358 votes against Paul Otuoma’s 63,752 votes. Over three quarters of Mr Ojaamong’s votes were from only two of the region’s seven constituencies in his Teso backyard, which ostensibly had a voter turnout of over 100 percent while the rest had turnout hovering around 40 percent.

In Nyamira, Governor Nyagarama was declared the winner with 17,012 votes against West Mugirango MP James Gesami’s 12,126. Hours before the results were announced, Dr Gesami and a third candidate Kumenda raised a number of issues alleging there was a well- organized scheme to rig them out of the party. Gesami seemed to cast doubt on some of the party’s national elections board members whom he accused of ignoring his complaints.

Opinion is divided about the divergences in ODM and Jubilee governor's reaction to the results. In Jubilee zones, the rigging was more tactical. For example, in Kirinyaga Mr Ndathi claimed his voters were disenfranchised by the party election board supplying materials late and in insufficient numbers in his strongholds. There were also mistakes in the printing of ballot papers. Polling stations were also closed early.

These decisions, if true, could have been premeditated to drive him out of the race. Needless to add that they could only be implemented by a high level planner within the Jubilee party. However, given the huge margin of victory, it is implausible that Mr Ndathi's loss was attributable fully to rigging.

A potential explanation for the ODM governor's insistence on staying in office is that all feel close to party leader Raila Odinga, and therefore the party machinery was seen as favouring the candidatures. The party also has limited resources nor the capacity to conduct nominations given the logistics.

In the areas where it has governors the party put the officials in charge of the process, such as in Busia and Homa Bay where officials in the county governments were instrumental in the process that led to the declaration of their governors as winners. 

In Busia after the discrepancies in the results for Teso North and Teso South came to light, the ODM secretary general announced the sacking of all officials from the governor’s office who had managed the nomination. In the absence of a dispute this kind of staffing would have passed as normal.

The governors in the ODM areas also have no government experience and in fact all but one of the ones mentioned in contested nominations has previous political experience.

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