The Widespread belief in Busia County that Funyula constituency legislator Paul Otuoma will oust the Busia County governor Sospeter Ojaamong in this year’s general elections may be a pipedream that may never come to pass.
Despite Otuoma having shown a very strong threat to Ojaamong during the disputed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) primaries in April, the strengthening of that threat is rapidly disappearing away as the voters from the two major communities ponder their next options.
Though the Luhyas occupy Nambale, Butula, Funyula, Matayos, and Budalangi sub-counties with Teso dominating in Teso North and South sub-counties numerically there are more registered voters among the Teso ethnic group compared to some of the other Luhya groups – Otuoma comes from the Luhya Samia group while Ojaamong from the expansive Teso.
However, according to the recent Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) the county has a total of 347, 911 registered voters up from the 2016 register of 251,000 voters which was broken down in the following clusters: – Teso North – 37,213, Teso South 41, 835, Nambale – 30, 881, Matayos – 41, 222, Butula – 40, 803, Funyula – 31, 996 and Budalangi – 27, 355.
However, it must not be forgotten that there are also a sizeable number of Tesos who are resident in Matayos and Nambale sub-counties and that they have a history of voting as a block compared to their Luhya counterparts who vote fractiously despite the North Teso and South Teso political divides which also contributed in the splitting of the former Amagoro constituency into two.
Then there is also the question of the many candidates from the Luhya communities sharing their votes which may only be of greater advantage to the incumbent if he is able to fully exploit the emerging Teso versus Luhya political divide.
It must also not be forgotten that there quite considerable pockets of Teso clans resident in the counties dominated by the Luhya sub-tribes especially Nambale, Matayos and Butula sub-counties.
Ojaamong’s late mother came from the populous and powerful Baguri clan that is resident mostly in Nambale and Matayos sub-counties including large parts of Teso South who are likely to give full backing to their nephew.
On the development record score card Otuoma will be equally hard pressed to impress voters on what he has done in Funyula constituency over the ten years he has been in office since he ousted former Vice President Moody Awori compared to Ojaamong’s in the county as governor.
That is why the Busia County stakeholders and leaders are up in arms demanding that Senator Wako must stop misleading and interfering with the leadership of the County by asking them to vote for Otuoma as governor.
They say Wako must come clean and state clearly to the people of the county if he is also a mole within ODM just like the Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba who left ODM to become Julia Ojiambo’s Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) leader under dubious and highly questionable circumstances.
The worst aspect of the whole business for Otuoma who is running as an independent candidate after Ojammong outmaneuvered him at the ODM primaries is the fact even from his Funyula home ground with the numerically lesser Samia group; he is facing a shaky foundation with most of the population against the legislator’s candidature for the gubernatorial seat.
Most of the reasons being cited for this rejection are based on his apparent dismal performance in development projects in the constituency and favouritism to a clique of certain characters hanging around him.
This state of affairs clearly came out during the implementation of the devolution process with the creation of the County Assembly where he influenced the appointment of his former campaign manager Bernard Wamalwa to get the speaker’s job.
To make matters worse the over-employed of county workers by 120 personnel mostly from his home village in Samia South a matter that brought about acrimonious disagreements between the county executive and the legislator over the bloated salaries budget passed by the county assembly – especially in its first two financial years.
Indeed the then chairman of the finance committee, Godfrey Odongo who is strongly allied to Ojaamong was un-ceremoniously bundled out of that seat because of his strong opposition to the bloated salaries budgetary estimates not to mention the fact that Otuoma at that tried to influence the impeachment of Ojaamong through the assembly but failed.
The other forces that will influence the county’s gubernatorial race are the number of candidates gunning for that seat, where they come from, their political parties and to some level their individual personalities.
Apart from Ojaamong and Otuoma, the other players are Eng. Daniel Barasa the immediate former Chief Executive of the National Irrigations Board (NIB) from Matayos sub-county from the same Baguri clan that are Ojaamong’s maternal uncles running on a Jubilee ticket.
The others are Benjamin Onyango Okwara (MDP) from Nambale sub-county, Michael Otieno Oloo (Ford-Kenya) hailing from Butula sub-county, Francis Lawrence Oyatsi from Butula sub-county (UDP) and Humphrey Okuku Nakitare who running on an ANC ticket but bounced out at the last minute coming from Matayos sub county.
All these candidates are from the Luhya communities of the county namely Bakhayo, Marachi, Samia and Banyala with most coming from the Marachi who are considered fiercely opposed to Ojaamong whose deputy Governor Kizito Wangalwa comes from the same community but has since stepped down from being his boss’ running mate for unknown reasons.
That leaves Ojaamong alone from the Teso community against the four cleared candidates from the Luhya communities of the county a situation that has created sense of the Luhyia’s wanting to grab all the plum jobs of the county from the Teso.
This because the Senatorial is being defended by Wako from Matayos sub-county, the Women Representative which is currently held by Florence Mutua is extension Luhyias’ because she is married to a husband who hails from Butula sub-county with only a single contestant against her from Teso South Grace Imoh while the list from the Luhyia dominated sub-counties is long.
It is headed by Suzan Mangeni from Funyula sub-county and a close ally of Otuoma’s, the other is Pauline Nagila from Funyula sub-county, Isabella Masinde from Matayos, and Azida Ali who dropped out of the race towards the nominations process.
Therefore the Teso are left only clinging to the powerful gubernatorial seat a situation that is forcing them to go back to the drawing board to reconsider their options even when they are vehemently opposed to Ojaamong’s leadership.
Of all the candidates for the gubernatorial race in Busia County perhaps the most qualified could have been Eng. Barasa, but his political party Jubilee in the county is hard to sell not to mention his acrimonious departure from the NIB.
The other perhaps the best was Nakitari because of his experience as a professional administrator though he may not have had the necessary financial clout, Oyatsi has got his own issues right from his time at Mumias Sugar Company to Nzoia Sugar in Bungoma county as for the rest they have an uphill battle to sell their personalities leave alone their political parties.