Orengo caught in the Siaya governor campaign crossfire
Being the sole ODM aspirant so far for the Siaya Senate seat, Lands minister James Orengo should already have one foot in the new chamber.
ODM enjoys huge support in the county, and the winner of the party ticket at the nomination stage this week will have a big chance of winning the senatorial election.
Mr Orengo’s only opponent, Mrs Agnes Salome Awuor, is running as an independent candidate but has not been consistent on the campaign trail.
But Mr Orengo is not sitting pretty. He has rubbed the other aspirants and their supporters the wrong way with his support for Dr Oburu Oginga’s candidacy in the race for Siaya governor.
Two weeks ago, the outgoing Ugenya MP was heckled at a rally in Ugunja town.
This is particularly telling considering that Ugunja has been one of his solid support bases for decades, including when he lost to Bishop Stephen Ondiek in 2002.
But it is the presence of Mr William Oduol, a challenger of Dr Oginga who enjoys significant support in the town, that set the stage for the ugly reaction to Mr Orengo.
Mr Oduol’s supporters were unhappy with Mr Orengo’s praise for the Bondo MP, forcing him to plead for calm from the crowd.
“Be good listeners to us so we can also listen to your demands; shouting will not take us anywhere,” Mr Orengo appealed to the hostile crowd.
The other ODM aspirants for the governor’s seat are Mr Otieno Okanja and Mr Felix Okatch.
Some supporters of the two aspirants, who had earlier warmed up to Mr Orengo’s Senate bid, are opposed to the new arrangement.
“He should focus on his Senate ambition if he wants my vote. Insisting that we vote Oburu will make me change my mind and vote for his opponent,” said Mr Caleb Oluoch, a voter in the new Ugunja constituency.
But Mr Orengo insists that as much as he supports Dr Oginga’s bid, this does not mean that others should not vie for the seat.
“It is well within their democratic rights to vie, and I would be the last person to stand in their way,” he said while campaigning in Ugenya last weekend.
The statement appeared designed to thaw the ice after he realised that some regions were hostile to his campaign for Dr Oginga.
Siaya has witnessed the highest number of gubernatorial aspirants drop from the race to endorse Dr Oginga.
So far, aspirants like Gideon Ochanda, Joe Donde, Julius Okinda and C. Rasanga have all dropped out to rally behind Dr Oginga.
Mr Ochanda is now seeking the Bondo parliamentary seat, which has evaded him for man years, while Mr Okinda announced that he will be Dr Oginga’s running mate.
Mr Oduol claims that money might have played a role in making some of his opponents change their minds.
“Personally, I was approached by emissaries of my opponent and asked how much I had used to finance my campaigns with a view to refunding me so I can throw in the towel, but I declined,” he said.
Maseno University lecturer Tom Mboya argues that the decision by the four individuals to bow out of the Siaya gubernatorial race is largely informed by a feeling that the playing field will not be level.
Pressure mounted on Mr Ochanda when it became apparent that party bigwigs had settled on an arrangement that would see Bondo take the governorship while Ugenya takes the Senate seat––with Mr Orengo in the picture.
Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo lent credence to this view when he said ODM had slammed the door on other gubernatorial aspirants on the party’s ticket as Dr Oginga was their favourite.
But former Alego Usonga MP Sammy Weya, an ardent supporter of Mr Oduol, has declared interest in the parliamentary seat and will fight it out with outgoing MP Edwin Yinda.
He says the time has come for Dr Oginga to make way for younger visionary leaders.