Obado, the rebel Raila can’t punish or return to the fold

He cuts the figure of a humble politician who articulates his words with careful grit, always measuring and calculating his political moves. He speaks softly, carefully and rarely loses his temper in public.

But Migori Governor Okoth Obado’s demeanor stretches beyond your casual interpretations.

Beneath lies a politician who has elbowed his way to keep his political candle aflame amid an intense onslaught from his political frenemies.

If things were to go ODM’s way, Obado would be a former governor, following the party’s bid to have its members at the county assembly, impeach him.

Failing to impeach Obado would leave Raila Odinga’s party with egg on its face and highlight another failure to tame a governor a section of the party loathes with passion.

Warring factions

Today, questions remain unanswered whether the party will be able to tame Obado who boasts huge grassroots support.

In a funeral in Migori on Friday, Raila appeared not keen anymore on the impeachment motion, saying the unity of the country was more important.

“Jothurwa (my people), do you want us to reconcile these warring factions? Do you want us to unite people? That is all BBI is rooting for,” he said at the burial of Peter Sirawa, father of Awendo MP Walter Owino.

“I have seen warring factions here but because of the much-hyped peace and BBI discourse, I will set another date to come and reconcile leaders and the voters here,” he said.

Obado took the cue, playing down their differences.

“Jakom, I am also your man. I know some people might have misreported me to you and uttered falsehoods, but I want to restate here that Obado is firmly supporting your party and the BBI discourse,” said the governor amid applause from the crowd.

Past attempts by party officials to compel Obado to toe the line, including slapping him with a Sh2 million fine in 2017, have not borne any fruit.

On Tuesday, hopes of impeachment dipped further after several MCAs remained cagey over the push. A number of them said the impeachment was a non-issue.

The impeachment push has caused ripples in an assembly that had been quiet for several years, with MCAs now torn between taming the governor and saving him.

Assembly Speaker Boaz Okoth describes those pushing for the impeachment as attention seekers.

“We know our mandate as elected members. This notion of some people coming to the assembly with orders from the party leader is an idiocy that will not be tolerated,” Okoth says.

The MCAs are also now engaged in blame game, with some claiming that some party members are deliberately frustrating plans to kick out the governor.

Majority Leader Ken Ouma however dismissed the claims, saying they were waiting for the impeachment motion to be filed.

Muhuru Bay MCA Hevron Mahira accused the MCAs opposed to the motion of working in cahoots with the speaker to derail its tabling.

But it is not the first time ODM is trying to tame Obado. His run-ins with the party dates back to 2013 when he was allegedly rigged out during nominations before he decamped to little known People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Disown him

ODM handed the ticket to Prof Akong’o Oyugi amid protests from Obado who would later upset the party in the General Election.

In the run-up to the 2017 elections, Obado returned to ODM and was received by Raila at a public rally, only to walk into a storm as local party leaders who doubted his loyalty tried to disown him.

Obado soldiered on as the hostility continued. A new office he had built for ODM was rejected by local party officials.

In the ODM nominations, his chief rival was Ochillo Ayacko – now senator – who gave him a run for his money in an explosive campaign marred by spurts of violence that saw the two summoned to Nairobi by the party’s disciplinary committee.

A few weeks to the elections, violence broke out at Migori Posta grounds, leaving many people injured after Obado’s supporters clashed with those of Ayacko.

Ayacko and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed quickly blamed Obado for the violence but the governor denied it.

The party’s disciplinary committee fined Obado Sh2 million for the violence after it was established that it was his supporters who stormed the meeting.

Now however, the latest attempt by the party to punish Obado after he was implicated in an alleged graft case appear to be running into headwinds despite spirited mobilisation from the party.

Last month, ODM county delegates held a meeting at Maranatha grounds, convened by party chairman John Mbadi and endorsed Obado’s ouster.

Ayacko and MPs Tom Odege (Nyatike), Walter Owino (Awendo), Mark Nyamita (Uriri) and Paul Abuor (Rongo) attended.

Ayacko said he was performing his oversight role and serving interests of the party, and he asked the MCAs to toe the party line. But some MPs from Migori have reportedly been sitting on the fence over Obado’s impeachment bid.

Migori Woman Rep Pamela Odhiambo and MPs Marwa Kitayama (Kuria West), Robi Mwita (Kuria East) and Peter Masara (Suna West), for example, did not attend the delegates meeting.

One of the MPs and several MCAs, who sought anonymity, said Obado still commands support in their turf and so pulling against him would deny them votes.

In the funeral on Friday, no leader waded into the county’s politics.

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