Clannism is set to play a major role in the Kisii County governorship race with the Abamachoge clan seen as key to any victorious bid.
This trend is a continuation of the dynamics that has formed the backbone of Gusii politics since the advent of devolution.
The Abamachoge clan is considered key in the gubernatorial contest as it could provide the swing vote required for aspirants to clinch the seat.
Already, Senator Chris Obure from the Bobasi clan, who has set his sights on the seat, has picked his running mate – former Ford People chair Albert Nyaundi - from the region.
Governor James Ongwae from Abagetutu clan on the other hand, is yet to pick his number two – but speculation is rife that he will select businessman Peter Kimori - also from the region - as his deputy.
Also in the race for the Kisii gubernatorial seat is South Mugirango MP Manson Nyamweya, of the Kenya National Congress, lawyer Lumumba Nyaberi (Wiper Party), Patrick Nyangweso (Jubilee), Boniface Omboto (Maendeleo Chap Chap) and Charles Maranga.
The seven candidates will be in a mad rush for the more than 500,000 votes in a region that had long been seen as an opposition stronghold.
Nyaribari Chache and Masaba Constituencies, home to the Abanyaribari clan, lead the pack with 133, 065 voters, followed by the Abagetutu, who straddle both the Kitutu Chache North and South constituencies with 106, 559.
With a total of 90,112 votes, the Abamachoge clan that covers the Bomachoge Borabu and Chache Constituencies are third in the pecking order of numerical superiority in the region.
Bobasi Constituency, home to Senator Chris Obure and the Ababasi clan, is fourth with 86,345 votes, followed by KNC governorship aspirant Manson Nyamweya’s Abagirango clan, which makes up South Mugirango Constituency with 68, 691.
According to Mr Eric Osongo, a political analyst and lecturer at Kisii University, Governor Ongwae appears well oiled for the contest but this will not guarantee him victory unless he comes up with sound strategies to defeat his competitors.
In the last General Election, the governor garnered 230,181 votes. His closest challenger - Mr Lumumba Nyaberi - received 63,752 votes.
Mr Obure, on the other hand, comes forth as a schemer, whose political experience in building an unbeatable campaign machinery should never be taken for granted.
With more than six MPs on his side, Mr Obure alone offers the most portent threat to Ongwae’s political career.
He is known for clandestine campaigns that may drag well into the night as well as building rapport with the elderly who vote, a strength lacking in other camps.
He never believes in mobilising people through the social media platforms.
CLINCH JUBILEE TICKET
One hurdle, though, is that he has to first clinch the Jubilee party’s ticket, which is also being eyed by Mr Patrick Nyangweso.
Kisii Deputy Governor Mr Joash Maangi shelved his ambitions for the seat and is now backing Mr Obure.
Governor Ongwae is banking on what he terms ‘sound development record’ for his re-election, pointing out that he has built the county brick by brick over the years to where it is currently.
He speaks of an improved business environment that has bred a positive attitude in investors.
Already an Indian investor is planning to inject Sh5 billion into a sugar complex in South Mugirango, which will employ more than 1,000 people.
He has also improved the provision of healthcare in the region.
CANCER TREATMENT CENTRE
Currently, a Sh2.1 billion modern cancer treatment centre is being set up at the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital.
Governor Ongwae says his administration is keen on tapping into its potential to grow the region’s economy.
The county has successfully shed off the Sung Sungu vigilante thugs’ syndrome to join the league of counties with rich potential for economic growth.
Kisii Town, the County capital’s skyline has been changing at a high rate with high-rise commercial and residential buildings sprouting to meet the high demand for office and residential space.
But even with these achievements, candidates are ganging up to send Governor Ongwae packing, dismissing his much-touted development record as ‘hot air’.
Both Mr Obure and Mr Nyamweya say the governor has been good in rhetoric with nothing to write home about.
In a recent interview with the Nation, Mr Obure said all he wants to be is a “change agent that will redeem the county from inept leadership.”
“All I am seeing is a compromised leadership that has failed to develop the county despite the huge resources. The roads are pathetic and the health system is headed for the morgue. Surely we can do better,” Mr Obure said.
Mr Nyamweya on his part has vowed to crack the whip on all county staff with fake papers, if elected.
“There are too many stalled projects but when you look at the records they are said to be complete. This highlights the systemic rot that we are making noise about,” he said.
He adds: “All of us are aware of the dirty schemes going on here and we are not going to rest easy until mediocrity is kicked out. We cannot have proper development with incompetent staff and those who have wrong papers,” he said.
He promised to improve infrastructure, give the residents piped water, revive the healthcare system and create job opportunities for youth.
Mr Patrick Lumumba (Wiper Party) says the county needs fresh and younger leadership.