The political rivalry between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga has planted a big shadow over candidates in the upcoming Migori Senate race.
The electoral body has cleared six candidates to square it out in the race.
They are Mr Peter Jabondo of the Green Congress Party, Solomon Hodo Rugaria (PDP), independent candidates Samwel Otieno and Dickson Ogolla, Eddy Gicheru Oketch (Federal Party of Kenya) and Ochillo Ayacko of ODM.
But Odinga’s ODM party has fuelled claims that Mr Ruto is covertly influencing the race for Migori senate seat in favour of the FPK candidate.
Despite his absence from the campaigns, Mr Ruto has been accused by the ODM politicians for allegedly supporting Mr Oketch. Mr Oketch has emerged as the fiercest rival to Mr Ayacko. On Thursday, he denied links to the DP, saying his opponents were playing dirty tricks to ruin his chances.
“I will continue using my chopper in the campaigns just as I did last year in the run up to the ODM primaries. I will not get scared by sideshows being deployed by my opponents,” Mr Oketch told journalists in Migori.
“The claims that I am being fronted by other people are outrageous and meant to divert attention from the real issues in the campaign. That is political propaganda and the public knows that last year I mounted a bigger campaign in which I also used a chopper,” said Mr Oketch.
He said that while he has a lot of respect for Mr Odinga, “I will not tolerate party campaigners who are spreading lies and propaganda about me.”
He also enjoys backing from the embattled Migori Governor Okoth Obado and the Kuria West MP Mathias Robi. His campaigns are characterised by top -of - the range vehicles and he has deep pockets.
But during a series of rallies in the county on Monday and Tuesday, the ODM politicians-- led by Mombasa County governor and ODM party leader Hassan Joho and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed--publicly told residents that the Monday’s by-election is a battle between Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto.
On Tuesday, Mr Odinga spoke to the residents through the phone of Suna East MP Junet Mohammed which was connected to the loud public address systems. He asked the locals to vote for Mr Ayacko and ignore imposters.
TOOK A FLIGHT
They also claimed that Mr Oketch’s campaigns have been funded by Mr Ruto and Mr Obado.
“About four days ago, I was in Mombasa and I saw some people loitering in Mombasa and I heard them say that this time round they can come to Migori and show Raila that he does not have political strength in the county, " said Mr Joho.
He added: “That was at 8pm and at 6am the following day, I took a flight to Migori to get an assurance from you if this is the political bedrock of Mr Odinga.” said Mr Joho.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Mohammed who argued “this battle for the senate seat is a battle between Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto.”
“This chopper we have come with was given to us and we came with Governor Joho. Others are flying around with choppers; ask them where the owner is. I want all the candidates to identify with their parties. You can’t come here with a little known party only to be used by other people,” Mr Mohammed told the residents of God Jope in Suna East.
On Thursday evening, Mr Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi said the DP would not be dragged into the murk of local politics and he had no role in the campaigns of other parties.
“How can the DP, who is in Jubilee meddle in Migori politics? Those are mere claims I cannot respond to,” he said in a brief response
Governor Obado, who has been detained following charges related to the of murder Rongo University student Sharon Otieno, has variously been perceived by ODM supporters to be a political acquaintance of the DP.
But the perception of DP’s influence in the senate race was lent credence by the move by Kuria West MP Mathias Nyambabe Robi of Jubilee party to publicly throw his weight behind Mr Oketch.
Mr Robi, who was in 2013 elected on then Ruto’s United Republican Party, a party that later merged with others to form Jubilee Party, is seen as the point man of the DP in Migori County.
“I am in Jubilee and I support DP Ruto in 2022 but I urge you to vote in this young man. He is the right person to be the next senator and Kuria community should rally behind him,” Mr Robi told Kuria residents last week.