Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga heads to Kisii Monday to a base already engulfed in rivalry fights between various groups trying to control his diary.
Though an earlier rumour had said he was to postpone the visit due to the infighting, the party has given notice that the visit would go on as planned.
“We are not aware of any plan by Raila to postpone the visit. He is coming, the rest is hearsay,” Kisii ODM chairperson Kerosi Ondieki told the Star by phone Sunday.
Ondieki currently leans to governorship candidate Simba Arati’s team which is embroiled in a vicious fight with outgoing county boss James Ongwae.
The two— Ongwae and Arati—do not see eye to eye with each now establishing parallel campaign team ahead of the scheduled Monday visit.
On Friday, Ongwae hosted Suba MP John Mbadi at his other offices at ATC in central Kisii where they jointly gave a statement over the planned visit by Raila to Kisii.
Ongwae said they had already established an Azimio campaign team with primary focus being marketing Raila as the preferred presidential candidate.
“This Nyanza region presidential campaign has been established with broad consultations with all regional and county coordinators as well as respective county campaign boards,” Ongwae said in a statement.
The establishment of the board appears to run at cross purposes with a similar one set up Tuesday last week by Arati.
Arati is vying for Kisii governorship and is already ahead of the pack in popularity poll according to various opinion polls.
On Friday, he rubbished Ongwae’s team saying launching a parallel campaign board wasn’t the work of an outgoing county boss. “As you aptly put it he is outgoing and should use the remainder of his term packing from office,” he told journalists at Junction hotel where members of the parallel team were meeting.
Ongwae had been joined by governorship candidates Sam Ongeri, Chris Obure (Kisii) and Timothy Bosire (Nyamira) during the function.
He promised to deliver at least 95 per cent of the votes to Raila’s basket as they head out to undertake vote hunt.
The team is headed by County Public Secretary Patrick Lumumba. No announcement has been made on the other officials in the board.
The Arati-led Presidential secretariat is headed by Nyandusi Nyakeramba and Prof Henry Onderi who is the secretary to the board.
The team has already set out, holding a series of meetings to draft terms of references before they head out for vote fishing. Arati told journalists they have already ‘smashed the UDA head in Kisii and are working on the tail’.
“We have already hit the road ahead and are on a major offensive to reclaim the entire Gusii region back to ODM. This has been our focus not the infighting,” Arati told journalists.
On Sunday, Kerosi told the Star they will be in control of Raila’s tour in Kisii.
“It is true there is serious infighting much of it coming from Ongwae. We however want Raila supporters to know that it is us running the show not him (Ongwae),” Kerosi said.
Raila is expected in Nyangweta in South Mugirango during the morning hours to do ground breaking for a sugar factory which Ongwae has been promising the residents.
It would be a win for Ongwae.
He would later attend a burial of Kitutu Chache North for ODM parliamentary candidate Geoffrey Asanyo’s mother.
In both functions, Raila will be on a charm offensive to reclaim his base already under siege from Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate William Ruto.
There had been speculation of possible heckling as both teams scramble to host the Azimio candidate.
On Sunday, Arati said he was aware of a plan to have him booed by hired goons.
“We have received intelligence that some youth in South Mugirango are being grouped to jeer me. We dare Ongwae to go ahead to do so, we aren’t cowards.”
He said there was no need for parallel campaign teams for Raila as the country inches closer to the polls as this will affect the Azimio chances. “We would be frittering an important opportunity if he (Ongwae) keeps fomenting divisions. He either plays ball or keeps off or begins packing from office,” Arati said.
DP Ruto is also said to be planning a similar tour to Kisii later this month.
Arati was flanked by candidates Richard Onyonka (ODM senator), Donya Toto (Wiper, Woman Rep) and his running mate Robert Monda.
They said the new campaign team would not be intimidated and its ultimate aim would be focusing on Raila’s victory.
The fight for Raila votes would be long and hard to ensure he wins, Onyonka said.
Woman rep candidate Donya Toto said it was shameful that Ongwae was not backing a party candidate for Kisii governorship race. “It just defeats logic that someone who should be our cheerleader is now fighting us.”
Ongwae has since refuted the accusations saying he was the bona fide official to plan Raila campaigns in the region.
On Sunday Arati said they would not recognise Patric Lumumba to head the team being a civil servant.