All the gubernatorial candidates in Migori County are struggling to get the ODM ticket because it seems to hold the key.
Even though all the Nasa affiliates may field candidates in the forthcoming polls, the Orange flag-bearer is considered one-foot inside the coveted office in the region.
The current Governor Okoth Obado scraped through on a PDP ticket after shambolic ODM nominations in the last elections, but owing to the situation on the ground, he has since shifted his allegiance to ODM, where he will fight for the ticket with other candidates.
Mr Obado, a trained secondary school teacher and former director and chairman at the defunct Kenya Sugar Board, is facing former Energy minister Ochilo Ayacko for the ODM ticket.
But nearly all the candidates are nervous, unsure whether the primaries will be free and fair, going by past records.
Preparations for the primaries are being watched closely by the handlers of the politicians despite spirited assurances from the party leadership that the nominations will be credible.
Mr Obado’s defection from PDP to ODM changed dynamics of politics in Migori and forced his opponents back to the drawing board.
Previously, the governor’s opponents were capitalising on his affiliation to PDP, which is believed to be part of the Jubilee coalition.
PDP, whose chairman is former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara, was previously in Cord before Mr Magara jumped ship to government side.
Mr Ayacko, a lawyer, and experienced grassroots mobiliser is ready for the battle. He has been traversing the eight sub-counties to seek votes.
Mr Ayacko’s opponents accuse him of being violent, an accusation he has always dismissed as “cheap and cowardice”.
“I am the most peaceful politician and those misplaced accusations will not change the mind of Migori voters,” he says.
“I do not have a case in any court bordering on violence or assault,” says Mr Ayacko, who hails from Sakwa clan in Rongo sub-county.
Another contender for the seat – Mr Mark Nyamita – is also promising a bruising battle. The 37-year old civil engineer hopes to turn around the poor infrastructure in the county.
“I will fix the poor roads in order to enhance movement of goods and services and I will overhaul our health care system,” says Mr Nyamita.
Mr Nyamita, who hails from Uriri sub-county, just like Mr Obado, explains that he has what it takes to move Migori forward.
“This time, we must get it right and to take Migori where it belongs,” he adds.
The only woman in the race – Mrs Anne Omodho Anyanga – is promising to show the men dust in the primaries.
If she wins, Mrs Anyanga, wife of Nyatike MP Edick Anyanga, will probably become the first woman governor in Nyanza.
In the last polls, she was Prof Edward Akongo’s running mate on the Orange ticket but lost to Mr Obado.
“This time I am very sure of winning by a landslide, I have done enough groundwork,” she says.
Mrs Anyanga has massive grassroots networks in all the eight sub-counties and her steps are being watched very closely by her opponents.
She is the only politician from the county who campaigned for more than one month, using a chopper in the last polls.
“Migori needs serious development and accountability of public funds,” she asserts.
Former Sony Sugar Company managing director Paul Odola is also in the race.
Mr Odola, who also hails from Uriri, is now the managing director of the East African Spectre, a firm owned by the Odinga family.
He has vast experience in corporate leadership and is credited for turning around Sony Sugar, which was almost dying when he took over.
He is considered a serious opponent due to his closeness with Mr Odinga.
“I am a safe pair of hands that Migori needs. My experience in corporate management will restore the lost glory of this great county,” he noted.
In the last polls, Mr Obado defeated Prof Akong’o with a very narrow margin of less than 200 votes.
“I am now firmly in ODM and nobody is going to shake me. I will clinch the ticket and will eventually recapture my seat,” he asserts.
Apart from the dominant Luo community, Kuria community will also determine the winner in the race as it controls 70,000 votes out of the over 300,000 votes in the county.
And this explains why nearly all the candidates may have a Kuria as a running mate.