The candidature of Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu, a close ally of Amani leader Musalia Mudavadi, has complicated Governor Moses Akaranga’s re-election campaign.
The county is the home of Mr Mudavadi, a co-principal in Nasa.
Mr Akaranga of the Progressive Party of Kenya (PPK) will square it out with Mr Chanzu, the likely ANC candidate, and Emuhaya MP Wilber Ottichilo of ODM in the contest.
Political mobilisation in the region is mainly fuelled by the interests of three Luhya sub-tribes.
The three major sub-tribes in Vihiga are: Maragoli of Governor Akaranga, Bunyore where Dr Ottichilo hails from and Tiriki of Senator George Khaniri, who has indicated that he will seek re-election on an ANC ticket.
The argument is that Mr Chanzu’s candidature is likely to divide the Maragoli vote, which Mr Akaranga relies on for re-election, to the advantage of Dr Ottichilo.
In the last election, Mr Akaranga won by a slight margin of 1,447 votes against ODM candidate Kennedy Butiko of the Bunyore sub-tribe, while United Democratic Forum candidate Jairus Amayi, also from Bunyore, came third.
The argument is that, had the Bunyore voted together for Mr Butiko in the last election, he would have easily won by a bigger margin.
The two candidates from Bunyore had cumulatively more votes than Mr Akaranga.
A combined Bunyore vote is certain to give Dr Ottichilo a head start over Mr Akaranga and Mr Chanzu who would split the Maragoli vote.
Moreover, Cord leader Raila Odinga endorsed Dr Ottichilo for the seat when he toured the county last year.
Though Mr Butiko has indicated that he will run for the governorship, his influence seems to have waned over time.
Having worked closely with Mr Akaranga for the past four years, critics have accused him of being used by the governor to split the Bunyore vote.
And Mr Odinga’s backing is particularly significant for Dr Ottichilo.
Emuhaya and Lwanda constituencies neighbour and are inhabited by a substantive number of the Luo, whose vote will automatically go to the ODM basket courtesy of Mr Odinga’s influence.
With this development, Vihiga’s smallest sub-tribe, Tiriki, will provide the much-needed swing vote and determine the winner of the region’s hotly contested governorship.
Key gubernatorial candidates are keen to pick their running mates from Tiriki as well as support Mr Khaniri’s re-election.
Mr Chanzu will first square it out with a Mr Josephat Amadi for the ANC ticket.
Mr Butiko will launch his candidature at a Nairobi event to be attended by his party leader and former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo later this month.
The case of voter division is also being felt by Mr Akaranga’s camp, but the cleric turned politician is warning the Bunyore that they will be locked out of power for decades if they front Dr Ottichilo to remove him.
“If the Bunyore are not careful to use their numbers well, this thing will readily rotate between the Maragoli and the Tiriki.
“The Maragoli have already endorsed me for the second term. The votes of the Maragoli in Vihiga and Sabatia sub-counties outnumber those of the Bunyore in Emuhaya and Luanda,” said the governor.
Mr Akaranga, who received only 2,000 votes from Emuhaya and Luanda in the last elections, said he considered many Banyore in senior appointments and major development projects but he was surprised that the electorate are still getting someone to rival him.
The governor’s deputy, Mr Caleb Amaswache, is from Bunyore, but the county boss has indicated that he will pick a different running mate.
Mr Akaranga warned: “Tell Ottichilo the Maragoli will not vote for him. I am told he walks around at night seeking to endear himself to Maragoli voters. Tell him to walk around during the day.”
Dr Ottichilo, on the other hand, has exuded confidence of clinching the seat in the August 8 polls: “I was named MP number one in terms of development in the whole country. I am ready to wake this small county up development wise. I am walking around seeking to endear myself to the voters.”
The Emuhaya MP is riding on his impressive management of the CDF.
“As a county, we have wasted the last four years. I will integrate all the communities in our county and zoning will be a thing of the past,” Dr Ottichilo said.
He added: “We will put a structured, lean and efficient government in place. We will plant qualified people in the various positions and introduce annual performance contracting.”
But he will have to win the Tiriki vote.
All the Tiriki want is an aspirant who will give them the second slot of running mate and an assurance for support for the top county seat come 2022.
Mr Amadi, a new arrival, said his candidature is aimed at separating the governorship from continued politicking as this will ensure the much-needed development is achieved.
And as most aspirants, including Mr Akaranga, identify themselves with Mr Mudavadi and Nasa, Mr Mudavadi is yet to go public on the candidate he will support, not even in his own ANC where Mr Chanzu and Mr Amadi are fighting for the party’s ticket.