The battle for the Ikolomani parliamentary seat evokes memories of the traditional bullfighting contests among the Idakho community in Kakamega County.
Campaigns in the constituency have intensified in the last one month with aspirants from the National Super Alliance (Nasa) and those from the Jubilee Party traversing the four wards of Idakho Central, Idakho North, Idakho East and Idakho South for support.
The constituency’s politics is dominated by the rivalry between Bashimuli and the Bamusali clans.
The Bashimuli clan has always influenced the outcome of past elections due to their numerical strength.
The Abamasaba is the third largest clan and is considered an important voting bloc in the constituency.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale is from the Bashimuli clan and is related to the Bamusali clan; MP Bernard Shinali too is from Bashimuli.
Dr Khalwale was elected MP for the first time in the 2002 General Election on a Narc ticket. He defended his seat in 2007 on a New Ford Kenya ticket.
But his election was nullified in a petition challenging his victory occasioning a by-election on May 23, 2011. He won the contest.
Since 2002, voters in the constituency have overwhelmingly supported candidates from the opposition.
But the decision by the current MP to ditch UDF for Jubilee will put to test the political realignments taking shape in the constituency.
Ikolomani has a population of 104,669, according to the 2009 census and covers an area of 143.60 square kilometres. But despite the potential for agricultural production, poverty levels remain high.
Last year, Deputy President William Ruto visited the constituency several times in a bid to win the community’s support.
The DP has consistently asked the members of the community to stop wasting time in the opposition and, instead, work closely with the government.
He attended the homecoming party of Broadcasting and Telecommunications PS Sammy Itemere last year and asked members of the community to reconsider their support for the opposition.
The tarmacking of the Sigalagala-Bukura-Butere road, currently in progress and other projects initiated by the Jubilee administration including the Last Mile – involving connection of electricity to rural homes – are expected to dominate campaigns.
Mr Itemere returned to the constituency a week ago and asked members of the community to support President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, pointing out that more than 10 professionals from the region had been given state jobs.
The PS said Mr Kenyatta had given him a plum job as State officer and he saw nothing wrong in campaigning to have him re-elected.
He asked the Idakho to work closely with the government if they expected to continue benefiting from development projects initiated by the Jubilee administration.
“I’m a State officer appointed by the President and there is nothing wrong with asking my community to support his re-election bid,” said Mr Itemere at Musoli mixed primary school.
The PS spoke when he launched the distribution of relief food to 5,000 families in the constituency.
He said the government had released money in the supplementary budget for the completion of the tarmacking of the Sigalagala-Butere-Sidindi road before the August polls.
The PS later launched the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP) at Ebwali and Shichinji primary schools on the first day of activities in the constituency.
Mr Itemere was accompanied by Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali, Mr Robert Mugo, Chief Executive officer for the Information and Communication Technology Authority and an aspirant for the Kakamega governor’s seat, Ms Mabel Muruli.
Mr Shinali dismissed speculation that he was planning to ditch Jubilee and join ODM.
The lawmaker said he would seek re-election on Jubilee ticket but would continue working closely with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
The other aspirants are ODM’s Vincent Mukhono, who will be making his third attempt to clinch the seat, while Ford Kenya has two aspirants – David Mpampale Liyai and David Musindi.
Another aspirants Mr Butichi Khamisi, is seeking the Amani National Congress (ANC) ticket.