Opinion was divided in the ODM party yesterday on whether governor Okoth Obado should continue holding on to his position despite facing a murder charge.
Obado was charged in court on Monday with complicity in the murder of university student and girlfriend Sharon Otieno who was pregnant with his child.
Justice Jessi Lesit will this afternoon rule on whether Obado who has denied the accusation will be released on bail or spend more time in remand.
ODM Secretary General Edwin told the Star that although they are concerned that Obado has been charged with a serious offence,
the party will wait for the judicial process to take its course before any action is taken.
“We will wait for the court process to end,” said Sifuna, who was busy campaigning for the party’s senator candidate Ochilo Ayacko in Nyatike.
But vocal Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga disagreed.
“What more do we need to convince the public that the Governor is involved. His aides and a car linked to one of his aides has been traced to the scene of crime. This should be grounds enough for MCAs in Migori to start impeachment proceedings and my party ODM should lead this process,” she argued.
The Migori senate by-election will be held on October 8, with Ayacko flying ODM’s flag in a race that has attracted six candidates.
They include Eddy Okech (Federal Party) who is backed by Obado and his supporters. One of his campaign cars is owned by Obado’s wife, Hellen.
Others are Solomon Odo (PDP), Samuel Otieno (Independent) Dickson Ogolla (Independent) and Peter Jobando (Green Congress Party).
ODM gave Ayacko a direct ticket which Obado and the Migori ODM branch opposed and vowed to field his own candidate. Obado and Ayacko fought a bitter, sometimes violent, battle for the gubernatorial seat, which stretched into a petition.
Ayacko withdrew the petition against Obado only after the senator seat fell vacant with the death of Ben Olouch two months ago. He said he had heeded the advice of party leader Raila Odinga.
Some ODM leaders have been calling on the party to take action on Obado so that the county can continue to function.
“We want our party to act on this matter so that the people of Migori continue to be properly served. Obado’s position has become untenable especially because he will have to spend a lot of his time defending himself at the expense of running the county,” Wanga said.
Migori Deputy Governor Nelson Mwita Mahanga technically has been in control since Monday when Obado was charged and locked up.
Although Mahanga has not made any public moves to show that he is in charge, those close to him told the Star yesterday that he was in communication with his boss and acting on his instructions.
On Monday, he chaired a meeting with a delegation from the World Bank which is funding several agriculture projects in the county, a move that excited some members of the minority Kuria community.
Residents from the larger Kuria region thronged Migori county offices to meet the deputy governor.
If Obado is forced out of office or steps down, Mahanga would legally be mandated to complete the remainder of the term as governor as happened in Nyeri early this year when Mutahi Kahiga took over upon the death of governor Wahome Gakuru.
But that if tried and convicted, Obado would still legally hold on to his position until he has exhausted all appeal avenues.
Yesterday, MCAs begun collecting signatures to commence impeachment proceedings against Obado although Migori county assembly speaker Boaz Okoth said he had not received any impeachment motion.
“No one had brought any motion and when they do we will subject it to the provisions of the law,” Okoth said.
Migori has 56 MCAs, two thirds (40) of whom must support any impeachment motion to pass after following the required process.
According to Article 181 of the Constitution, a governor may be removed by MCAs for gross violation of the Constitution,committing a serious crime under the national or international law, abuse of office or gross misconduct.
Others are physical or mental incapacity to perform the functions of the office of the county governor.
Obado’s supporters are however not taking the impeachment threat lightly. Yesterday some of them returned from recess and confronted some county officials whom they claim are behind the plot to kick out the embattled governor.
On Wednesday, Makerero MCA Joseph Hoyo and member of the Budget committee said 23 MCAs had already signed on a motion to have assembly clerk Tom Opere and finance officer Evans Ogutu step aside over “missing Sh100 million.”
The masterminds of the motion are mostly from Kuria, Awendo and parts of Nyatike.
But other MCAs saw the motion as a reprisal against the two who are perceived to be anti-Obado but according to Hoyo they have failed to explain the missing money when summoned by the committee.
“We want the two to step aside to enable investigations. Already 23 members have signed and we will add more,” Hoyo said.
But Opere said the issue raised by the MCAs is far fetched and political. He wondered if it is because “Obado is in the cell”.
“I can account for every single cent. They are talking about things which happened in the last financial year,” Opere said, explaining that the assembly took loans to pay salaries of the MCAs during the 2016/17 financial year.
Ogutu said he was not aware of the move and the county assembly public service board — his employer —has not informed him.
“This is a political environment and there is tension in the county. Sh100 million is a huge amount which can’t just be lost,” Ogutu said.