Before the August 8 General Election, nobody gave former journalist Granton Samboja any chance of winning the Taita Taveta gubernatorial seat that had attracted eight candidates, including ODM’s Thomas Mwadeghu and Jubilee’s Dan Mwazo.
Former Governor John Mruttu also ran as an independent after losing in the ODM primaries.
Samboja, who studied journalism the Kenya Institute of Mass Communications, is an investor with interests in various sectors, including the media. He has defied odds to rise to the top.
He owned Milele FM but sold part of his stake to Mediamax Networks Ltd, a company associated with President Uhuru Kenyatta, and became its executive chairman. He later sold some of his stake to Deputy President William Ruto, a close buddy and mentor, who also bought shares in Mediamax. Samboja also owns Anguo FM.
In April 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed him chairman of the Coast Water Services Board. Samboja resigned in February this year to venture into active politics.
Forged academic papers?
However, the former journalist could land in trouble if his bid to stop the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) from prosecuting him for allegedly forging his university degree certificate fails. The EACC had recommended to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission not to clear him but was unsuccessful.
The results of this year’s election offer interesting scenarios. While in 2013, ODM swept nearly all the seats in the county, which is considered it stronghold. All top seats ranging from governor, Senator, Women Representative and three out of the four MPs in the county were from ODM. This year, it came out empty handed.
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Observers argue that that the biggest indicator of ODM’s dwindling fortunes is the loss of prominent candidates vying for various posts under ODM’s banner who were floored by political neophytes under other parties.
Mwadeghu emerged a distant fourth with 20, 436 votes. He was even beaten by Dan Mwazo of Jubilee Party who emerged third with 22,706 votes while Governor John Mruttu who was vying as an independent candidate emerged second with 23, 974. Samboja garnered 40,764 votes.
Ms Silas Mbeo, a political activist in Voi, says Mwadeghu’s loss should be viewed in the larger picture of how ODM’s fortunes are nose-diving. He points out that Mwadeghu was a prominent member of ODM and was the minority chief whip in the national assembly; a post that should have given him a palpable clout in gubernatorial race.
ODM’s dwindling fortunes
“ODM’s appeal of yesteryears is all but gone. Voters have decided to try new path from the one they have been following,” he claimed.
In 2013, only Naomi Shaaban survived the ODM wave to clinch her seat under TNA as ODM also accommodated majority of MCAs at 15 out of the 20 members in the assembly in the first county Assembly. During the controversial April party nominations, Mwadeghu and outgoing governor Mruttu were battling it out for ODM party ticket.
Mwadeghu emerged the victor with 17, 557 votes while Mruttu came second after bagging 14, 817 votes.
Attempts by Mruttu to overturn Mwadeghu’s victory through the political parties’ dispute tribunal were futile thus his decision to go independent. “He might be disappointed that he lost his seat but he is glad he beat Mwadeghu who denied him ODM ticket,” Mbeo said.
ODM further suffered humiliating loss after its high-flying candidate for Women Representative post Hope Anisa emerged third behind Wiper’s Pricillah Mwangeka and Jubilee’s Lydia Haika.
Ms Anisa who is also the National Organising Secretary for the Orange Women League bagged 19, 546 votes behind Pricillah Mwangeka’s 29, 508, who emerged second. The post went to Lydia Haika with 45, 528 votes, the largest number of votes for any candidate in the region.
Ms Anisa has said she will challenge the results claiming they were manipulated in favour of her opponents. Overall MPs tally in the county stands at ODM two against Wiper and Jubilee’s one legislator each. In Voi constituency, Jones Mlolwa of ODM survived a stiff competition against Jubilee’s Dishon M’ngonda garnering 18, 408 votes against M’ngoda’s 14, 609.
In Mwatate, the incumbent Andrew Mwadime easily recaptured his seat after garnering 15, 396 and beating law professor Morris Mbondenyi of Jubilee who bagged 7, 937 votes.
Wundanyi constituency went to Wiper’s Danson Mwashako who garnered 8, 373 votes against 5, 116 of Jubilee’s Simon Mwachia.
Ray Mwangola, who is the current chair of ODM in Wundanyi, emerged third with 1,972 votes.
In Taveta, Dr. Naomi Shaaban triumphed with 11,322 votes against Wiper’s Morris Mutiso who bagged 11,135. The emergence of new blood with little political experience might herald a new dawn for Taita-Taita politics which seem to be shifting from parties to individuals.
Peter Kenae, a human rights’ activist said voting patterns showed that people were no longer being swayed by parties but were judging candidates based on their performance.
He cited the case of the newly elected Wundanyi MP Danson Mwashako,who had engaged in mentorship programme for students in the region. “This MP has never been in active politics but that did not count. People saw what he had done and decided to support him regardless of the party,” he said.
ODM officials in the region have admitted that the divisions amongst the party officials and candidates in the region cost them heavily. Speaking to KNA on Friday, ODM chair for Voi constituency John Maghanga agreed that party officials and candidates were largely conducting campaigns solo and allowed other parties to prevail.
He blamed Mwadeghu for running a divisive campaign that alienated most ODM members in the region. He, however, stated that the party enjoyed popular support as evidenced by the many Members of County Assembly (MCAs) posts that ODM got.
Out of the 20 wards, ODM bagged eight seats while Jubilee bagged four with the remaining seats getting divided amongst Social Democratic Party (SDP), Agano Party and Ford-Kenya.
“We still have a huge grassroots following in this region. We have the majority of MCAs seats and that is how you know ODM is a force to reckon with,” he said.
He also admitted that the party was also wreaked by supremacy battles that saw popular candidates being pushed aside for more influential ones. He said the officials would take stock of what went wrong and strategise for 2022.
He added that the governor elect will have to work closely with ODM MCAs to push through his agenda in county assembly. “The governor is from Wiper but the party does not have a single MCA under Wiper. To survive, he will have to work with the majority of elected MCAs,” he added.