By Abdikadir Sugow
Sunday, January 27, 2013
When the rest of North Eastern Province voted for then ruling party Kanu in 2002 General Election, Wajir voters produced a National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) MP, the then Labour minister Ahmed Khalif.
The voters, particularly those in Wajir West, voted with their conscience and at the end, they were given a ministerial flag when Narc swept to power.
Khalif, then a close ally of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, died in a plane crash in Busia, leaving locals disenfranchised, their dreams of a major stake in Narc shattered and buried in the sand.
The plane carrying Khalif and top Narc officials including then ministers Martha Karua and Raphael Tuju, were returning from a “homecoming’ party for Vice-President Moody Awori in Funyula.
The inclination of Wajir County towards positive political change has been demonstrated by its voting patterns since the onset of plural politics. Up to and including 2002, the region has resolutely voted for the opposition.
It is apparent that Wajir voters, according to pollsters Ipsos Synovate and Infotrak, are set to take similar path as they lean towards the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) whose flagbearers are Raila and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka. The pollsters show the majority of the voters in NEP – around 68 percent - would vote for CORD against 32 percent for the Jubilee Coalition, whose presidential candidate is Uhuru Kenyatta, with William Ruto as his running mate.
Latest opinion polls indicate that Wajir residents are looking up to a strong combination of CORD leadership in the county, who have begun their political campaigns in earnest and style.
Their hopes lie on among others, Minister for Northern Kenya Development and the immediate Wajir East MP Mohamed Elmi and outspoken immediate former Wajir West MP Adan Keynan.
Keynan, one of the most vocal and avid debaters in the 10th Parliament, also chaired the powerful Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs, demonstrating his strong leadership abilities carried over from his previous stint as MP in 1997-2002.
His shift to CORD has given Raila a major boost in Wajir in the presidential race, since he commands respect from the grassroots and influential local elders and beyond the county.
The soft-spoken Elmi has been performing his ministerial duties quietly and it remains to be seen whether his development track record will translate into votes. Both politicians now fly the CORD flag and hail from the dominant Degodia clan in a county with 110,286 registered voters.
CORD also has notable leaders from the county’s second largest voting bloc, the Ogaden clan, whose sons Mohamed Abdi Affey (Wiper) and Abdirahman Ali Hassan alias Olow (ODM) are eyeing the senator’s post.
Jolted by the tilt towards CORD, rivals Jubilee are banking on prominent influential local leader, former Regional and Authorities minister Mohamed Abdi Mohamud, also a Degodia, to spearhead their foray into Wajir.
Mohamud, who is the senior most local politician and currently a front runner for the Governor’s post on William Ruto’s URP ticket, will have to employ a winning strategy within the complicated clan arithmetic to counter the CORD wave.
The Ajuran clan, who are the third largest voting bloc in the county, have come on aboard with Uhuru’s TNA fielding former Wajir North MP Abdullahi ‘Kabreta’ Ali and retired teacher, Adan Omar Enow, who is seeking the senator’s job.
Mohamud will come head to head with accountant Ahmed Abdullahi who is being backed by ODM bigwigs, influential businessmen and professionals. Former university lecturer Mohamed Omar Maalim Bardad on United Democratic Front (UDF) and Mohamed Ali Mursal on Kenya National Congress (KNC) are also in the race.
Mohamud is exuding confidence of winning, saying he is prepared to face head-on the many challenges confronting Wajir residents, saying that he knows the county and the problems facing the residents “like the back of my hand”.
“As a former education officer, my first priority is to overcome illiteracy. Education standards are far below par. I also wish to improve on access to medical and health facilities, which remains a big issue in the county and the region,” he said in an interview.
He disclosed that 90 percent of the locals are illiterate, hence his goal to ensure the locals know how to read and write, even if only in Kiswahili and Somali languages.
Students who have completed high schools and waiting to join universities would be temporarily employed to help provide services to the local community. The best-qualified students would be sponsored to the university.
He also plans to alleviate poverty by initiating access to credit for small entrepreneurs and the provision of clean drinking water for residents and the rich livestock population.