The gubernatorial race in Kakamega is fast gathering pace with the incumbent Wycliffe Oparanya and his main rival Senator Boni Khalwale (Ford-K) digging in for a bruising contest.Already, Oparanya has indicated he will accept the verdict, which have the highest numbers of registered voters.
Most of the campaigns are held daily in Kakamega town, in Lurambi constituency and also in Malava. Campaign trucks usually roam the streets of Kakamega before they head to other areas in the county.
Woes facing sugarcane farmers, unemployment, poverty and education are widely seen as some of the main factors that will decide the winner from a list five contestants. Others in the race are Mable Muruli (Jubilee), Michael Osundwa (ANC) and Suleiman Sumba (Kanu).
With a population of 1.6 million people, Kakamega is one of the most populous counties in Kenya, second only to Nairobi. The county boasts of 12 constituencies and 60 wards and is perceived to be a NASA stronghold.
Oparanya has pledged to roll out free early childhood education and provide free internet services to locals if re-elected.
His administration has also started offering free education in village polytechnics.
A manifesto unveiled by the governor spells out how the county plans to absorb all students graduating from county polytechnics.
“We have since put up a polytechnic in each of the 12 constituencies,” he says.
On the other hand, Khalwale says his focus is on reviving the ailing sugar sub-sector, which forms the county’s economic backbone.
If elected, Khalwale will do away with the county askaris and in their place hire nurses and health workers to ensure locals have access to quality health care services.
He has taken a swipe at the incumbent for ignoring the health sector.
“My first assignment will be sourcing for enough funds to revive the ailing Mumias Sugar Company to make it stable again and by extension transform the county into a hub of agricultural research where farmers will be able to realise and export surplus yields.”
He has promised to give Kakamega and urban areas within the county a major facelift.