The contest for Ijara parliamentary seat has attracted a record six aspirants as the area political game master Defense minister Yusuf Haji opted out of the race to contest for Garissa senator.
Ijara constituents have had the Defense minister as their MP for the last 10 years. Many hopefuls kept their ambitions on hold so as not be seen to be disrespecting the elderly legislator who is now in his late 70s. And now that Haji is out of the Ijara parliamentary seat race, many youthful contestants have come out in a bid to vie for the seat.
The six Ijara parliamentary hopefuls, among them Sofia Abdinoor a nominated ODM MP, will square it out in an election that is likely to be influenced by the county political realignments and clan affiliations.
Sofia, a sister-in-law of Haji, who is among the ODM rebel MPs, is contesting on a URP ticket and Bishar Abass of ODM are the only aspirants who previously vied for the Ijara parliamentary seat but narrowly lost.
Sofia vied for the seat in 1997 but lost narrowly to a then little known a public health officer Mohamed Wayrah who was backed by then ruling party Kanu through the influence of Haji, then a powerful Rift Valley PC. Abass dared to go against the grain in 2007 and contested against Haji but lost narrowly.
Haji, who is the Jubilee point man in the expansive North Eastern region bordering the war-torn Somalia, is facing stiff competition for the seat from his political arch-rival deputy speaker and the region's Cord point man Farah Maalim who has opted not to meddle in Ijara politics for fear of losing support from his Abdalla clan.
Abdalla clan of the larger Ogaden tribe, which has a predominant presence in Ijara constituency is one the few Somali clans who respect elders, a fact that saw Haji elected twice despite murmurs of discontent with his hands-off style of leadership.
Just like any other parts of North Eastern region, Ijara constituency's political leadership is surely decided on clans sharing positions depending on numerical strength in a bid to ensure each clan gets its fair share of positions.
Even though Sofia enjoys a lot of support for her bid, having undertaken many development projects in the area through her Womankind Kenya, a local NGO she started three decades ago to advocate for the welfare of girls in the North Eastern, her bid is dogged by cultural and religious discontent.
Among the Somali community, a woman belongs to the clan in which she is married and not to the clan in which she was born. With Sofia married in the Baha sub-clan of Abdalla clan, from which Haji hails, many are arguing that supporting Haji for senator and his sister-in-law for the Ijara parliamentary seat will be too much for one sub-clan at ago.
Ahmed Yusuf, 60, who hails from Ijara, says despite Sofia's sterling record of development in the constituency, she's far from clinching the seat since Haji is vying for Garissa senator. He added, " Although Sofia wants to package herself as a Hassan Adan clan candidate ( a clan in which she was born) to get the mammoth Hassan Adan clan vote, she still faces the Baha tag (the sub-clan) of her husband".
Another elder Mohamud Ahmed,55, says that with Hassan Adan having a candidate called Muktar Bulale, a former humanitarian aid worker and long serving public health officer, their votes are likely to be his when push comes to shove.
Hassan Adan sub-clan despite their numerical strength have not produced an MP since 1978 when Mohamud Jubat was elected as area MP and in the last two general elections, the community supported the current MP Yusuf Haji.
Youthful Bishar Abass, son of former area MP Ibrahim Abass is vying on an ODM ticket for the second time after losing narrowly to Haji in 2007.
However, Bishar like Sofia is facing a challenge from Ahmed Dualle aka Cinro of UDF who, like him, hails from the Abokor Adan sub-clan of Abdalla large clan. Abokor Adan sub-clan produced the area MP for two successive terms in 1988-1992.
Repeated attempts to reconcile the two to present a formidable candidate for the Ijara seat have failed and indications are clear that the Abokor Adan sub-clan just like their Hassan Adan sub-clan will go to the election divided right in the middle.
Mohamedamin Mohamed aka Masaai a candidate who is vying on a Safina ticket and a retired army sergeant Adan Abdi Koriow who is contesting on a TNA ticket, both from the Abdiarim sub-clan, have also refused to front one candidate.