My family will suffer if I continue to be detained -Governor Obado
Migori Governor Okoth Obado has begun the fight for his life as he faces a maximum death sentence after being charged with the murder of university student Sharon Otieno.
Mr Obado was charged before Justice Jessie Lesiit and placed under the custody of prison authorities, together with hardcore criminals facing capital offences.
His fate now lies in the hands of the judge, the Director of Public Prosecutions and his team of lawyers that includes a retired judge.
The first sitting governor to face murder charges, Obado’s woes were worsened by Lesiit’s decision to send him to Industrial Area Remand Prison to spend the night as he awaited determination of his bail application.
A mental assessment confirmed that the governor was fit to stand trial and as the charge of murder was read out to him, he responded “not guilty”.
Sharon Otieno’s mother painfully breaks down as Obado denies charges
“The accused person is charged with the offence of murder and the particulars of the case states that you, Zachary Okoth Obado, between September 3 and 4, 2018, at Owande area in Rachuonyo within Homa Bay County jointly murdered Sharon Belyne Otieno,” read the charge sheet.
Looking subdued in the dock, with only his lawyers to give him hope, the governor was not only fighting to escape the hangman’s noose or life in prison but also to save his political career.
His rising political star had placed him as a kingpin in Migori politics, having weathered the storm in Orange Democratic Movement party to become the first governor in Nyanza region to be elected without the party ticket.
Should the court deny him bail, Obado’s political life will be at stake as Deputy Governor Nelson Mwita will take over as governor until the end of their term.
Article 182(d) of the Constitution provides that the governor’s office shall be vacant if the holder is convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for at least 12 months.
This is the reason why the governor, in his affidavit seeking to be released on bail, pleaded with the court to consider the political stakes, stating that the people of Migori would suffer irreparable loss for being denied the opportunity to be led by the governor of their choice.
“I’m the governor of Migori County after being voted in overwhelmingly by the people. The allegations of murder facing me, however grave, cannot deny me my basic rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” swore Obado.
The besieged governor’s family will also come into play in his fight for survival and his morality will be put to the test following DNA results confirming he was the father of Sharon’s murdered unborn baby.
Obado is 61 years old while Sharon was 26 years old.
A report by the Government analyst concluded that there were 99.9 per cent chances that Obado was the donor of the DNA generated from Sharon’s foetus.
The governor has, however, also dragged his family in to convince the court to grant him bail, arguing that he is their sole breadwinner and they will suffer unless he is released.
“I’m married to Hellen Obado and we have been blessed with six children who are school-going and solely depend on me as the breadwinner. They will suffer if I continue to be detained as they depend on me for all their financial needs.”
The governor is also asking the court to release him on a promise that he will not interfere with witnesses or flee from the country during the trial.
For the first time, Obado came face to face with Sharon’s parents in court.
Douglas Otieno and Belida Auma sat about two metres away from the man the prosecution claims was the architect of their daughter’s gruesome killing.
Whereas Mr Otieno had his eyes fixed on Obado, her mother could not control her emotions and broke down several times as relatives comforted her.
They had travelled from Homa Bay to Nairobi to witness the beginning of the case into the death of their daughter and unborn grandchild.
When Obado’s personal assistant, Michael Oyamo, was brought to court two weeks ago, the parents’ lawyer, Peter Kaluma, stated that the family was only interested in seeing justice served.
“The family interest is that this matter be properly prosecuted and those culpable punished. The right to life is sacred and they want justice for their daughter and her unborn baby,” said Mr Kaluma.
At the centre of Obado’s fight for survival will be his lawyers led by former judge Nicholas Ombija, Cliff Ombeta, Rodgers Sagana and Evans Ondieki.
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The prosecution team will be led by Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Jacob Ondari and Tom Imbali.
The governor, who is scheduled to appear in court today to argue his bail application, is the first among three suspects in custody to be formally charged with the Sharon’s killing.
The body of the Rongo University student was found in a thicket near Oyugis town on September 4.
Also expected to face charges are Oyamo and another of the governor’s aide, Caspal Obiero, who is linked to a car that was used to abduct Sharon before she was killed.