By Felix Olick
Immediate former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s campaign manager James Ongwae is banking on his experience in the civil service to tap into the fortunes of Kisii County.
Ongwae, who resigned recently from the PM’s presidential campaign secretariat, would be fighting it out with other political heavyweights for the Kisii gubernatorial position.
As he leaves the office, the former Agriculture Permanent Secretary is contented he has set the PM’s campaign machinery into motion. He says that he has only shifted his ‘military’ base from Nairobi to Kisii, but remains a key ODM strategist.
“I am happy to say that I have left a vibrant structure that can operate without necessarily relying on an individual. It’s a system that should be created in all organisations where human beings come and go, but the system remains. But, even in Kisii where I’m gunning for governor, I’m going to work for the PM to ensure he becomes the next president,” he observed in an interview with The Standard On Sunday.
Ongwae, who was replaced at the secretariat by Friends of Raila (Fora) Secretary General Eliud Owallo, has worked in the civil service for more than 30 years.
Previously, he worked as chief management analyst in the Government and as the first programme director of Kenya Civil Service Reform Programme. He was later appointed PS in the Ministry of Agriculture and director of Personnel Management before heading to the Teachers Service Commission as chief executive officer.
?However, his decision to go for the seat creates a tough political calculation for the Orange party Gusii region.
This follows the declaration by Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka that he, too, would contest the seat.
Onyonka is another key ally of the PM in Kisii.
This looming encounter is compounded by another titanic battle pitying Public Works Minister Chris Obure and ODM Executive Director Janet Ongera for the Kisii senate would be headache for ODM.
However, Raila appeared to be cooling political fires in Kisii ahead of the polls, when he declared that the party has no preferred candidate.
“A number of allegations have been made that Ongwae has been given an automatic nomination ticket and that is how things are going to go in ODM. This is a very open and transparent political party. We shall have free and fair nominations and the party would support only the winner,” declared Odinga during Ongwae’s farewell party last week.
Despite the challenges, Ongwae remains confident that he is the best man for the job.
?“I see the first major challenge of the first governor as institutional building. The first governor should develop a clear strategic plan for the county. ?He should identify the basic challenges in that county, identify brains to take over the positions of the directorates that have been created so that that county is able to stand on its own,” he advised.
Ongwae asked Kenyans to support the PM, and expressed confidence that Raila will win the presidential election.
“We are not underrating our opponents, but I can tell you with confidence Raila will be the fourth president of the Republic of Kenya. He will command a clear lead in most counties with a least 65 per cent of the total votes cast,” he said.
He described the ODM leader as the face of reform and the only presidential aspirant Kenyans can trust with leadership after President Kibaki.
?Others eyeing the Kisii governor position in Kisii County include, former DC Peter Ndemo, who is the brother to PS Bitange Ndemo, former National Social Security Fund CEO Naftali Mogere, a university lecturer Zadoc Ogutu and lawyer Lumumba Nyaberi.