What next for Raila Odinga's allies in Western Kenya?

Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa, former governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) and Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) arrive for the inauguration of Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa at Bukhungu Stadium on Thursday. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Several Raila Odinga allies in the Western region who had hoped to keep their political careers alive through an Azimio la Umoja government are readjusting their sails following the August 9 presidential election loss.

The leaders, who include former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who had hoped to maintain their influence under a Raila presidency, were jolted by the loss and eventual swearing-in of President William Ruto.

Former Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and his Busia counterpart, Sospeter Ojaamong', as well as former National Assembly speaker Kenneth Marende are other Raila political orphans.

Former MPs Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi), Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren), Chris Omulele (Luanda), Justus Kizito (Ikolomani) and former senators George Khaniri (Vihiga) and Amos Wako (Busia) had also hoped Raila would win to assure them of political survival.

However, all that they are now assured of is being in the political cold for the next five years.

Even the possibility of Kenya Kwanza honchos compromising their positions and co-opting them in government, in the spirit of forming a government with a national outlook in line with President Ruto's promise, is too remote bearing in mind that the ruling coalition has its own people in the region.

Among Kenya Kwanza members likely to be considered for government jobs are former Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, who unsuccessfully contested for the governor's seat that was won by ODM's Fernandes Barasa, and Ford Kenya's Chris Wamalwa, who lost the fight for the Trans Nzoia governorship race to DAP-K candidate George Natembeya. DAP-K is a member of Azimio while Moses Wetang'ula's Ford K is a key Kenya Kwanza member.

Raila appeared to have crafted an elaborate power-sharing plan that would have seen Oparanya appointed Treasury CS while Marende was destined to become Senate speaker.

Mr Eugene Wamalwa, a key campaigner for Azimio in the region, was also guaranteed a Cabinet slot.

Wako, who opted not to defend his Senate seat, was part of the legal team that represented Raila in the Supreme Court. It was widely expected that he would get a position in Raila's administration.

Raila's political orphans had promised to use their 'new positions' to push for economic development in the Western region, including the revival of Mumias and Nzoia sugar companies. Upgrading key roads in the region was also top on their agenda.

Oparanya and Wamalwa went even further to declare that they had replaced ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wetang'ula as the Luhya community leaders.

However, as fate would have it, things did not go as they expected. Wetang'ula is now the National Assembly speaker while Mudavadi is set to become Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Oparanya and Wamalwa have declared that they will not quit active politics and will remain loyal to Raila and the Azimio coalition.

"I am not going anywhere. In fact, I will be going for an elective position in 2027. I will remain in active politics," Oparanya said.

The former county boss said he will be at the forefront of pushing for a strong opposition to keep Ruto's administration in check.

Oparanya, one of ODM's deputy party leaders, has called for the implementation of a proposal in the BBI Bill that sought the restructuring and funding of the Office of the Leader of Opposition. Wamalwa, who spoke in Kakamega on Thursday during the swearing-in of Governor Barasa, said he would join hands with Oparanya to offer good leadership to the region.

He said he was venturing into active politics after relinquishing his ministerial post. Those close to him say he was keen on taking over DAP-K leadership and using it as a bargaining tool in national politics.

The outgoing CS and Oparanya warned Azimio governors against the temptation to side with Dr Ruto. But Ayub Savula, the Kakamega deputy governor and DAP-K deputy party leader, insisted that he would work with the government of the day.

"We must work with President Ruto to attract development to our region," said Savula, calling on Wamalwa "to go slow".

Wamunyinyi, who is DAP-K chairman, said his name was among those being floated by his party as possible candidates to replace Wetang'ula, who left his Senate seat for National Assembly speaker.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua says the influence of Oparanya and Wamalwa in the region will drastically go down. "The duo's influence will diminish. Mudavadi and Wetang'ula are now commanding the region based on their positions in government".

Martin Oloo, a political commentator, ruled out the possibility of Azimio re-inventing itself and forming a formidable opposition. "There are no sound structures that can make the coalition stand."

The Standard
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