President William Ruto’s two-day working tour of Nyanza has sent critics of Azimio leader Raila Odinga back to the drawing board.
For several months, election losers in Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya and Migori counties had embarked on a campaign aimed at positioning themselves as the President’s point men in Nyanza and had sustained attacks on Azimio leader Raila Odinga.
In a bid to gain favour with Kenya Kwanza administration, the former Raila allies looked forward to take advantage of the Head of State’s visit to advance their political interests.
Former MPs Nicholas Gumbo, Ochieng Daima, Martin Ogindo and Silvance Osele, former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, former Kisumu Senator Fred Outa and former Kisumu Woman Representative Rose Nyamunga, had vowed to work with the Kenya Kwanza government for the sake of the people of Nyanza.
However, the ODM leader’s call to his allies to welcome Ruto and work with the government caught his critics by surprise. The President received a warm welcome from residents and engaged directly with elected leaders.
This came as a shocker to the anti-Raila group, with political pundits arguing that the move has seen the ODM leader silence his critics who have been warming up to the government.
On Saturday, Siaya Governor James Orengo and Senator Oburu Oginga who is Raila’s elder brother, were at hand to receive the Head of State.
MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Samuel Atandi (Alego-Usonga) and Christine Ombaka (Woman Representative) also lined up at Odao Primary School in Bondo to the Kenya Kwanza leadership.
On Friday, the President landed in Homa Bay county where he was received by local leaders led by Governor Gladys Wanga and Senator Moses Kajwang.
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Ruto was making his second visit to the county since he ascended to power. The Head of State was accompanied by his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and national government officials.
He also launched the first phase of the affordable housing project in the county that will see 5,000 units constructed. The president announced plans to initiate various development projects in the region in collaboration with the county governments ranging from infrastructure, blue economy and water projects. The Head of State was welcomed by song and dance when he landed in Siaya and Homa Bay counties.
Unlike in the recent past when a section of Nyanza elected leaders issued terms of engagement with Kenya Kwanza government, Ruto received a warm welcome and was gifted by locals.
Two months ago, Siaya Governor James Orengo said he was ready to work with the Kenya Kwanza administration, but with conditions.
Mr Orengo insisted that he will only embrace the president if he avoids politicising development.
“The president is free to come to Siaya at any time, and if he comes for development then I will receive him because county and national governments are interdependent and should cooperate,” he said.
The governor said majority of Siaya people will still seek political direction from ODM leader Raila.
Days before Ruto’s visit to the region, former Rarieda MP Gumbo told his critics to get used to Kenya Kwanza leadership.
Eng Gumbo, who was speaking at Siger Primary School on Wednesday when he accompanied ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo during distribution of relief food to residents, accused a section of leaders allied to Raila of peddling lies to their supporters.
“Politics is over and we must now live with the fact that the president is here to serve for two terms,” he said. The former MP said no president has ever served for one term since the introduction of multi-party politics in Kenya.
Leaders at the event were former MPs Daima, Ogindo and Osele, former Kisumu Governor Ranguma, former Kisumu Senator Outa and former Kisumu Woman Representative Nyamunga. Gumbo, who lost to Governor James Orengo in the August 9, 2022 elections, said it is only God who can take the presidency away from Ruto.
“Let the elected leaders not continue to lie to our people that Ruto is a temporary president. He is here to stay,” said Gumbo.
Gumbo’s sentiments were echoed by the former Kisumu Governor, who warned the Nyanza governors against competing with the national government.
“County governments only get 15 per cent of funds from the national government and this, therefore, means that we must work with the government of the day in order to get more resources,” said Ranguma.