Azimio tells lukewarm members to stay committed to party leader

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga (centre) addresses a rally rally at Amalemba grounds in Kakamega on Feb 25, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

It won’t be business as usual for Azimio leaders who keep snubbing the coalition’s political functions.

This emerged after several leaders from Western region affiliated to Azimio skipped Raila Odinga’s weekend tour of Vihiga and Kakamega counties.

On Saturday, Raila made his first stop at Esiandumba in Luanda constituency for the homecoming of area MP Dick Maungu then headed to Amalemba grounds in Kakamega for the “People’s Baraza” rally.

Conspicuously missing was Vihiga Governor Wilber Ottichilo and a host of MPs. Ottichilo was expected to accompany his party boss to the homecoming ceremony in Vihiga.

The governor’s absence was not taken lightly with several speakers at the function openly criticising the second term governor.

The party leaders told their members that they should serve one master and commit to their coalition’s ideals. The absent leaders were accused of having gone to bed with the Kenya Kwanza government. 

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said the governor had been intimidated to the point of deserting his own party.

While the senator reiterated his own commitment to the coalition and ODM party he asked locals and Azimio loyalists to stand with Raila during his quest for a better Kenya.

“I will stand with you Raila, I can never be intimidated for supporting you. They have intimidated Ottichilo to the point he has not attended this meeting today,” said Osotsi. 

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya claimed Ottichilo is a difficult person to work with.

“Governor Ottichilo issue is a difficult one, We can’t predict his moves,” former Kakamega Governor said.

Mr Oparanya castigated Azimio leaders who have been meeting Kenya Kwanza leaders.

“We need to unite and fight for Kenyans and as leader there is no reason for some of us to sneak into State House to beg for development,” said Oparanya. 

Ottichilo’s deputy Wilberforce Kitiezo later arrived at the venue of the rally in the company of Vihiga Woman Representative Beatrice Adagala (ANC) -- long after the Azimio brigade had left.

Mr Kitiezo offered an apology from his boss to an almost empty ground as many had left.

DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa had earlier criticised the government for “buying” Azimio MPs to cripple the opposition.

“I’m happy that when other MPs were being brought to join the government, Senator Osotsi and Maungu (Luanda MP Dick Maungu) stood firm,” Wamalwa said.

Raila expressed confidence in his new found foot soldiers; Osotsi and Maungu- a first-time MP elected on a DAP-K party. 

“These two are now my soldiers here, they have shown commitment and we will continue working with them,” said Raila.

Raila maintained that the President William Ruto-led administration was illegitimate.

While Raila toured Vihiga, Ottichilo had accompanied other leaders to the opening of Tessy Mudavadi’s office in Nairobi. Tessy is the wife of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

Early this year Ottichilo, who was elected on an ODM ticket, said it was laudable that Mudavadi had initiated talks with all leaders in the region regardless of their political affiliations. “We will support Mudavadi and work with him at all levels,” said Ottichilo. 

Ottichilo endorsed the Kenya Kwanza government and urged residents to support it fully.

“Let us not lie to each other that we have another government, we already accepted who is ruling this nation,” said Ottichilo. 

The absence of some key MPs from Raila’s meeting elicited debate on whether the opposition leader’s grip on the region was still intact.

Mumias West MP Johnston Naicca, Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani) skipped the rally at Amalemba grounds in Kakamega.

Efforts to reach the leaders for comment were futile.