Ruto and Raila battle for the soul of Nyanza region ahead of 2027 poll

ODM leader Raila Odinga and former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya at Kamukunji Grounds on February 4, 2024. [Samson Wire, Standard]

President William Ruto seems re-energised in his efforts to gain a footing in Raila Odinga's Nyanza political turf.

Senior government officials from the region, particularly from Luo Nyanza, have been camping in the area, meeting various stakeholders and initiating development projects.

Their forays are aimed at accessing a region that has supported and voted for Raila and his troops for more than two decades.

Nyanza voted for five out of six of their governors through the ODM party. Only Nyamira Governor Amos Nyaribo was elected on UPA ticket. The party is affiliated to Azimio la Umoja coalition.

Despite receiving resistance from ODM elected leaders in Luo Nyanza, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Interior and National Coordination Principal Secretary Raymond Omolo have been leading inspection of government projects in the larger Luo Nyanza.

The two have been spending most of their weekends in the region, meeting with various stakeholders and attending several social gatherings.

Government agenda

CS Owalo says he is using the opportunity to meet people from Nyanza to explain the government's Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda, plus the interventions, both immediate and long-term, geared towards Kenya’s sustainable socio-economic development.

PS Omollo says leaders appointed or elected at the national and county levels must endeavour to change the conversation and centre it around what is beneficial to the people and region.

The PS says the ongoing infrastructural upgrade to bitumen standard and maintenance of roads in the region will bring immense socio-economic impact to the lake region.

Omolo's close ally and a one-time ODM operative, Silas Jakakimba, says the conservative ideologies in the ODM party had long elected to do everything possible to go for anyone aligned to realist formation.

Silas says back-end talks on him being on the ballot in 2027 are meant to serve selfish interests.

ODM allied leaders say they will soon not allow Kenya Kwanza leaders from the area to address their people.

Led by Siaya Governor James Orengo, MPs Sam Atandi and Christine Ombaka, the leaders claimed they would not allow the rivals to address any gathering where any ODM leader will be present.

They claimed the Kenya Kwanza government was lying to the people and doing nothing to sort out the problems bedevilling them.

Kisumu Woman Representative Ombaka believes the Kenya Kwanza leaders must tell residents what they are doing to address the cost of living

Ombaka says because they claim they are close to the working government, they must not be seen to be selling its agenda but tell residents what is beneficial to them.

Atandi said they have already heard complaints from those allied to Kenya Kwanza that they are frustrated when they come to Siaya County.

"We will do more, and let them know they will not be allowed to address any gathering moving forward," he said.

In the Gusii region, ODM appointed Kisii Governor Simba Arati as the national vice-chairman, a move that has given him a footing in the region's politics.

Arati maintains that the ODM party remains the party of choice in the Gusii region.

"We are not mincing our words. We will do everything humanly to ensure that the party carries the day in any election. We are ready for the task," he says. 

ODM National Treasurer Timothy Bosire says people from the region are not naive.

"They know what is right and wrong. There is a feeling that Kenya is not headed in the right direction," he says.

However, UDA leaders from the region led by National Assembly Majority Chief Whip Slyvanous Osoro say the 2022 politics was a turning point for the region.

"We managed to win important elective seats that have given us space at the negotiating table. It is not by luck. We worked hard and ensured that we had support from our people," he says.

Osoro says the people of Kisii will no longer vote for a popular party but for the work done.

According to Osoro, politicians should not be competing on who is addressing huge crowds but on who can put in place programmes to help elevate the lives of all residents.

Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda believes it is not time to politick.

"Those of us in Kenya Kwanza are supporting the government to achieve programmes in its manifesto. We have an agenda to complete all stalled projects in the region and initiate others to the benefit of our people."

Zaheer says in 2027, residents will be voting for leaders who have impacted positively the people.

Several appointments

The Kenya Kwanza government has made several appointments from the region to various parastatal boards.

Nominated Senator Essy Okenyuri says Kisii and Nyamira have been in opposition to the disadvantage of its people for a long time.

Okenyuri says those from the region serving in various government positions have a responsibility to ensure that government-funded projects have been completed.

Former Kisii Governor James Ongwae, who was twice elected on ODM ticket, says the Kenya Kwanza government has an elaborate plan for the region.

Ongwae, who was recently appointed as chairperson of the Universal Service Advisory Council, believes Gusii leaders have made up their minds to deliver what they promised the electorate.

President Ruto has made five trips to Gusii region since he assumed office. In the trips and subsequent meetings, he promised to complete some stalled projects and launch new development programmes.