Gladys Wanga: Could she be Nyanza’s first woman county chief?

Homabay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

She is like an onion with many layers. Behind her outward look lies a strong, tactical and fearless politician. 

Gladys Wanga has defied many odds, outwitted and outgunned veterans, among them a billionaire former governor, and is a new Phoebe Asiyo in the making.

And if all goes according to plan and her only remaining opponent, former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, fails to find an alternative plan after missing out on the ODM ticket, the Homa Bay Woman Rep believes she will be home and dry even before August 9.

In the last two days, Wanga has left tongues wagging after elbowing her opponents in the race to succeed Governor Cyprian Awiti, with seven contenders dropping their bids in her favour.

Among them were ODM chairman John Mbadi, former Kasipul MP Oyugi Magwanga, Awiti’s deputy Hamilton Orata, businessman Louis Ogingo, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers Secretary-General Akelo Misori and businessman Jared Kiasa.

Also in the race for the ODM ticket was Kidero who had set up an elaborate campaign machinery as he sought to build grassroots support ahead of the ODM party primaries.

But how did Wanga edge out the political titans to win the coveted ODM ticket?

While her opponents and critics believe that it is Raila’s intervention that worked for her, supporters and pundits believe her relentless efforts to build a national outlook as well as her efforts to transform the lives of Homa Bay residents placed her on a pedestal to succeed Awiti and won her hearts in Orange House.

In Homa Bay, she had built a strong grassroots network while in the national front she had won allies including the Red Brigade ( a group of women leaders backing Raila’s presidential bid).

The women led by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu have been lobbying the ODM leadership to consider backing her for the seat and claimed she had proven to be a performer.

According to Wanga, however, her popularity in Homa Bay and her clear vision for the county gave her a headstart in the race.

She argued that ODM conducted opinion polls which revealed that she was the top aspirant. Then came consensus.

“ODM carried out consensus talks which saw my competitors shelve their gubernatorial bids. But this was based on opinion polls which showed that I was the most preferred gubernatorial aspirant. I thank my competitors for accepting that I become the ODM candidate in August 9 polls,” Wanga said.

She attributed her success to being close to the people of Homa Bay, which was enhanced by implementation of various development projects.

The projects included building of modern markets and sponsoring more than 600 youths for training on technical skills with the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA).

She also takes pride in starting a school girl mentorship programme known as Mama County Says which she has been running since 2014.

Wanga has been running a financial empowerment programme for women traders dubbed Abedo..

With Magwanga still enjoying a lot of support, his entry into Wang’a’s camp as the running mate is seen as a massive game-changer.

“My interest is in service delivery to the people of Homa Bay, “ he said.

Yesterday, Kidero said he is exploring his options and will announce his next move soon but maintained that he will be on the ballot.

He said  the decision to hand Wanga a direct ticket was ill-informed and has robbed vo the chance to participate in the ODM party primaries.