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Wandayi is qualified to take up the kingpin mantle after Raila

 Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga and Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi at County Hall, Nairobi, on November 24, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Ondiek Kennedy's Op-ed in The Standard on September 12 titled 'Nyanza doesn’t need political kingpins; let Raila be the last' cannot go unchallenged because it contained several statements of fallacy and omission.

It is factually recorded that the political leadership of the Luo happened organically and neither Jaramogi Oginga Odinga nor Raila Odinga were elected to this position.

Indeed, Raila had to rebel against the wishes of his father who preferred Kijana Wamalwa and James Orengo. Given the foregoing, the contention that there is a plan to anoint Ugunja MP James Opiyo Wandayi as the next community kingpin has no basis because it lacks historic recurrence.

In his article, Ondiek also made unsubstantiated claims that Mr Wandayi is the least qualified hypothetically to become the Luo political kingpin. But his track record shows otherwise.

Did Ondiek bother to check what factors led to Wandayi being among those increasingly mentioned as likely successors to Raila? Had Ondiek bothered to examine Wandayi's prosopography, he would have easily unearthed facts that justify his current positioning in national politics.

For starters, the reality is that Wandayi's rise to the pinnacle of minority leadership in the National Assembly was shaped by his focused and transformational leadership. Wandayi is a complete package backed by a solid democratic mandate have been elected thrice by a landslide.

Wandayi's development record is unmatched in Luo Nyanza. He has independently won awards and has been rated favourably by pollsters multiple times. This is partly because, from his experience in the private sector, he went beyond NG-CDF and partnered with donors to deliver sustainable development touching on most social spheres of the people of Ugunja and Siaya County.

Projects delivered by Wandayi include water programmes, roads, rural electrification, education, agriculture and healthcare. For instance, under education, Wandayi has established a record seven new secondary schools, two tertiary colleges, and a one‐of‐a-kind NYS outpost in Ugunja, a constituency that only came into existence a decade ago.

What’s more, Wandayi also happens to be the longest-serving and best-performing chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The parliamentary Hansard proves that he led his committee in examining the most audit reports and making the most far-reaching recommendations over a two-year period. Wandayi's PAC cleared a backlog that was going back almost two terms; and unlike his predecessors in the multi-party era, he emerged from it scandal-free.

But what was rather bewildering was Odiek's shallow argument that Wandayi's lack of the gift of oration and poor record as minority leader disqualifies him as a community leader.

The first sign Kenyans saw of a consequential minority leader was when Wandayi sat in the panel that vetted Kenya Kwanza Cabinet secretary nominees. Not only did Wandayi put the nominees to task with well-researched questions, but he also delivered value for money to taxpayers in so far as the oversight mandate was concerned. He was the star performer of the Ruto Cabinet vetting exercise.

And since then, Wandayi has been an almost a lone voice in the plenary, fighting the government on a number of key policy issues. For example, he successfully fought Kenya Kwanza on the planned importation of GMO food. Wandayi also led the fight to reinstate the NG-CDF which had been declared unconstitutional by the courts. He forced the government to release delayed NG-CDF disbursements by threatening a strike by legislators. He also forced the release of money for the elderly and strongly opposed planned privatisation of State universities, hence safeguarding public interest. We also remember him gallantly fighting the Finance Bill that was being held hostage by the Executive.

These few highlights only tell part of a story of focused leadership, bravery and competence. Can Ondiek point out which of Wandayi's predecessors ever attained such heights in their first year in office?

A good leader will always lead the people towards the path of sustainable growth and progress by carrying the torch of wisdom. Wandayi does not need to make noise in media to be that good leader.

-The writer is a political commentator based in Siaya County

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