When he walked into office last year as the man charged with the responsibility to deliver President William Ruto’s dream of a vibrant digital economy, many were waiting to see how ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo’s return to the political scene would pan out.
In Nyanza, he was the political slayer who pulled strings to help Kenya Kwanza bag several allies and infiltrate the opposition bedrock with optimism since they came into office.
And now, as political realignments continue to shape up in the region, Owalo’s dalliance with President Ruto’s administration appears to have thrust him to the core of Nyanza’s political succession battle and economic transformation.
Although ODM leader Raila Odinga remains the mainstay of the region’s politics, succession battles by those keen to take over the baton from him as the region’s leader have begun in earnest.
In his own ODM camp, a number of leaders hoping for a nod from Raila to inherit his loyal support base are circling around him with sheer optimism, even as they support his initiatives to continue leading the region.
However, in the succession debate, the entry of Owalo as a potential political juggernaut in the fray is now an open secret. He is building his portfolio as a leader keen to unlock the region’s economic potential and strengthen Kenya Kwanza’s influence in the region.
His initiatives have already attracted a group of loyalists and are leading the charge for a leadership change in the region.
Backed by allies from the region as well as a change of strategy focused on economic transformation, Owalo appears to be a man on a mission.
Unlike past leaders who attempted to wrestle the leadership baton from Raila by facing him head-on in the political arena but fell flat on their faces in failure, Owalo’s strategy is different. His style is non-confrontational and pegged on economic transformation.
His allies are cheering him on but critics believe he still has a lot to do to penetrate the region even as others also dismiss the prospects of a political change in the region.
According to former Lake Basin Development Authority chairman Odoyo Owidi, the time is ripe for the region to embrace change and shift its focus to another leader.
“The region is now ready for a change and shift away from Raila’s leadership,” says Owidi.
Since his appointment, the CS has been indefatigable in what can only be described as a conscious effort to write a new style and chapter in the Luo political history in Kenya.
He has tirelessly shuttled from place to place in Luo Nyanza, unsettling the dominant traditional paradigm of a nation seen as a caustic Opposition bedrock, and bringing in two significant faces, current elected leaders in Parliament and County Assemblies in the region, and a huge slew of former MPs.
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According to Owalo, he is keen to transform the region’s economy and said he will do his best to ensure that the region embraces the government.
“We will ensure that the region supports the government. We will not relent and will bring the government to the region,” said Owalo during the thanksgiving ceremony of Interior PS Raymond Omollo.
On Friday, the team pitched the tent in Rarieda where they rallied residents to support the government’s initiatives in the region.
A review of his activities, since he ascended to the top of the ICT docket, indicates that a majority of the activities the CS has done are in Nyanza and appears to be Ruto’s link-man to crack Raila’s support through a development-centred approach.
When he is not pursuing national projects in Nairobi or representing the country abroad in ICT meetings, the CS retreats to his Nyanza backyard to launch programs and engage stakeholders.
So dedicated is Owalo on this mission that barely a week passes before he pitches a tent in the region to market President Ruto’s regime through projects or meetings with various stakeholders.
Since January, the CS has held more than 40 activities touching on the region and accompanies key State officials inspecting projects in the region to monitor progress.
In the region, several leaders allied to Kenya Kwanza are praising him for his initiatives to strengthen Kenya Kwanza’s bid to penetrate the region and are rallying behind his leadership.
They include MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Tom Ojienda, (Kisumu) Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Paul Abuor (Rongo) and Felix Odiwour (Lang’ata).
Other key leaders are former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, former Kisumu Senator Fred Outa, Jack Ranguma, former Kisumu Woman Rep Rose Nyamunga, Odoyo Owidi, and former police spokesperson Charles Owino, alongside several former MPs.
The leaders have been attending several activities in the region while marketing President Ruto’s administration. Their forays leave no doubt of their collective effort into a dress rehearsal for a paradigm shift in the region.
Among the fraternities he has brought together are the teachers under the umbrella of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Fishermen under the umbrella of the Association of Beach Management Units, Cotton, Sugarcane and Rice farmers under their various regional associations, church leaders from Nyanza and various grassroots organisations from the region. He has also met over 100 former councillors from Nyanza, who are believed to still wield substantial sway in the region.