Will CS Eliud Owalo's overtures soften Nyanza's heart for Ruto?

ICT CS Eliud Owalo during relief food distribution at Ndiru Chief's Camp in Rangwe Constituency on December 17, 2022. [James Omoro, Standard]

ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo is a man on a mission.

His seems to go beyond distributing relief food and making plans for internet connectivity to villages through market centres, schools and health facilities.

The CS has been traversing the larger Luo Nyanza region, distributing relief food, meeting with sections of local leaders and launching free internet connectivity in major towns.

The forays seem to have thrown the region into a political spin. In a span of four months, he has been able to rally a section of leaders who fell out with Azimio leader Raila Odinga into the Kenya Kwanza fold.

Owalo is working closely with Raila's former lieutenants including former governors Dr Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and Okoth Obado (Siaya).

He also has the support of Ugenya MP David Ochieng and former Kisumu senator Fred Outa.

But his mission has not been without criticism from, among others, Migori Governor Ochilo Ayacko and Nyatike MP Tom Odege.

Ayacko said it is the duty of the government to provide services to the people despite their voting patterns.

Odege argued that when famine relief is provided in terms of food, those benefitting would be minimal.

"If you send money, many will benefit. But if you bring a lorry from Nairobi to Nyatike, Uriri or Piny Oyie, the cost will be more expensive than the food it is going to deliver," he said.

Siaya Governor James Orengo avers he is ready to work with the government, but not in submission.

"Declaring to work with the government of the day is not news and those purporting to support the government in order to get development projects should understand what the Constitution says," said Orengo.

Despite the criticism, Owalo seems to have taken a different route and is keen to spearhead the region's agenda in a holistic manner and not just ICT.

In the last regime, Luo Nyanza had two CS Prof George Magoha (Education) and Rachel Omamo (Foreign Affairs) but they were rarely seen in the region. On his part, Owalo says he is keen to oversee implementation of the development blueprint President William Ruto signed with Luo professionals during the campaign.

"As part of the blueprint, the government will establish fish processing plants in beaches of Lake Victoria to end the current practice where the fish is processed elsewhere. The industries will create job opportunities for residents," he said.

He said the government will also support aquaculture in the region to bridge the gap in demand for fish in the country.

Other development projects to be implemented include construction of a ring road along the shore of Lake Victoria ring road from Kisumu to Migori and housing project in Homabay.

The CS's ongoing launch of Public Internet Hotspots goes in line with Ruto's plan to digitise at least 80 per cent of government services.