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Nyanza doesn't need political kingpins; let Raila be the last

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance leader Raila Odinga addresses Magena Residents in Bomachoge Borabu in Kisii County on September 10, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

After independence, the Luo community drew political directions from both Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya. Jaramogi subscribed to leftist ideologies while Mboya advocated for a non-aligned international policy, rejecting a blanket application of capitalism while completely abhorring scientific socialism. Jaramogi helped build Russia Hospital in Kisumu with his communist friends as Mboya ran an airlift programme to the United States 

Subsequently, the Luo community had its politics oscillate around Jaramogi. His son Raila Odinga inherited his political constituency to become the 'Luo Kingpin'. Raila may be hanging his political boots and remarks from his elder brother, Oburu Oginga, insinuate that Raila will pass the torch to Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.

This has elicited mixed reactions within Luo Nyanza with many questioning the rationale behind Wandayi’s pick. Raila has been synonymous with the politics of defiance, jiggery-pokery and trickery. Does the Luo nation deserve a successor to Raila’s vehicle model of politics whose chassis number is bulldozing (Tinga) and strong-arm tactics?

The Luo nation deserves a fresh start, akin to the Mboya-Odinga formation at independence. We need to cherish pluralism rather than concentrate community power around one person. After Moi’s exit, the Kalenjin did not scramble to succeed him. Naturally, many leaders emerged within the region. Post-Mboya, the Odinga family has selfishly united the Luo as their sole tool in the national negotiation table.

The elevation of Wandayi as the heir apparent is causing discomfort within the community and will be to blame if the region politically disintegrates.

After Raila’s loss, John Mbadi was demoted from the minority leadership in favour of Wandayi ostensibly to remove Mbadi from the succession matrix, betraying Raila's bias against South Nyanza.

As prime minister, Raila appointed six Luo Permanent Secretaries, but none of them came from the South. To conceal the discrimination, he shared the four Luo ministerial slots between James Orengo, Anyang' Nyong'o, Dalmas Otieno and the late Otieno Kajwang’. Keenly studied, Otieno and Kajwang', both from the South, ran mere government departments as the others ran the plum Lands and Health ministries.

Racing back to the handshake era, what projects were launched in Homa Bay and Migori? Any keen student will take note that the handshake brothers mostly visited Kisumu and Siaya counties, whilst the people of the South were turned to voting machines to deliver an illusionary '10 million strong'.

President Ruto balanced his appointments between the two siblings, with the South bagging the prestigious Interior PS position and central getting a PS and a minister. I am not trying to call for a dogfight between these inseparable twins, but I'm emphasising that the Luo nation does not need a unifying kingpin; let leaders emerge from everywhere, and when they do, let us not dehorn them.

The international stage also offers insights for us. In 1992, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two states – Czech Republic and Slovakia – due to fading unity. Similarly, Germany underwent a division into East and West Germany due to irreconcilable ideologies. These cases underscore the value of flexibility in preserving cohesion.

In 2014, the then Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero spearheaded development campaigns in Nyanza, what befell him? His actions invited trouble with top party honchos and the rising bull was castrated before he could even climb the heifer. Just like Czechoslovakia, Luo Nyanza deserves a velvet divorce, and we must draw lessons why we should never again hand over community's political power to the hands of one man. Let leaders emerge from everywhere and nurture them to the utmost. 

But even if the hypothetical kingpin position remained post-Raila, Wandayi is the least qualified person to hold it. He has no record that can ingratiate him to the Luo people. He lacks the gift of oration and his poor record as minority leader kicks him out. The legacy of Odinga and Mboya reminds us that balanced, diversified leadership, coupled with genuine representation, is the true harbinger of progress. 

 Mr Ondiek is the UDA South Nyanza Coordinator