Two senior Anglican Church of Kenya clerics now want ODM leader Raila Odinga to allow Nyanza residents to pick governors of their choice during next year’s General Election.
Maseno West Diocese Reverend Kenneth Wachianga and his colleague, Luke Odongo, said that Raila had had a hand in the choice of governor candidates since the birth of devolution eight years ago.
“There is a cry that the party may impose candidates who may not deliver. Let Raila take a back seat this time round and watch how election matters are run with leaders who are chosen by residents,” said Wachianga.
The cleric accused ODM of shortchanging competent leaders in the past and giving nomination certificates to leaders who did not have a development agenda.
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“From the look of things, the public has made up its mind on whom to elect in 2022. Let us not also bank on the issue of division of seats within the sub-counties, but rather allow people who can deliver from anywhere to vie and be voted for the people,” he said.
Wachianga turned his attention to Siaya County, saying that Governor Cornel Rasanga had done well “but much more still needs to be done when it comes to development”.
“The issue of grabbed land within Siaya town has not been solved, our hospitals are not fully equipped and our roads are not up to standard,” he said.
Rev Odongo told The Standard that low-key campaigns had started with the formation of camps aligned towards certain candidates.
“Guided democracy when it comes to serious positions in Nyanza and other counties has done a lot of injustice to the electorate,” said Odongo.
He continued: “The electorate should be allowed to elect leaders on the strength of their manifestos and philosophies that would ideally see growth and development. There is need to educate our people on the importance of good leadership.”
Odongo, who is also a Siaya resident, said he was looking forward to a new governor who would work to improve education, food security and the road network.
Leaders reportedly interested in the Siaya governor seat, include Deputy Governor James Okumbe, Senator James Orengo and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.
Dr Okumbe, who has declared interest to succeed Rasanga, hails from Bondo sub-county while Mr Wandayi and Mr Orengo are from Ugunja and Ugenya sub-counties, respectively.
Okumbe told The Standard that his academic and professional qualifications put him in good stead to take over from Rasanga.
“Having worked for about three-and-a-half years has exposed me to development matters in the county. I have also proved to be loyal and trustworthy to my boss. I have been engaged in launching and commissioning of county projects, including politics. The governor position requires a leader of the calibre of chief executive officer, which I have,” he said.
While Wandayi and Orengo are yet to publicly state their intentions, this has not prevented their close allies from canvassing support on their behalf.
Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi and his Gem counterpart Elisha Odhiambo are on record seeking votes for Orengo during functions in their constituencies.
Wandayi said he was aware that many residents want him to throw his hat in the ring.
“I thank them for expressing confidence in my leadership. However, such a weighty decision on my part would require wide consultation within ODM, considering that I am a national official of the party.
“At the end of the day, we must strike a balance between the sovereign will of the people of Siaya and the strategic interests of ODM, which is the dominant party in the county,” the MP said.
Wandayi said there was an agreement that the next administration would require a “leadership with the capacity to harness its vast potential and move it to the next level, development-wise.”
Former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, who is also eyeing the seat after losing to Rasanga in 2017, has not revealed whether he will vie on an ODM ticket or as an independent candidate. In 2017, he vied as an independent candidate.
Edwin Ngonga, a businessman and close Raila ally, said he would be in the race to take over from the governor.
“As a friend of the ODM party leader, there is no doubt that he will support my bid to seize the county top seat,” said Ngonga, who hails from Alego Usonga.
The businessman said his focus would be on maternal health care, afforestation, cash crops, and information technology.
Kenya National Union of Teachers Siaya branch official Alex Dunga said that despite the clamour over the governor position, Rasanga must be allowed to finish his term and complete his projects.
He also argued that politics is about interests and that it will be impossible for residents to get their choice candidates.
“Even President Uhuru Kenyatta, after retiring, would wish to have an interest in who succeeds him. ODM leaders are stakeholders in this county and have an interest in it, although the people may overrule them and make independent decisions,” said Mr Dunga.