Uhuru Nyanza goodies fire up race for the top seat ahead of 2022 polls

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Burundi counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye and ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kisumu Port during the launch of Kenya Shipyard Limited (KSL) on May 31, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

A week after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trip to Nyanza where he unveiled mega projects, there is a push by other Opposition leaders to go for the presidency so that their regions can benefit.

Prior to Tuesday’s Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu, President Kenyatta had launched a series of projects worth billions of shillings in the region.

Others are to be launched in August.

The projects were undertaken following the Handshake between President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga in March 2018.

Leaders who feel that the Handshake has ignored their regions in terms of development have now vowed to go for the top seat.

On Friday, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi promised to go for the presidency, assuring his Western Kenya backyard that he will use the opportunity to leverage the region's economy. 

Former National Super Alliance (NASA) leaders Mudavadi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula are now under pressure to deliver the presidency so that their regions can benefit.

"You have seen what happened in Nyanza last week, we as leaders from Western want to have Mudavadi clinch the presidency so that we can also benefit," said Lugari MP Ayub Savula.

The MP said that as it were now, their region will not benefit much.

Though they were part of the Nasa coalition, Raila had forgotten them and is pushing for his backyard alone to benefit.

The president’s tour and gesture were largely fashioned as a Luo Nyanza affair.

Savula wondered why Raila did not push for the projects for the wider Western region – a move that would have been good for his political interests and got him support from the Luo, Luhya, Kisii and Kuria communities.

Kangundo MP Fabian Multi said the region is fully behind Kalonzo to ensure that he wins the presidency next year.

"Who wants to be left out when regions are being developed? posed Mulli.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Burundi counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye and ODM leader Raila Odinga at Kisumu Port during the launch of Kenya Shipyard Limited (KSL) on May 31, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

"As it stands, we will also insist that Kalonzo goes for the top seat, we are not taking anything less."

Similar sentiments were echoed by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa who called on his Ford Kenya party leader Wetangula to begin his race to be president next year.

"As it is, regions benefit more when they are in government or have their sons and daughters in the corridors of power," said Dr Wamalwa. "Wetangula has the experience and capacity to lead the country."

Belgut MP Nelson Koech said that the politics of tokenism should be discarded.

"A president should be seen to be dolling out development as tokenism, there is a need to have are well thought out process of ensuring that the Government serve all equally and fairly, not at the whims of a single person," he said.

Koech said the Rift Valley region had suffered more despite voting the President to the man.

"All the projects have been halted or scandalised before they are stopped, none has been launched lately," said Koech. 

"All we are asking the president now is to at least spare the region more agony by not using security network to criminalise the regions projects."

According to Dr Richard Bosire the economic benefits for locals are real and stretch far.

 “When a giant tree sprouts in the neighbourhood, everyone benefits from its shade or leaves and branches which fall off.”

And this, according to the political scientist, is the message Raila is sending to his supporters across the larger western Kenya region.

“Raila’s focus on Luo-Nyanza may not have been accidental," says Bosire.

"It was meant to endear him to his core constituency by demonstrating that the handshake with Uhuru was indeed an avenue to the much sought-after development in the region.”

The University of Nairobi lecturer adds that Uhuru’s handshake partner “was a little bit selfish” in focusing on his political home turf alone.

With emerging rivalry from the likes of Mudavadi, Bosire argues that Raila did not want to give much political highlight to the Kisumu event, including roping in leaders from neighbouring regions.

“Right now, for instance, Mudavadi is on a spot from some of his supporters for not similarly lobbying for development projects for his people.

"It is the kind of comparative analysis that paints Raila as more influential within government circles and development conscious, and one that may have been strategically thought out,” Bosire says.