Deals sealed as pressure piles on Oparanya to ensure ODM victory

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and senator aspirants at his Emabole home in Butere sub-county during negotiations on Sunday. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya is under pressure from his ODM party to secure majority elective seats in Kakamega County.

Mr Oparanya has the herculean task to deliver governor, parliamentary, Senate, woman representative and MCA seats in the August 9 polls.

Political analysts interviewed said Mr Oparanya needs to act fast as the election nears.

Being the ODM deputy party leader and a close ally of Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya presidential hopeful Raila Odinga, the governor is expected to ensure the Orange party secures the Butere parliamentary seat which is his home turf.

Mr Oparanya and his party are facing an onslaught from parties under the Kenya Kwanza Alliance in Western, including DAP-K associated with Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa, Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani and Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya.

The political outfits have intensified campaigns in Kakamega and Western to starve ODM of votes.

Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula plan on making the vote-hunt hard for Mr Oparanya and his party boss Mr Odinga.

“Mr Oparanya is between a rock and a hard place. His performance in the August 9 poll will have an impact on his political future. He must deliver seats to ODM to remain relevant,” says Emmanuela Mulaa, a political scientist from the University of Nairobi.

She added: “In 2017, ODM managed two MP seats out of 12 in Kakamega with Mr Oparanya failing to help the party clinch the Butere seat.

“That was a dismal performance for a deputy party leader. In this election, he must ensure the party gets at least six out of the 12 MP seats.”

Ms Mulaa continued: “He must put in more effort to guarantee ODM the governor, senator and woman representative seats to be part of Mr Odinga’s plans in case the latter forms the next government.” 

According to Ms Mulaa, if Mr Oparanya fails to deliver, he should forget about being rewarded by a Mr Odinga-led administration. “That could be the beginning of his political woes.”

Mr Oparanya is spending time in the county to deliver seats despite Mr Odinga’s alleged waning influence in the region.

On Sunday, he brokered a deal between senator aspirants Brian Lishenga, Simbauni Ndombi and businessman Benjamin Andama who were eyeing the ODM ticket. Dr Lishenga will fly the party flag.

“After lengthy deliberations and negotiations with three ODM aspirants for the Kakamega senator seat, we have reached a consensus,” Mr Oparanya said at his Emabole home on Sunday.

The governor announced former Ketraco CEO Fernandes Barasa as the ODM governor hopeful and Elsie Muhanda as the Kakamega Woman Representative nominee.

According to Mr Oparanya, Dr Ndombi and Mr Andama shelved their ambitions in favour of Dr Lishenga. He said the decision to settle on him was guided by party nomination rules.

Dr Lishenga said he will ensure he delivers the Senate seat to ODM. “My nomination is a win for the youth of Kakamega.” Mr Barasa said Dr Lishenga is the ideal candidate to defeat UDA candidate Boni Khalwale.

“His leadership skills were tested when he was chairman of the Rural Private Hospitals Association of Kenya and as a dean at Egerton University,” said Mr Barasa.

Governor Oparanya issued direct tickets to ANC MPs who defected to the Orange party to bolster ODM chances of winning more seats.  They are Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Tindi Mwale (Butere), and Peter Nabulindo (Matungu).

Others are Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani). Mr Nabulindo and Mr Mwale had initially joined DAP-K but switched to ODM.

Mumias West MP Johnson Naicca also received a direct ticket.

In Lugari, former county chief officer Nabii Nabwera was also gifted a ticket after ODM communications director Philip Etale was prevailed upon to shelve his ambitions of vying in Lugari.

In Shinyalu, Mr Oparanya issued a direct ticket to former lawmaker Anami Lisamula, a move that saw incumbent Justus Kizito decamp to DAP-K.  Mr Kizito was serving as Kakamega County ODM chairman before he jumped ship in protest.

ODM nominations in Kakamega were conducted in 14 out of the 60 wards. Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, the ANC governor candidate, promised Mr Oparanya a bruising battle. “In 2017, ODM performed dismally. They must brace for a tough contest ahead because we will beat them.”