He is among the few leaders from Nyanza whose flower blossomed after the election of President William Ruto in August after several years in the cold.
A towering figure who measures his words with careful grit and plays it cool even when the political sea is rough, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo is slowly developing a profile as a force to reckon with.
His bosses - President Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua - rate him highly in their Cabinet with Gachagua describing him as the most dedicated CS. In Nyanza, he has emerged as the cream and a trusted ally of president Ruto, elbowing out a long list of political leaders who had joined Ruto’s camp in the build-up to the last elections with the hope of earning a seat in Ruto’s high table.
And while a clique of allies he has earned is cheering him on, a different group of ODM leaders appears jittery with his rise to stardom and his quest to expand his influence across Nyanza.
In the last few weeks, Owalo has been a busy man as he traversed Nyanza region to distribute relief food while also pushing the Kenya Kwanza narrative to a region that has now warmed up to Ruto’s leadership.
On Saturday, Owalo hosted several leaders at his home in Gangu Village, Asembo- Rarieda to mark a thanksgiving to celebrate his appointment to Ruto’s Cabinet. And in a show of force, his event was attended by the who is who in the country’s leadership.
Both the president and his deputy attended the function while Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and National Assembly speaker Moses Wetangula among a list of several MPs from either side of the divide were present.
The leaders showered him with praises and claimed they are certain that he has what it takes to deliver on his new mandate. Gachagua described Owalo as a dedicated CS who will deliver his mandate to Kenyans. Gachagua said Owalo was an instrumental figure even during the regime of the country’s second president Daniel Moi.
“I have closely watched him and his progress. He assisted even former president Daniel Moi in managing public policy,” said Gachagua, adding that he was the one who introduced him to Moi.
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“He is one of our most focused Cabinet Secretary,” said Gachagua.
In the build-up to the August polls, Owalo was an integral figure in Ruto’s quest to penetrate the stubborn Nyanza voting bloc. He helped develop an economic plan for the region and got the president to sign off on it.
According to Ruto, Owalo won his trust after working with him for two years even after some people had tried to talk him down from accepting to work with the CS.
“After working with him for two years, today, he has won the confidence and I look forward to working with you,” said Ruto.
A grandson to the founder of Nomiya church Johana Owalo, the CS is not one to take lightly. In professional circles, he is one of the country’s top economists with a wealth of experience in strategic management.
This could explain the reason Ruto trusted him with a key docket that forms part of the backbone of the new administration’s development goals driven by ICT.
For a man who has built a strong profile in management, Kenyans will be waiting to see how his expertise will be put to use in the ICT sector. Already, he has launched Public Internet Hotspots in some parts of the country.
Owalo has also been charged with ensuring the successful digitalisation of government services aimed at driving the country’s knowledge economy.
On the flip side, Owalo is also a political tactician who understands the rule of the game having worked with both president Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The man from Rarieda, who holds a master’s in Business Administration, is currently studying for a doctor of philosophy in strategic management from the University of Nairobi.
Owalo is also a member of the Professional Trainers’ Association of Kenya. Prior to his appointment by Ruto, the former St Mary’s School Yala alumni ran a consultancy firm - Owalo and Associates - as a managing consultant and has worked with several entities to develop strategic management plans.
In his speech, the CS thanked the president for believing in him and has vowed to deliver his mandate to Kenyans and help transform the country.
Analysts believe that the CS has broader goals of expanding his influence across Nyanza and is among those who will be hoping to succeed Raila as the region’s kingpin once he retires.
Yesterday, a close ally of the CS said Owalo is committed to improving the lives of Nyanza residents and the rest of Kenyans but admits that they would not mind him growing his influence.
“Owalo is intelligent and development-oriented. We believe the future is bright for him and that is why we have been backing his forays across Nyanza,” said the leader.
In his trips in Nyanza, the CS has been accompanied by several leaders including former governor’s Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), Okoth Obado (Migori) as well as a number of former MPs who broke ranks with Raila’s ODM.