Raila's pushback against Ruto's forays to safeguard power base

In many ways, the former premier set the tone for the ideal of a functioning democracy, which he insists must be followed by all who no longer want to be members of the parties that sponsored them to elective offices.

It is a message he wants to be heard loud and clear by Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda and MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem) and Phelix Odiwuor alias Jalang'o (Lang'ata).

The five were elected on the ODM ticket but have since chosen to work with President William Ruto. The party's disciplinary committee recently expelled them. Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei expressed optimism that the tide in Nyanza, and more in Western, was shifting in the president's favour.

"The writing is on the wall. The president is doing well because of his goodwill. Many in Nyanza thought they would be sidelined but they have been brought on board. In Western, the support of the President has been growing. We have Western," Cherargei stated.

He argued that Raila had "panicked" owing to Ruto's "increasing popularity". "That is why he is putting in place desperate measures like expelling what he calls errant MPs," the senator added.

But Raila was harsh to the rebels. "You hide and then gather at night and go to State House, and when asked, you say you are looking for development. After going to State House you start speaking another language. We cannot accept that," Raila said on Friday in Migori as he went on with his war against the rebels. He challenged them to test their popularity by seeking a fresh mandate.

Raila has used the same tactics to tame rebellion in Nyanza. History is replete with the misfortune that has accompanied most politicians from his stronghold who dared to fight him.

Ugenya seat

Even the more popular ones stood little chance, losing in the elections whenever they fell out with the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader. In Luo Nyanza, only Ugenya MP David Ochieng' surmounted Raila's wave to recapture his seat in a 2020 by-election against ODM's Chris Karan.

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga speaks during a past event in Kitutu Masaba, Nyamira County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The subject did not bother the opposition chief during a rally in Migori on Friday, where Nyanza politicians sent mixed feelings about the succession. But the Azimio leader has fought off attempts from rivals into his base, especially amid speculations that he could back Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka in the 2027 polls.

The potential absence of Raila on the presidential ballot has emboldened Ruto to invest efforts in winning allies - ODM rebels and other poll losers, a strategy deployed by previous presidents with no success in Nyanza.

Recruits from Nyanza

Leading the president's charge are ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo and Interior Principal Secretary Dr Raymond Omollo. The pair has seemed the go-between Ruto and recruits from Nyanza. The Head of State has also made repeated trips to Western Kenya and dished out goodies, all aimed at chipping away some of Raila's support. He recently camped in Western, promising to revive the sugar industry.

Ruto's United Democratic Alliance has also embarked on aggressive grassroots mobilisation exercises. "Ruto has been trying to hive off a piece of Nyanza, but it is not easy to do that at the moment. The chances of that happening are very slim," said Dr Onduru.

Amisi described Raila's actions as "stamping his authority", saying that Ruto would not be successful in winning over Nyanza and Western.