Ruto men in overdrive to win the hearts of Raila's Nyanza backyard

President William Ruto is welcomed to Kanyipir in Homa Bay County by Interior PS Raymond Omollo during his homecoming and thanksgiving ceremony at Owiro Boy's High school. [PCS]

President William Ruto has enlisted a team of politicians, civil servants and professionals to penetrate ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard.

The President is pursuing a number of projects he has promised the region, and has tasked his foot soldiers to follow up on implementation. His UDA party is also in overdrive as it enlists new members.

At the centre of the legacy projects are influential Nyanza and Western civil servants who are at the helm of powerful government dockets, while others are tactical political operatives.They include career politicians who were rewarded with plum state jobs in an attempt to lure the region to support Kenya Kwanza. 

The leaders include ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, Interior PS Raymond Omollo, Majority Leader in the National Assembly Sylvanus Osoro, former Nairobi governor, Evans Kidero, Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) party leader David Ochieng and a host of former MPs.

The President’s plan has also boosted by the entry of some ODM legislators who have vowed to sell his agenda.

They include MPs Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Caroli Omondi (Suba South) and Paul Abuor (Rongo), and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda.

The group, however, faces a herculean task of convincing the region to dump Raila and join Ruto’s political train. The ODM chief enjoys huge support in the region, including Kisii.

Bottom-up economic model

His close allies led by Minority Leader in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi are leading a pushback against Ruto’s attempt to infiltrate the region.

Kenya Kwanza hopes to win the hearts by selling the bottom-up economic model, which the Ruto administration claims will help the common mwananchi improve their income.

At the national level, Owalo is the man tasked by President Ruto to deliver Kenya Kwanza’s dream of establishing a vibrant digital economy.

In Nyanza, however, the CS appears to have a bigger role of helping the government crack the stubborn opposition base, a role that has earned him critics and supporters in equal measure.

A review of his activities since he ascended to the top of ICT docket indicates that the CS has been busy in Nyanza through a development-centered approach while also lobbying political support.

When he is not pursuing national projects in Nairobi or representing the country abroad, the CS retreats to his Nyanza backyard to launch programmes and engage stakeholders.

So dedicated is Owalo on this mission that barely two weeks pass before he pitches tent in the region to market President Ruto’s regime.

Since January, the CS has held more than 30 event in the region. Owalo’s activities this year kicked off on January 8 when he hosted President Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi at his home for his homecoming.

The event set off a series of activities, all aimed at enrearing the Ruto’s administration to the region known to have backed Raila for decades.

On January 11, the CS attended the 11th commemoration of the founder of Nomiya church at his Asembo home and hosted several religious leaders. He rallied the group to support Kenya Kwanza.

About 10 days later, Owalo held meetings with ODM MPs Ochanda, Odhiambo and  Abuor, among others. 

In the same month, the forerm Raila ally held about five meetings with different groups from Nyanza, including a faction of the Luo Council of Elders led by Nyandiko Ongadi.

One of the meetings held on February 16 by Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen alongside a group of MPs from Nyanza birthed the plans to pursue the construction of the Lake Victoria Ring Road.

The project was mooted during the tenure of former President Uhuru Kenyatta but has failed to take off since 2016.

In March, the CS held a flurry of meetings with several groups, including women professionals and opinion leaders. The list also included 110 former councillors as well as academicians.

Some of his activities include donation of food in Ugunja, Bondo, Alego-Usonga, Migori and Rarieda on different dates.

Dr Omollo has also been a busy man. Although he does not have a political background, the PS has been meeting different groups to push the government’s agenda in the region.

Last weekend, the PS conducted his homecoming  in Homa Bay, which attracted hundreds of people from the region.

In Gusii region, Osoro is also a man on a mission. The legislator has earned himself both praise and criticism for defending the Kenya Kwanza government amid the economic crisis.

On Sunday, while attending Dr Omollo’s thanksgiving, Osoro told President Ruto that the Gusii community was behind his government.

Three months ago in Kisii, Gachagu said Osoro was among the youthful UDA leaders that the party was nurturing. “We have identified him and we appreciate his role. He is a sharp and promising leader that we can’t ignore.”

He, however, faces the huge task to rally support for Kenya Kwanza. He is the only UDA leader from the Gusii region who is openly supporting the President after the elections.

The legislator is a member of nearly all social media groups in Kisii, where he doesn’t shy from engaging members on the government agenda.

(Additional reporting by Harold Odhiambo)

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