Wandayi: Ruto's regime has failed Kenyans with its empty promises

Ugunja MP and Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

National Assembly Leader Opiyo Wandayi, who is serving his third term in Parliament as Ugunja MP, spoke to The Standard about how the last year has been in the House and that he feels the Kenya Kwanza regime has not delivered.

What do you think of the New Year speech by the President claiming the opposition is sabotaging his agenda for the country?

I find it very, very illogical. The opposition does not exist to facilitate government. Once you are in power and control the instruments of the State, you are under an obligation to deliver on your mandate regardless of what the opposition is doing.

The President claims the country is on track economically. What is your take?

The jury is out there. It is now more than a year since the government was established. So how long is this long-term? The people cannot feed on hope and endless promises. What they want is to be able to make ends meet today and not tomorrow. Kenyans are demanding affordable food on their tables, not housing, now and not later. It is the responsibility of the government, not the opposition, to make that happen. 

Why has the opposition been unable to stop the government from implementing these policies that are burdening Kenyans? Why are there no cases filed by the opposition against the housing levy, and changes in NHIF, among others?

That cannot be true. The opposition has been instrumental in nearly all the actions that have succeeded in stopping the excesses of this government. Many similar actions are underway. We are working closely with other progressive groups within a broad alliance to safeguard public interest. 

There have been claims that the opposition is weak in the House. Are there plans to energise it in the new year?

Well, it depends on from what perspective one is looking at it. I suppose you are referring to the minority side since under the Constitution, the whole House including the majority side has a collective duty to oversight the Executive. However, given the reality of our politics, as the minority coalition in the House, we have a special responsibility to defend public interest.

We may not necessarily do this by winning votes within the Chambers due to the artificial majority that Kenya Kwanza enjoys. What is important is that we’re able to articulate our viewpoints robustly and consistently in defending public interest. The House records will bear us out. And the Courts of Law have vindicated us, time and again. We intend to remain focused and continue fighting fearlessly for the people from the House in 2024 and beyond. 

You served in the National Dialogue Committee, why was the issue of the high cost of living not addressed?

If you may recall, the cost of living was the priority agenda for the Azimio side in the talks. We did the best we could, including recommending practical interventions that would have helped lessen the burden on poor Kenyans. However, despite our good intentions, the Kenya Kwanza side remained intransigent.

That is why we reluctantly washed our hands off the matter and left it to Kenya Kwanza to deal with it in the manner they deem fit. However, we promised to continue reminding them, as we are doing now, that they must act fast to reduce the cost of living as a matter of duty. It is the only way to forestall the looming social upheaval. The current state of affairs is not tenable. 

Has the National Assembly achieved its objectives in the past one year?

The answer to this question lies in the lens through which one is undertaking the assessment. One thing that is not contested is that the institution of Parliament is increasingly losing public confidence. The House must retrace its steps to find out when the rain started to beat it and to make the necessary amends.

Azimio la Umoja Leaders led protests against the high cost of living last year, did they achieve any objectives?

Save for the unfortunate deaths that were occasioned by the police, the protests were hugely successful across the country. Lest you forget, it Is the protests that birthed the National Dialogue Committee whose report has just been released and is awaiting implementation in this new year. 

What should Kenyans expect from the National Assembly this year?

The priority should be given to the implementation of the constitutional and legal reforms that have been recommended by the National Dialogue Committee. Remember, there are a constituency and wards that have remained without representation for close to a year now as a result of the dysfunction in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC). This is a matter that has to be addressed with utmost urgency and the National Assembly is key in this. 

ODM party instituted disciplinary measures against some Members of Parliament who visited State House, is this not stifling democracy?

Every political party has its own rules to which its members voluntarily subject themselves. When those rules are enforced, subject to the constitutional fair administrative process. It does not amount to stifling democracy. 

You have been mentioned as one of the possible heirs to Raila Odinga as the Kingpin of Luo Nyanza politics, are you up to the task?

I am not aware of the existence of such a position among the Luo. It is totally unfair to try and reduce Raila Odinga, a man of oversize international stature to the level of a tribal leader. It should be noted, however, that I am the quintessential political student of Raila Odinga and I intend, God willing, to follow in his footsteps to nationalism and Pan-Africanism.

What is the most challenging task you performed in Parliament last year?

I think rallying the House to reject the infamous Finance Bill 2023. It turned out to be an uphill task. The most depressing thing was seeing leaders voting against their own conscience for a punitive piece of legislation that was bound to hurt their own voters simply due to political expediency. 

What do you consider as your achievement as the National Assembly Minority Leader so far?

I am happy to have continued to lead my troops in consistently shining the spotlight on the ills of the Kenya Kwanza regime within and outside the House. We have also been able, with different degrees of success, to push the government to disburse monies, which is meant for the counties and other special funds when they fall due. 

You were involved in a war of words with ODM National Chairman John Mbadi last year. Is there bad blood between the two of you?

Difference in opinion is healthy for any democracy and should be encouraged. What is important is that I have a very cordial working relationship not only with the ODM chairman but also with the rest of my colleagues in ODM and Azimio.

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