Former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and former Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa have waged a new campaign to dislodge Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula as the region’s spokespersons.
Oparanya is currently the ODM deputy party leader while Wamalwa was recently confirmed as the Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) leader.
The two led Saba Saba protests in Vihiga, Kakamega, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties on Friday, a move seen as their tactful strategy to woo the region from Mudavadi and Wetang’ula’s grip.
Azimio leader Raila Odinga has enjoyed decades of unwavering support in the region and is relying on the two politicians to keep the region intact.
In June 2020, Wamalwa and Oparanya took the region by storm while seeking blessings from elders across the former larger Western Province which stretches to Trans Nzoia in Rift Valley to Busia on the border with Uganda.
Friday’s protests also involved Roots Party leader George Wajackoyah, MPs Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Dick Maungu (Luanda), Peter Salasya (Mumias East), Vihiga senator Godfrey Osotsi, Kakamega Woman representative Elsie Muhanda and Kakamega deputy governor Ayub Savula.
Earlier attempts by the two to sink Mudavadi and Wetang’ula in 2020 flopped after the latter opted to join forces with President William Ruto in the run-up to the last General Election under the Kenya Kwanza political formation.
By virtue of being close associates of Raila and then President Uhuru Kenyatta, Wamalwa and Oparanya enjoyed trappings of power and other privileges, giving them a slight edge over Mudavadi and Wetang’ula who were mere party leaders.
ODM and DAP-K would manage to clinch several parliamentary and governor seats in Western but Raila’s defeat ended up scuttling plans by Oparanya and Wamalwa to take over control of Western politics.
Slots in government
They were both angling for key Cabinet slots in government in case Raila had won but Azimio’s eventual loss left them licking their wounds despite Azimio’s impressive show.
Azimio won Vihiga, Busia, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia governor seats but Ford Kenya managed to retain Bungoma County’s top seat.
However, there were political casualties including former Bungoma governor Wycliffe Wangamati who lost to his predecessor Kenneth Lusaka (Ford Kenya) and former Busia governor Sospeter Ojaamong who was handed a humiliating defeat by Teso South MP Mary Emase.
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Former National Assembly speaker Kenneth Marende also suffered a setback after failing to capture the National Assembly speaker position that was easily won by Wetang’ula. Former MPs Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi), Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren), Chris Omulele (Luanda), Justus Kizito (Ikolomani), and former senators George Khaniri (Vihiga) and Amos Wako (Busia) also hoped Raila would win and accommodate them in government.
Both Wamalwa and Oparanya have set their eyes on the highest seat on the land come 2027.
“I am not going anywhere. In fact, I will be going for an elective position in 2027,” said Oparanya, insisting that he will be at the forefront in pushing for strong opposition to keep Ruto’s administration in check.
Oparanya said together with Wamalwa and other local Azimio leaders, they will lead the region in the collection of signatures to dethrone Ruto from power.
“We are committed to getting the required signatures to remove Ruto from power due to the high cost of living and we will conduct the exercise in all counties of the Western region,” said Oparanya.
He said the ODM party could take action against its local MPs who skipped Saba Saba protests. They are Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), Christopher Aseka (Khwisero), Tindi Mwale (Butere), Titus Khamala (Lurambi), Innocent Mugabe (Likuyani) and Johnson Naicca (Mumias West) were conspicuously missing.
Mr Wamalwa maintains that Western will remain an opposition stronghold despite Mudavadi and Wetang’ula occupying key positions in President Ruto’s administration.
Communication strategist Barrack Muluka however, argues that only Ruto knows what he wants in terms of geopolitics.
Bunch of firewood
“As the Luhya community, we should look at it from the context of ‘olukhanya’ (Luhya word for a bunch of firewood tied together). If Luhya leaders stayed together like a bunch of firewood tied together, it would be hard to break them,” said Muluka.
He added the region enjoys strong representation in the government and it is a good opportunity for Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and Cabinet Secretaries including Ababu Namwamba (Sports) and Susan Nakhumicha (Health) to influence policy and organise and lead the Luhya nation.”