William Ruto team hit right note with Nyanza offensive

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President William Ruto (left) is welcomed to Homa Bay by ICT Cabinet Secretary nominee Eliud Owalo on October 2, 2022.

Recently, in Kisumu County, Governor Peter Anyang Nyong’o received Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. In Homa Bay County a week later, Governor Gladys Wanga did not show up as President William Ruto visited to attend a service at the local African Inland Church; same for local MP George Peter Kaluma. The President was received by former Cabinet minister Dalmas Otieno, Ugenya MP David Ochieng and several former MPs.

At the church, the President promised to build roads in the county and put up 5,000 low-cost housing units, starting with 400 units next month.

Both the MP and the governor had their explanations. Ms Wanga said she was in Mombasa for an induction course for new governors. Mr Kaluma blamed failure by the President’s office to alert him about the trip. And when the President promised to return soon to launch projects, the governor and MP finally promised to receive him on his next visit.

Governor Nyong’o appeared to put to the back burner the recent bitter presidential election that saw Dr Ruto pip the Azimio coalition candidate Raila Odinga. The former Nyanza Province, despite voting overwhelmingly for Raila, was rewarded with a Cabinet slot through Eliud Owalo’s nomination.

Veteran politician Raila tried to win the presidency in 1997, 2007, 2013, 2017 and 2022. Now in his twilight years, ‘Agwambo’, ‘Tinga’, or ‘Jakom’, as he is fondly known by his supporters, is unlikely to make another stab at the top seat in 2027.

Five attempts

Since the former Prime Minister could not win in five attempts, for any other politician from Luo Nyanza to get his clout and seek the presidency may take many years or decades—unless the Constitution is changed to allow rotation of the top seat.

Raila ‘dropped the ball’ in his latest bid when he took the easy route—the 2018 ‘Handshake’ with former President Uhuru Kenyatta—which made him less aggressive. It was assumed that Raila would be helped by the ‘Deep State’. In the August 9 poll, his agents were absent at many polling stations.

The President’s Homa Bay visit was a testing of waters but the signs are that the residents want cooperation with the new regime. So far, he has fuflfilled some of his pre-election pledges. His coalition partners Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi from the neighbouring western province became National Assembly Speaker and Prime CS, respectively.

Secondly, the President returned port operations to Mombasa, safeguarding thousands of jobs at container freight stations (CFSs). The biggest test will be his pledge to cut the national budget by a whopping Sh300 billion, which is expected to hit all departments as jobs are cut and new projects frozen.

His next visit to Nyanza is likely to paint a totally new picture and give a clear pointer that the Raila factor is fading. Come 2027, it will be a whole new chapter and the dominant ODM party may not be the same powerful outfit that won close to 30 seats in the August polls in western Kenya alone.

Mr Owuor, a former Foreign Editor of the ‘Daily Nation’, is a communication consultant. [email protected].