Mumias revival, health dominate Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya succession

Wyclife Oparanya

Kakamega gubernatorial ODM candidate Fernandes Baraza, Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Senator Cleophas Malala who is vying on an ANC ticket.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has set the bar high in the 10 years he has been in charge, and stakes are high as both Azimio and Kenya Kwanza fight for the seat of “the epicentre of Luhya politics”.

The race is expected to be tight between the ODM and ANC aspirants who bagged direct nomination tickets.

Former Kenya Electricity Transmission Company boss Fernandes Barasa will fly the ODM flag, deputised by Lugari MP Ayub Savula, who withdrew from the race. Senator Cleophas Malala will vie on the ANC ticket, following a Kenya Kwanza deal that saw former Senator Boni Khalwale of UDA step down for him.

The deal between Mr Barasa and Mr Savula has caused panic in Kenya Kwanza with its head Deputy President William Ruto expected to host his troops next week to find the best way to counter the ticket.

ODM settled on Mr Barasa as the party’s flagbearer under the Azimio One Kenya Coalition while Mr Savula was initially cleared to vie as the DAP-K candidate after Deputy Governor Philip Kutima pulled out of the race and declared support for Mr Malala.

Initially, Mr Barasa had picked Mr Innocent Mugabe from Likuyani as his running mate.

In Kenya Kwanza, Dr Khalwale agreed to contest for the Senate seat and back Mr Malala’s governorship bid. The two have been holding campaign rallies across the county to popularise their bids and Dr Ruto’s presidential bid.

The candidates are traversing the 12 sub-counties to woo voters, taking their campaigns to funerals, weddings and soccer matches.

Mr Oparanya, also the ODM deputy party leader, has been laying ground for the outfit’s campaigns in the region. He has declared that he will be campaigning for ODM candidates in the region to ensure the party wins a majority of seats in the region.

The other aspirants – Major (Rtd) Suleiman Sumba (Kanu), lawyer Michael Osundwa (Independent) and Mr Samuel Omukoko (Maendeleo Democratic Party) – are also on the campaign trail. United Democratic Party leader Cyrus Jirongo, who is also in the race, told the Nation that he will launch his campaigns on June 4.

Mr Barasa has anchored his manifesto on a six-point plan that will give priority to improvement of health services by constructing and equipping Level 4 hospitals in all the sub-counties.

He has also promised to improve the terms of service and working conditions of the county’s 4,420 community health volunteers.

Water supply to rural communities and construction of early childhood development education centres will also be a priority for Mr Barasa.

The ODM aspirant has promised to use his wide network to attract investors to the region, including the setting up of a factory for assembling motorcycles and supply of spare parts.

Each of the 60 wards, he says, will receive a ward fund of Sh20 million.

On his part, Mr Malala has pledged to improve access to supply of clean water.

“We want to ensure each household in the county has access to tap water,” he said. Other pledges include the Sh20 million ward fund and a Sh300 million revolving fund to enable women and the youth to borrow loans at affordable interest rates, in addition to provision of subsidised farm inputs.

Flagship projects

“Under my administration, the county government will provide a comprehensive NHIF (National Health Insurance Fund) cover for the elderly and children below 10 years,” said Mr Malala.

The campaigns for the county’s top seat have been dominated by the collapse of Mumias Sugar Company and the failed promises to revive it.

Mr Oparanya will be exiting county leadership after initiating key flagship projects, which include the Level 6 Kakamega Teaching and Referral Hospital and the ongoing renovation and upgrade of Bukhungu stadium into a modern sports complex.

The planned milk processing plant in Malava and tea factory in Shinyalu are yet to be completed, and this has been blamed on delay by the National Treasury to release funds to devolved units.

In their campaign rallies, the aspirants are promising to ensure the projects are completed.

The largest voting blocs in Kakamega, according to the 2017 list of registered voters by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, are Malava (82,136), Lurambi (80,037), Lugari (77,001), Shinyalu (71,256), Likuyani (63,311), Butere (62,956) and Matungu (61,728).

Mr Malala has accused Mr Savula of being a spoiler meant to divide the votes in constituencies in the north of the county, which include Malava, Lugari and Likuyani.

The senator has picked Dr Beatrice Inyangala from the vote-rich Malava constituency as his deputy. His bid also got a boost after County Assembly Clerk Laban Atemba, who is from Matungu constituency, supported him. Mr Atemba had declared he would be in the contest but later withdrew after he got involved in a road accident.

“I’m asking voters in Matungu and my supporters across the county to elect Senator Malala as their next governor since he was first elected as an MCA and was later elected Senator. He has acquired the experience needed to take our county to the next level,” said Mr Atemba.

Mr Malala says he will give priority to infrastructure development in the region and ensure all needy and deserving children from vulnerable backgrounds benefit from bursaries.

Mr Barasa has promised to follow in the footsteps of Mr Oparanya.

“I have served in the national government for the last 25 years and decided to resign from the position to come and serve communities in my home county. Governor Oparanya has done a lot in terms of development and my plan is to continue in his footsteps,” said Mr Barasa.

He has promised to ensure the revival of Mumias Sugar and address the plight of sugar cane farmers in the region.

 TOMORROW: In Nyandarua, incumbent Francis Kimemia faces a tough task in quest for a second term

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