Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (right) with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya in Kakamega town yesterday after meeting with Western leaders at Golf Hotel.

| Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Western fronts Wycliffe Oparanya in Raila Odinga running mate dilemma

ODM leader Raila Odinga is faced with a challenge that could bolster or curtail his chances of succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 – picking his running mate.

Now, Mr Odinga’s allies from Western Kenya are demanding that he picks his deputy from the region, even as leaders from Mt Kenya and the coast place similar demands on the former Prime Minister.

Mr Odinga’s allies from Western have called on him to honour the region’s long-standing support by picking his deputy party leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya to be his running mate in the 2022 General Election. ODM Kakamega branch chairman Justus Kizito, County Woman Representative Elsie Muhanda and nominated senator Naomi Shiyonga reminded Mr Odinga of the recommendation, which was passed during a meeting of party delegates from Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga and Trans Nzoia held in Kakamega town a week ago. The delegates also asked Mr Odinga to reserve five Cabinet slots for the region.

Ms Shiyonga said that Mr Oparanya has been loyal to Mr Odinga to the extent that he dropped his ambitions for the presidency after the former Prime Minister indicated that he was taking his last stab at the country’s top seat.

“Despite Mr Oparanya being the second senior-most member in ODM, he has backed all the attempts Mr Odinga has made at the presidency. He merits deputising Raila Odinga,” argued Ms Shiyonga.

Strategic plan

Mr Kizito observed that Mr Oparanya had developed a strategic plan for ODM to reclaim its dominance in Western by uniting communities in the region.

On October 27, Mr Oparanya received a delegation of the Bukusu Supreme Council at his home. Addressing the media, the elders said they had resolved to back Mr Odinga’s presidential bid.

“We came here as elders to consult about the coming elections so that our community, with the second largest basket of votes, is not left behind in the formation of the next government. We decisively declare our support for Mr Odinga as our candidate of choice,” said Mr Elias Wanjala, the council’s secretary.

Aside from the pressure from Western, Mt Kenya and coast political leaders, Mr Odinga also has the question of One Kenya Alliance (OKA) to resolve. The principals who said they are being coerced into supporting Mr Odinga,have been adamant that they will not drop their ambitions for the top seat. Should they bow to the pressure from President Kenyatta to back Mr Odinga’s bid, then it will mean that one of them becomes his running mate.

Mr Martin Andati, a political analyst, observed that should OKA stick to their guns and have one of them on the ballot, retiring governors Alfred Mutua and Mr Oparanya could become options.

Choosing a running mate

“He (Mr Odinga) needs to be careful about how he appeases Mt Kenya and Western because they hold numerical strength,” said Mr Andati, noting that choosing a running mate from Western could lead to loss of support from Mt Kenya.

Earlier, Mr Oparanya had asked Mr Odinga to scout for his deputy from Mt Kenya so that their camp can get support from the vote-rich region.

“Having a president from Nyanza and his deputy from Western won’t auger well because we are from the same region of Western Kenya. Already, Raila Odinga has support from Western region even without having picked me,” he argued.

He called on political leaders to desist from insulting those opposed to their manifestos saying such utterances might incite supporters and ignite violence as the country heads towards the 2022 General Election.