Dilemma: Why Ruto’s portrait alone is not enough for some ODM governors

On her official Facebook page, Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga, while receiving a pencil portrait of herself on January 17, was also pictured with the portraits of Dr Ruto, Mr Odinga and hers in the background.

Photo credit: Gladys Wanga | Facebook

With their local political supremo, the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga calling into question the legitimacy of President William Ruto's government, elected leaders from the Luo Nyanza region are caught between a rock and a hard place as to whether to play ball or choose to work with the government of the day.

Politicians are finding it tricky to play hardball or be pragmatic and meet their obligations to their constituents at the risk of being called traitors.

The political showdown has moved from the big political rallies and prayer meetings to the political offices and boardrooms of elected leaders.

The political dilemma has since shifted to the offices of most governors from the region on whether to hang or not hang President Ruto's official portrait.

Whilst the practice is not a legal requirement, it remains a tradition over the years as a mark of respect for the presidency.

And at first, many offices from the region shied away from hanging the portraits.

But now, the governors seem to have found the solution of having portraits of both Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga displayed side by side.

The governors, some of who are considered Mr Odinga's foot soldiers, such as Kisumu's Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o all have a portrait of Dr Ruto in their offices alongside that of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader, a clear show of the catch-22 situation they are in.

The pictures taken during Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo's visit to the Kisumu governor’s office showed portraits of Dr Ruto, Mr Odinga as well as that of retired President Uhuru Kenyatta.

A similar situation has also been witnessed in the offices of Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga and her Migori counterpart Ochillo Ayacko.

Wanga's pencil portrait

On her official Facebook page, Ms Wanga, while receiving a pencil portrait of herself on January 17, also revealed a similar situation, where she has portraits of Dr Ruto, Mr Odinga and hers.

Kisumu Governor Peter Anyang' Nyong'o (right) shares a light moment with the ICT CS  Eliud  Owalo when the minister paid him a visit on February 20,2023. Photos of both President William Ruto, his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta (partly hidden) and that of ODM leader Raila Odinga are displayed in the office.

Photo credit: Pool.

While Mr Odinga has maintained that he does not recognise President Ruto as validly elected, the ODM leader said he is cognizant of the fact that the county chiefs are the links between the national and the devolved units.

“He is working as president because there is no vacuum, but I do not recognise him,” he said in his interview with Ramogi TV.

During President Ruto’s second tour of the Nyanza region on January 14, Mr Odinga had advised the politicians to embrace the head of state for the sake of development.

“Governors must work with the national government, it does not mean that they are or have defected to the UDA party, or the Kenya Kwanza coalition. The governor has to work with the national government because it is in the Constitution,” said Mr Odinga while on a trip to Mombasa.

However, a section of ODM rebel lawmakers has blamed the party leadership for engaging in double-speak and failing to give a clear direction on the way forward.

Led by Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda, the leaders pointed out that the confusion emanating from the party is making it difficult for them to fulfil their mandate.

“It is this kind of confusion that is putting many of us in precarious situations. One day you are told this, the other day that," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority leader Aron Cheruiyot has cautioned the President to be wary of the politicians who pretend to be in support of his government, only to speak ill of him at political rallies.

According to Mr Cheruiyot, there are leaders from the opposition who often crowd the government offices while lobbying for development programmes, but speak negatively of the President during Mr Odinga's public rallies.

He singled out Siaya Governor James Orengo and Kisii Governor Simba Arati for the behaviour.

“Riggy G (Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua), since you always speak the truth, from today onwards, if you see anyone in the meetings hurling abuses at the President, do not grant them entry into government offices,” said Mr Cheruiyot.