Jostling for plum positions in President William Ruto's administration is in top gear in Nyanza and pits original Kenya Kwanza backers against recent defectors from the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party.
So intense is the lobbying that some of Dr Ruto’s supporters and Kenya Kwanza officials are warning the President about ‘opportunists’ who never stood with him during campaigns but were now angling to reap from his win.
The recent visit to the President’s home by some Kisii and Nyamira leaders, led by former Kisii governor James Ongwae, has drawn criticism from both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio leaders, who have dismissed the group as opportunists and political turncoats.
Dismissing the Ongwae team as self-seekers, some elected leaders from Gusii said the Abagusii were not consulted to draw up a specific agenda for the community to be presented to the President on the people's needs and how they wanted them addressed.
The Ongwae team, which included former woman representative Janet Ong’era, former Cabinet minister Chris Obure, former MPs Jimmy Angwenyi, Chares Onyancha, Richard Tongi and Ben Momanyi and others, visited Dr Ruto in Karen, Nairobi, ostensibly to form a new working relationship for the interests of the Gusii people.
Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni questioned the mandate the politicians, who were rejected in last month’s elections, could have to purportedly represent the interests of Gusii voters without the support or participation of the elected representatives.
He accused Mr Ongwae and Ms Ong’era, who had presented themselves as ardent supporters of Azimio leader Raila Odinga, of being political traitors.
“We are surprised that James Ongwae, who has been appearing very close and hosting Odinga at every opportunity, has abandoned him to go to meet with the President instead of visiting the Azimio leader and comforting him for the election loss,” Mr Omogeni said.
Dr Ruto's Gusii point man, Silvanus Osoro, said it was curious that when graft was being unearthed in Kisii County, where Mr Ongwae was governor until a few weeks ago, he led the team to meet with the President.
Mr Osoro said that while Dr Ruto’s government will be for all the people, they welcomed them “to the winning team but they shouldn't come with personal demands”.
“The queue for personal demands is long. Theirs will be sorted in 2032. As for community needs, elected leaders are in control, not former leaders.”
Among those who recently decamped to Dr Ruto’s side were Ugenya MP David Ochieng, former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, former Kisumu senator Fred Outa, ex-Kisumu governor Jack Ranguma and ex-Migori governor Okoth Obado.
In Luo Nyanza, Dr Ruto’s supporters are asking him to give opportunities to those who stood with him and not those who are joining him now.
“While we appreciate and want to receive into the fold all those who were aligned to the Azimio coalition from this region, we appeal to His Excellency President Ruto to be cautious of opportunists and scavengers from this region who now want to masquerade as his point men in Luo Nyanza yet they were nowhere for him at his greatest hour of need,” said Mr James Waore Diangá, the UDA Siaya County coordinator.
Mr Diang’a and his fellow county coordinators George Otieno (Kisumu), Jason Ouma (Migori), Fred Siengo (Migori) and Farez Odira (Nyanza coordinator secretary) asked President Ruto to consider Mr Eliud Owalo for a position in his Cabinet.
“We want to propose and appeal to his Excellency the President that in his own wisdom, he considers the Luo Nyanza region suitable for any key position in his government,” Mr Diang’a said.
“Eliud Owalo stands head and shoulders above the rest based on his courage, honesty, consistency and intellectualism.”
But Mr Obado, one of the politicians who came out in the open to work with Dr Ruto, said those choosing to work with the President should not be judged.
“Those who have decided to work with Ruto from this region should neither be branded nor judged. I am asking all intellectuals and professionals who feared supporting Dr Ruto in the open to come out and join the government so that they can develop the region,” he said.
He said his reason for working with Dr Ruto was not to get appointments.
As the country awaits a new Cabinet to be set up, all eyes will be on Dr Ruto to see who from the region will be picked to serve in his administration.