Wajackoyah: Raila project or third force?

Roots Party Presidential candidate George Wajackoyah

Roots Party Presidential candidate George Wajackoyah address the media after witnessing the issuance of the first snake farming license to Afro Sayari Chairman James Gitundu at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters in Nairobi on June 20, 2022. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Could there be a secret pre and post-election pact between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his Roots Party counterpart George Wajackoyah?

Prof Wajackoyah has hinted at a secret deal with Mr Odinga that among other things, could see whoever wins among them accommodate the other in his government.

But supporters and political analysts are not sure whether the proclaimed ganja man is merely a pace setter, an Odinga project or a third force that, if not checked, may just spoil chances for the two top contenders and deny them a round-one victory.

The Roots Party leader’s remarks in Kisumu on Monday, however, gave the public something to think about in his presidential ambitions. It could be that he was just excited and gave the public ‘what they wanted to hear’.

After touring his Western backyard of Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga on Monday, Prof Wajackoyah took his pro-bhang campaigns to Mr Odinga’s ‘bedroom’ of Kisumu, where he held a series of rallies in the city centre and informal settlements that culminated in a big gathering at the historic Kondele grounds.

Choice of Kondele

His choice of Kondele to make earth-shaking comments was telling, revealing a possible pact between him and the Azimio leader.

Like the athletes who usually run ahead of the record-breaking world marathoner Eliud Kipchoge before he finally unleashes the first kick to victory, Prof Wajackoyah suggested he was clearing the way for Mr Odinga’s State House bid.

He even told residents of Kondele that he had been sent by Mr Odinga to deliver a message to his supporters and on his many stops he started his address by chanting ‘Agwambo hoyee, Agwambo hoyee, Babu Owino hoyee, Jalangó hoyee’, to the amusement of those present.

“Mi nasema hivi kwa sababu Agwambo amenituma akaniambia nyathi Omwami, dhi adhiya nyime to iwuoth kama, iwuoth kama to ka isechopo kacha to ichung kanyo. Ka asechung to koro abiro kao gimoro to koro Agwambo brobedo e State House koro en ema omiya directions" (I am saying this because Agwambo has sent me and told me, son of Omwami, just go ahead, walk like this, move like this and when you reach there stop. When I have stopped I will get something to do as Raila sits at State House giving me directions), said Prof Wajackoyah in his fluent native Dholuo.

He added: “Ata Agwambo amekubali, ameniambia ni jogi osechape, gisechamo mwandune, gisemaye, gisetere e jela koro oseketa kacha to odhira mana mos mos, ka oseketa kanyo koro eka ogwamboree ni ii” (Even Agwambo has agreed and told me that these people have frustrated him, have gobbled up his wealth, have stolen his votes and have jailed him and that is why he has placed me there and is pushing me slowly but slowly and once he has reached a particular point he will manifest himself as the one in charge).

Project

The sentiments left Mr Odinga supporters confused.

One motorcycle taxi operator said: “Huyu Wajackoyah nadhani ni project wa Raila. Venye nimemskia akisifu Baba kila mahali na kupiga Ruto, ananishangaza” (This Wajackoyah appears to be Raila’s project. He has been praising him all along and hitting at Ruto. He surprises me).

But before he addressed the Kondele rally, he had given a hint about his relationship with Mr Odinga and the possibility of the two working together in future.

The Roots Party leader also said a win for either him or Mr Odinga would be victory for the entire Western Kenya.

He claimed that he was the chief food taster for Kenya’s first vice-president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

“I am made to understand Baba came from Wanga, so we still have his bedroom in Mumias. I am a neighbour here and as you know, I am in the race with Raila. A victory for either of us, will be a win for the Western region,” said Prof Wajackoyah, to applause from the crowd.

He also hinted at working with Mr Odinga after the August 9 polls. “When I clinch the presidency, I will have a sit-down with Raila in a boardroom meeting with the aim of working together with him after elections,” he said.

In his tour that took the lakeside city by storm, Prof Wajackoyah was calculated in his messaging, choosing not to hit out at Mr Odinga directly in his stronghold, but once in a while, he would subtly throw jibes at him, but be harder on Dr Ruto.

Despite coming from Western Kenya, Prof Wajackoyah, who started his campaigns at the busy jua kali centre, addressed rallies mainly in Dholuo, in a bid to appeal to the hearts of locals.

He defended Mr Odinga, asking those who keep attacking the ODM leader to stop.

“I have come to the home of Baba and on my way here, I was told that if I go to Kisumu, I should not abuse Raila because I will get it rough. There is this young man from Sugoi who is usually abusing Baba when he comes here. Shout at him and tell him to leave Baba alone,” he said.

He stated that he only decided to contest on the Roots Party after his attempts to join mainstream parties such as ODM, Amani National Congress and Ford Kenya were rejected.

But he took a swipe at the former premier, saying he should be generous enough to allow other people to contest whichever position they choose.

“Baba should stop being selfish; he should be ready to share with others. He cannot have his family members contesting as members of the National Assembly, senators, woman representatives and other positions,” he said.

He also drummed up support for other ODM candidates contesting parliamentary seats in Nairobi such as Babu Owino (Embakasi East), Phelix Odiwuor, aka Jalangó (Lang’ata) and Rarieda MP Dr Otiende Amollo, whom he described as his brother.

Prof Wajackoya was visiting Kisumu for the first time since he launched his bid, a day after he held multiple rallies in Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga counties.

He was with his running mate Justina Wamae, Gwada Ogot, Mr Shedrack Okindo. Ms Wamae promised to revive the economy if they clinch the presidency.

Gwada Ogot is a researcher, writer and political analyst who once came up with a proposal that found its way to the Senate seeking to decriminalise and legalise bhang.

Run-off voting risk

Neither Mr Odinga nor his close allies have openly criticised Prof Wajackoyah’s proposals, and when they have done so, it was not a bare-knuckle engagement.

In fact, three days ago, Mr Odinga’s younger sister and Kisumu woman representative hopeful Ruth Odinga posted a photo of him with Prof Wajackoyah, describing him as a brother who should join their team.

“With my brother Wajackoyah trying to convince him to join us. Nice meeting after a long time. My Cedars group,” Ms Odinga posted on Facebook.

Just like Mr Odinga’s plans on fighting corruption, the Roots Party leader also has his ideas, though with radical proposals such as capital punishment for those convicted.

Mr Odinga’s allies, such as David Murathe, also appear to have bought the ‘legalisation of bhang’ idea and promised that the former premier would be able to implement it.

However, in all this supposed arrangement, some warn that if Prof Wajackoyah's role is dividing the ‘hustler’ vote, this could backfire if he marshals many votes and could deny Mr Odinga a first-round win.

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