MP risks it all by leaving Azimio for Ruto alliance

President-Elect William Ruto welcomes the Movement for Democracy and Growth led by the Party leader David Ochieng.

President-Elect William Ruto welcomes the Movement for Democracy and Growth led by the Party leader David Ochieng' (MP Ugenya) into the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Photo credit: DPPS

Is the move by Ugenya MP David Ochieng to ditch the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party for the Kenya Kwanza Alliance political suicide or a strategic master stroke?

Only time will tell, but history is replete with politicians in Nyanza region who dared challenge Azimio leader Raila Odinga and lived to regret it, spending years in the political cold.

For close to three decades since the death of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who was touted as the doyen of politics in Luo Nyanza, his son Raila has had a firm grip on the region’s politics.

Mr Ochieng’s decision to join President-elect William Ruto’s camp could well spell political doom for the Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) party leader and three of his colleagues. Mr Ochieng was accompanied by former Kisumu East MP Olago Aluoch, who lost his seat to Ms Rosa Buyu in the August 9 General Election.

Former Kisumu governor Jack Ranguma and former Kisumu senator Fred Outa also went with Mr Ochieng to Dr Ruto’s residence in Karen where they announced their decision to ditch Azimio and back the Kenya Kwanza camp.

Ugenya MP Ochieng, ex-governor Ranguma ditch Azimio for Kenya Kwanza

Their move came days after former Rarieda lawmaker Nicolas Gumbo had also ditched Azimio camp for Kenya Kwanza following in the footsteps of his United Democratic Movement party leader Ali Roba.

A majority of politicians ditching Azimio in Nyanza region are often disgruntled with the way they have been treated in Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.

Mr Gumbo ditched ODM in 2017 when he contested the Siaya gubernatorial seat for the first time. He felt cheated when the party gave then governor Cornel Rasanga the ticket after a disputed nomination process.

Mr Ochieng was first elected to Parliament in 2013 on an ODM ticket. Some elected leaders who attempted to openly challenge Mr Odinga have remained in the political cold for years. While serving as Karachuonyo MP, James Rege ditched ODM for  Jubilee Party ahead of the 2017 polls—a move that backfired after he lost in the election. He has kept a low political profile since.

Having served for two terms as an MP, his move to join Jubilee was considered a betrayal of Mr Odinga. The same fate befell former Rangwe MP Shem Ochuodho and Mr Martin Ogindo, who formed his own party to challenge ODM, but failed.

‘Victory was stolen’

“Our culture doesn’t allow us to dance on the grave of a brother even if you are not on good terms. Our leader is in pain after his victory was stolen. Sadly, some of our sons have joined the person who has inflicted the pain on him,” Siaya Deputy Governor William Oduol said.

He likened the MP’s move to crossing of the Mara River by wildebeests in their quest for greener pastures in Tanzania—a move that was short-lived since the animals will return and cross over to the Kenyan side when the new season sets in.

The next kingpin

“Before long, he’ll be back and we shall remind him that he betrayed our son by dancing with the enemy while we grieved,” Mr Oduol said of the move that has sparked uproar among Ugenya residents, with angry youth storming and vandalising the constituency office.

The outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on the petitions challenging the presidential election victory of Dr Ruto could redefine the direction politics in Nyanza will take.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Odinga will continue to keep a tight grip on politics in Nyanza or endorse a new leader to be the next kingpin.