It is Eliud Owalo’s great day as President William Ruto graces the ICT Cabinet Secretary’s homecoming today, summing up the rise of the former Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader Raila Odinga’s strategist who has had it rough in politics.
The minister hosts Dr Ruto at his Asembo home in Rarieda constituency, Siaya County, becoming the first CS whose homecoming will be graced by the President.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua was at East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development CS Rebecca Miano’s homecoming on December 17, 2022, while Sports CS Ababu Namwamba had a retinue of top government operatives at his home late last year.
The homecoming is Mr Owalo’s big moment as he is the only minister from Mr Odinga’s Siaya backyard.
Mr Odinga was Dr Ruto’s closest challenger in the August 9 presidential election.
Since his appointment to the Cabinet, the political ratings of Mr Owalo have shot up, with many residents and leaders in Mr Odinga’s stronghold hoping that the position will allow him to bargain for development and government posts for the region.
Mr Owalo came into the limelight in 2013 when he was appointed the head of Mr Odinga’s campaign secretariat.
He was close to Mr Odinga until the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) denied him a ticket for the Kibra Parliamentary seat in favour of Ken Okoth.
Two years after the 2017 General Election, he quit ODM, citing “a clash of ideologies”.
“My resignation is informed by the fact that my political ideology, convictions and belief no longer have convergence or depict any congruence and common denominator with that of the ODM, its value-orientation and practices,” Mr Owalo said in a letter to the Registrar of Political Parties.
“Consequently, there is no iota of enthusiasm remaining...to warrant my stay in ODM, thereby necessitating my strategic exit by way of immediate resignation. I, therefore, request that you facilitate the instant removal of my name from the ODM membership register.”
He joined Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress until August 2020 when he formally jumped to Dr Ruto’s camp.
Mr Owalo was among the few leaders who went against the Azimio la Umoja/ODM wave in Nyanza to campaign for Dr Ruto. He faced strong resistance in a region Dr Ruto expected few votes.
Mr Owalo served in the Presidential Campaign Steering Council and the politburo. He was also the deputy secretary general of the United Democratic Alliance responsible for policy and strategy.
As ICT minister, Mr Owalo is expected to spearhead the digitisation of more than 5,000 government services which the President says will take place in six months.
Nyanza leaders who have embraced Dr Ruto’s government are now coalescing around Mr Owalo.