Raila allies warming up to President Ruto ministers

President William Ruto and Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga

President William Ruto and Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga share a light moment when they went to officially commission the Homabay Market on January 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s rapprochement with President William Ruto has opened the door for his allies to hold talks with Cabinet Secretaries to address concerns in their areas.

President Ruto, Nation has established, has also urged his Cabinet to adopt an open-door policy in their dealings with all leaders regardless of their political affiliation. Speaking in Siaya last weekend, the President reiterated his commitment to working with all leaders.

Mr Odinga’s initial hardline position to discredit the legitimacy of the Kenya Kwanza government with persistent claims it was rigged in, along with attacks on the President, had made his allies reluctant to be associated with the ruling coalition leaders.

But Mr Odinga’s pronouncements that governors and other leaders in Nyanza allied to his Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party were free to embrace the President and support his push for development has seen the opposition leaders reaching out to various Cabinet and principal secretaries to pitch their development ideas.

On Monday, just a day after the President concluded his tour of the Nyanza region, where he was hosted by local leaders led by Governors Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) and James Orengo (Siaya), some leaders from Kisumu sought an audience with Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki over runaway insecurity in the lakeside city.

The leaders included Kisumu Woman Rep Ruth Odinga, who is Mr Odinga’s younger sister, Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda and MPs Joshua Oron (Kisumu Central), Rozah Buyu (Kisumu west), James Nyikal (Seme) and Onyango K’Oyoo (Muhoroni).

Linturi meeting

Mr Orengo also last week met with senior staff of the Ministry of Agriculture led by Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi in Nairobi.

William Ruto

President William Ruto shares a light moment with Siaya Governor James Orengo and Senator Oburu Oginga at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology on January 14, 2023.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

The governor said his meeting already yielded fruits as the national government announced a Sh4 billion rice production programme with Siaya earmarked among the counties to benefit from it. Ms Wanga had also invited Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba to grace her sports tournament in Homa Bay, a request the CS honoured.

Ms Wanga and Prof Nyong’o, initially fierce critics of the Ruto administration, had also last week heeded the President’s invitation to attend a meeting with the Cabinet at the Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club. Kisii Governor Simba Arati has also held discussions with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Siaya Senator Oburu Oginga, who is Mr Odinga’s elder brother, said they will embrace the President and support his development agenda in the region but warned that the move does not mean they don’t have other concerns with him.

For Multimedia University lecturer Prof Gitile Naituli, Mr Odinga’s directive to the leaders from his backyard to embrace the president was simply a tactical retreat and a well-calculated move to deal a major blow to rebels in the region.

Some leaders in Nyanza region, among them former Governors Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu), Okoth Obado (Migori), ex-Kisumu senator Fred Outa, former area woman rep Rose Nyamunga, ex Lake Basin Development Authority chairman Odoyo Owidi and ex MPs Martin Ogindo (Rangwe), Sylvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul), Jared K’Opiyo (Awendo), Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda) and Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike), as well as fiery Canada-based lawyer Miguna Miguna, have been coalescing around ICT CS Eliud Owalo as Dr Ruto’s point men to the region.

The move to have elected leaders work with the president has, however, thrown them off balance. 

Prof Naituli argued that Mr Odinga had to take control and in so doing, direct his allies to welcome Dr Ruto in order to neutralise the rebels’ possible influence to take credit.