Seen as the battle ground in this year’s elections, the Western region, with over 2.2 million votes, has been offered sweetheart deals by the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza coalitions in the hope of flipping it in their favour.
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition presidential hopeful Raila Odinga has enjoyed enormous support in the region since 2007, but now faces competition from Deputy President William Ruto. The DP has won over two of Mr Odinga’s co-principals in the defunct Nasa coalition – Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula – on whose ticket the ODM leader unsuccessfully vied for the presidency in the last elections.
Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula are leading the Kenya Kwanza charge in the region, under pressure to deliver 70 per cent of the vote to secure 30 per cent of the government should the alliance win. Yesterday the two leaders kicked off their campaigns in Kakamega County, marketing the alliance’s governor candidate Cleophas Malala, and Dr Ruto in Lugari and Khwisero constituencies.
Their tour came just a day before today’s Mr Odinga’s trip of the region, which begins in Vihiga County, Mr Mudavadi’s home-turf, in a bid to undo Dr Ruto’s inroads in the area and consolidate his support in the region.
Mr Odinga has planned a five-day tour of the area, which he has promised the Treasury docket and Senate Speaker should he succeed to form the next government, in a bid to secure his support base.
Kakamega has the largest share of votes at 841,139, followed by Bungoma (644,233), Busia (406,569) and Vihiga (304, 765). Trans Nzoia, located in the Rift Valley but with a high Luhya population, has 395,741 voters.
Mr Odinga received 82 per cent, or 1.186 million votes in 2017, compared to Mr Kenyatta’s 242,388 in Western.
Stake in the next government
“On Wednesday, he (Mr Odinga) will be in Vihiga and Busia on Thursday. On Friday, he will be in Trans Nzoia and on Saturday and Sunday, he will be in Bungoma. He will then take a break and come back to Kakamega for three days and one more day in Busia,” said Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who will be in-charge of Mr Odinga’s campaign in Western.
Mr Oparanya has asked voters in the region to back the Azimio team to ensure the region has a stake in the next government should Mr Odinga clinch victory in the August 9 General Election.
Mr Odinga has named Mr Oparanya his Treasury Cabinet Secretary designate and promised former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende the Senate speakership.
Dr Ruto’ has promised Mr Mudavadi the Prime Cabinet Secretary post while Mr Wetang’ula has been promised the Senate Speaker seat. But this comes with the steep 70 per cent of votes rider .
In their rallies yesterday, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula said they plan to hold six rallies daily in each of the four counties to turn the wave against Mr Odinga.
“We are going to have 24 rallies in the next one week as part of our strategy to lock out Mr Odinga from the region and send him to Bondo on August 9,” said Mr Mudavadi.
“As your leaders, we know the burden you are facing because of the mistakes of this government and that is why we are asking you (voters) to support the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and elect William Ruto as your next president,” said Mr Wetang’ula.
Former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale said: “We want to assure our people that we will push the Deputy President to ensure our region benefits from our share of resources in government because when one gets the presidency, things can change.”
But Lugari MP Ayub Savula, one of the key campaigners of Mr Odinga in Western, yesterday told the Nation that as they embark on vigorous grassroots vote mobilisation, they will debunk DP Ruto’s pledge on the revival of collapsed sugar factories.
“Ruto cannot continue to lie to our people that he will revive the likes of Mumias (Sugar Company) if elected and he has been Deputy President for 10 years, what has he done?” asked Mr Savula.
He added: “Raila has already given us the National Treasury slot and Speaker of the Senate even before he is elected. These positions have no conditions like the ones given to Mudavadi and Wetang’ula where they must deliver 70 per cent of votes in the region. Immediately Baba (Mr Odinga) forms government, he is going to retain Eugene Wamalwa, therefore, our region is well catered for.”
Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, a senior member of the Ruto camp, told the Nation that their message in the region is that Mr Odinga betrayed them following his Handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.
“We are talking to people telling them that when Raila benefited from the Handshake, he never gave the region even a single project. We are just reminding people that they should see which side of their loaf is buttered,” said Mr Washiali.
He further defended the 70 per cent condition saying that it is just a target and not a requirement.
Yesterday, Vihiga Senator George Khaniri and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said Mr Odinga’s visit today was the beginning of the consolidation of the region.
“It (the visit) is very significant and we are getting all affiliate parties involved. The message is that we want the people of Vihiga to vote for the Azimio presidential candidate,” Mr Osotsi said.
On his part, Mr Khaniri said they abandoned ANC after the party’s leadership was held hostage by a few people and later handed to Sugoi (DP Dr Ruto).
“We are supporting Raila so that he can restore our country’s economy and fight corruption,” Mr Khaniri said.
Political commentator Martin Andati said the two leaders will have to explain to the region’s voters what their deals mean to win votes.
“The Luhya nation is normally very keen on details. It will all depend on how each of the teams packages its offers,” said Mr Andati.
Additional reporting by Derick Luvega