Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has lost influential legislator Wilson Sossion to Deputy President William Ruto in a sudden move that is likely to weaken his forays in the vote-rich Rift Valley.
Mr Sossion, a veteran trade unionist who had stood with the former Prime Minister for years, caved under pressure and jumped ship yesterday in a region where the DP enjoys a fanatical following.
The vocal former secretary-general of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), who is an ODM nominated MP could not swim against the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) tide at home. Mr Sossion severed ties with the Orange party at Dr Ruto’s Karen residence, where he declared he would run for the Bomet senatorial seat on a UDA ticket next year.
“I can count you (Dr Ruto) as one of the few great African leaders to take that direction of a bottom-up economic model. The rich (in Kenya) have run with everything and overburdened the poor man,” said Mr Sossion.
“We want to believe that you will be a record-breaker as the fifth President in improving the economy. The next election is all about the economy,” he added.
The DP had hosted grassroots leaders from Kigumo Constituency led by Senator Irungu Kang’ata, MPs Alice Wahome, Kimani Ichung’wa and James Gakuya. Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and nominated MP David Sankok also attended.
It marked a major political shift for Mr Sossion, a man who had been touted as Mr Odinga’s key ally in the South Rift. On September 19 last year, he hosted Mr Odinga at his rural home in Bomet during a thanksgiving ceremony for his daughter, Rosemary Chepkorir, who had just been admitted to the bar.
The former PM at the time described Mr Sossion as a “charismatic, loyal and straight-forward unionist and ODM party member”. He was a key proponent of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in the South Rift.
The nominated MP has been under immense pressure from his supporters, mostly teachers, to either join UDA or Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party led by former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.
Bomet Senator Christopher Lang’at of Jubilee Party faces a tough battle to defend his seat. Dr Lang’at is serving his first term after beating Prof Wilfred Lessan in the 2017 Jubilee nominations. He later floored Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat to win the seat.
Other contestants are lawyer Hilary Sigei and former nominated MCA Aurelia Rono, a lecturer at Maasai Mara University. It’s not clear yet whether Mr Salat will make a third stab at the position.
Nominated Jubilee Senator Alice Milgo, the chair of the education committee, has maintained silence on whether she will run for the position. She has also been linked to the Bomet Central parliamentary seat.
“I am confident that I’ll deliver both the UDA nomination and the final race. My record on oversight of the county government and representation in the Senate speaks for itself,” Dr Lang’at said last week.
Mr Sossion resigned as Knut boss on May 25, a day before a national election was held, and refuted claims he left the lofty position to avert a humiliating defeat from then acting national chairman Collins Oyuu.