The quest by Deputy President William Ruto to infiltrate ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard is gaining momentum after some of his recent recruits stepped up bid to woo the region into their front.
The leaders, most of whom are considered “rebels” after falling out with Raila and his ODM party are working under the cover of a generational change and a new economic path to market the DP.
Yesterday, the leaders led by Ruto’s point man in the region and former Raila’s aide Eliud Owalo met at a Nairobi hotel to plan their economic strategy for the region.
They claim presidential hopefuls will have to negotiate with the region on a pre-economic election pact with the region as part of their political goals.
Questions however remain whether their efforts will bear fruit even as Raila also struggles to calm the recent waves that have rocked his ODM ship and threaten to crack his support base.
In the meeting convened by Owalo who has also stepped up bid to market the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party, several of former Raila’s foot soldiers were in attendance.
They included those who decamped the party after losing controversial ODM nominations in 2013 and 2017. They also lost to ODM candidates in subsequent elections.
Among the leaders include former Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma and former MPs Dalmas Otieno (Rongo) and Martin Ogindo (Rangwe).
All the three leaders are eyeing political comebacks with Ranguma said to be oiling his campaign machinery with an aim of challenging governor Anyang’ Nyong’o.
Citizen Convention’s Party (CCP) party leader Grace Akumu who confirmed to The Standard that she has opted to join Ruto’s camp and lead his inroads in Nyanza also attended the meeting.
A source who attended the meeting but sought anonymity said that the leaders are warming up to join UDA party with an aim of ensuring that they challenge ODM’s dominance.
“It is a political season and everything is inclined towards 2022 elections. Our aim is to ensure that we rally the region to back Ruto’s bid for presidency,” said the leader.
He claimed that Ruto gave his point men in the region the go-ahead to convene the meeting and lure more allies to their camp. The leader describes the outfit as an alternative voice for the Luo community.
Part of their strategy, he claimed, is to draw professionals who can help them craft concrete goals for Nyanza that they hope the next government will deliver for the region.
A statement released by the group however indicated that the group has been undertaking various economic reviews with an aim of coming up with a new path for Nyanza’s economy.
Owalo described the group as “a think tank that can help craft a conceptual framework that informs a Thematic-Based Economic Agenda for the region”.
In an indirect swipe to Raila’s leadership, Owalo claimed that preoccupation with the pursuit of political power had pushed development priorities of the region to the back-banner.
The development is set to elicit fresh debates and it remains to be seen whether their efforts to undermine Raila in the region will bear fruit as the ODM boss also prepares his forces to keep the region under lock and key.
Luo Nyanza has been steadfast behind the opposition chief since his first stab to the presidency in 1997 despite numerous attempts by political opponents to sway the vote away from Raila.
In 2013, similar attempts spearheaded by former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s point man in the region and former Secretary-General of the disbanded The National Alliance Party Onyango Oloo flopped. The region was steadfast behind Raila.
The ODM chief has always been able to effortlessly rally the region to back his bid and political decisions despite snippets of disgruntlement from former allies in a region where campaigning against Raila has been like a ticket to “political oblivion”.
His influence has also played a key role in swaying the Gusii vote to his side, although he now faces stiff competition from the DP who has won several allies in Gusii region.
In the past, presidential hopefuls Raila has competed with have managed only peanuts in votes from Raila’s backyard with the region voting overwhelmingly for the ODM chief.
The Owalo-led group however is banking on some of Nyanza’s economic underbelly to chat a new economic path for the region and give Ruto a launching pad into the region.
Among areas the group identified included the revival of the sugar industry, rejuvenation of the cotton industry, infrastructure, among others.
They claim they are intending to develop a harmonized and synthesized Economic Blue Print entailing detailed and specific development programmes
According to Owalo, the group intends to embark on an extensive engagement of stakeholders at the grassroots levels for purposes of validation.
The developments come at a time when splinter groups who have thrown their weight behind the DP have also been stepping up their efforts to mobilize support for Ruto.
They are also laying the ground for Ruto’s first political tour in the region.
The developments come even as a section of leaders claim that Raila’s contribution to the region’s development is grossly undervalued. They claim his contribution has been immense.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has slowly risen from political radicalism to a major player in Nyanza’s economic and political growth. In the recent past, he has changed his brand of politics with his handshake with President Uhuru unlocking a number of development projects for the region.
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