Candidates craft line-ups in race to succeed Oparanya

Thursday, July 1st, 2021 00:00 |
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. Photo/PD/Bernard Malonza

Dennis Lumiti

The race for Kakamega governor’s seat continues to gather momentum as aspirants burn the midnight oil in search of support.  

Power deals are being cut in secret meetings as the aspirants seek alliances and backing that would enable them have an edge over their opponents.

 The seat has so far attracted 10 contestants. The race is likely to be between Amani National Congress (ANC), Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and United Democratic Alliance ( UDA)parties.

 ANC headed by former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi has attracted three aspirants in Senator Cleophas Malalah, Lugari MP Ayub Savula and former Butere MP Amukowa Anangwe.

 Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has endorsed his deputy Prof Philip Kutima to seek the seat on an ODM ticket.

Former Senator Boni Khalwale appears to be the automatic candidate for UDA, which is associated with Deputy President William Ruto.

Kenya Electrici­ty Transmission Company Chief Executive Fernandes Barasa, his Metropol counterpart Sam Omukoko and Kakamega County Assembly Clerk Laban Atemba have not declared their party affiliations. So are businessmen Michael Osundwa and Leonard Shimaka.

 Heavy political undercurrents are sweeping across the county as residents try to figure out who to vote for at the end of Oparanya’s 10-year tenure.

Mumias Sugar takeover 

Malalah is said to be under pressure from the ANC insiders to defend his Senate seat as he is still young.

The senator has been caught up in controversy over his opposition to the takeover of Mumias Sugar Company.   

“Senator Malalah was just right when he questioned the hurried takeover of the firm by steel billionaire Narendra Raval,” said Fred Wesonga, a political analyst.

“However, his opponents and their supporters have used this to score political goals against him,” he added. 

It was even more imperious for Malalah  when news went round that Raval had shifted his focus to Miwani Sugar Mills in Nyanza, where his opponents claim is his ancestral homeland.

 Those opposed to the senator also see the hand of his father David Malala,  a shrewd political operator in the county. They claim he would govern from the shadows. But the senior Malala refuted the claims saying his son was his own man.

“My son is eyeing the governorship just like the other contestants. In fact, he is seeking the ANC ticket and I have bluntly told him not to expect any favours from me, especially in the party primaries,” said Malalah, who is an ANC insider.

Savula is also fighting the “outsider” tag with his critics saying he traces his roots to Bunyore in Vihiga county.

The Mumias Sugar saga has also returned to haunt the MP, who is accused of profiting from the miller during the tenure of former managing director Evans Kidero.

“Those opposed to his bid claim that he received millions of shillings from the Kidero administration for various contracts which he never executed. That is politically hurting,” said Desterio Okumu, a political commentator from the county.

Savula was viewed as ANC’s automatic candidate but the entry of Malalah and Prof. Anangwe into the race has complicated matters for him.

The MP has distanced himself from the collapse of Mumias Sugar and urged his accusers to table evidence that he ever received cash from its former managers.

Khalwale will be making another stab at the gubernatorial seat after he lost to Oparanya in 2017.

His main undoing is choice of party and support for DP over his own tribesman Mudavadi.

His critics also focus on his performance as Ikolomani MP from 2002 to 2013 during which the constituency was ranked among the poorest.

But Khalwale has scoffed at the accusations saying many education and health projects were started during his tenure.

Kutima’s endorsement by Oparanya has given impetus to his chances of becoming the second governor as it is expected that he could inherit some of his boss’s supporters and networks.

But he is considered colourless and poor mobiliser­.  It is also felt that Oparanya will no longer have any powers to decide who succeeds him immediately he exits the stage.

Anangwe will have to find a way to convince the voters that they can cast their ballots for another resident of Butere as governor. 

However, the former Cabinet minister laughed off the criticism saying Oparanya was elected as an individual and not entire constituency or clan. 

“I am my own man and I am not vying on behalf of Butere but as a resident of the entire Kakamega county.

Did you see the name Butere on the ballot in 2013 and 2017? And you will not see it again next year.

It was Oparanya on the ballot in the past and will be Anangwe in 2022,” he said yesterday.  

Same situation

Barasa finds himself in the same situation as he hails from Matungu in the Lower Kakamega bloc where Oparanya also comes from.

 A number of leaders have been urging Oparanya to back a person from the Upper Kakamega and that could be the reason he settled on Kutima, who hails from Malava.

Kutima, Malala of Lurambi, Khalwale (Ikolomani), Shimaka (Malava) and Savula belong to the Upper Kakamega while Anangwe, Barasa, Omukoko, Osundwa and Atemba are from the Lower bloc.

 That is why each of the aspirants is seeking a presumptive deputy governor from a different bloc. 

“Picking of a running-mate is a delicate process because you must go for somebody who will add value to the campaigns and governance once you have been elected.

He or she should also be loyal and competent,” said Isukha South MCA Farouk Machanje.  Other factors that could work for or against some of the contestants is  their financial strength.

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