The scramble for Western and Coast regions’ votes has picked up in earnest with emerging indications that William Ruto is scheming to field candidates at various levels to split the opposition’s traditional strongholds to his advantage.
However, even as the DP schemes for the region, following the sacking of his key ally Mohammed Echesa from cabinet, his supporters are waiting to see how political events unfold on national scene.
The new Bonny Khalwale factor is also rocking his boat in the region. And as if to leave nothing to chance, Ruto has increased his forays in the two regions that have overwhelmingly been supportive of ODM leader Raila Odinga. COTU boss Francis Atwoli is leading anti- Ruto troops in the region and has no kind words for Khalwale. Perhaps, convinced that the Luhya and Mijikenda votes would be enough to guarantee him critical victory in the wake of a shaky Central region support base, the DP is understood to be shopping for a running mate from the two regions.
The DP is reported to have earmarked at least one presidential candidate apiece from the two regions who will ostensibly play a spoiler role as he proposes to cash in on his new forays.
Since November last year, Ruto has toured Kakamega, Bungoma and Vihiga counties in Western for a record 18 times. The DP has been on the roll hosting delegations from Western and Coast as he strategises for 2022.
In his charm offensive, Ruto has been dishing millions of shillings in donation to local churches in fundraisers.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, his Ford-Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya have made indications yet that they will be gunning for the top seat.
More recently, Wetang’ula and Oparanya offered to back whoever will have the biggest chance of succeeding Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022. This comes against the backdrop of muted suspicion of Oparanya’s presidential bid.
The council of governors boss has variously been accused of doing Ruto’s bidding in his presidential ambitions, claims he has vehemently refuted.
Doubts on the Kakamega governor’s presidential ambitions grew even bigger when he was easily elected to the influential COG chairmanship, with skeptics alleging the DP’s hand in his newfound political fortune.
More recently, Oparanya offered to broker a truce between his ODM boss Raila and Ruto following the long running spat between the two protagonists.
In the wake of the raging confusion in Western, Mudavadi remains the region’s frontrunner having been installed Luhya spokesman in 2017 at Kakamega’s Bukhungu Stadium.
Influential Cotu boss Francis Atwoli is understood to be planning another round of Bukhungu Declaration II that will determine the community’s flagbearer in the 2022 elections. It is likely that Mudavadi will still be crowned the torchbearer, begging question if he will attract and retain the backing of other regional kingpins.
Whichever way one looks at it, sources knowledgeable to Ruto’s secret operations was categorical that the DP will surely sponsor strategic candidates to boost his chances of smiling all the way to State House, with Western as a key point of sale.
During the 2017 general election, Jubilee Party, perceived to be unpopular in Western scooped sizeable parliamentary seats as the immensely popular Nasa coalition affiliates ANC, ODM and Ford-Kenya wrestled each other.
Ruto hopes that the same scenario will repeat itself to his favour were more than one presidential candidate from Luhyaland vie for the top seat.
Other than Mudavadi, Wetang’ula and Oparanya, doors may not be closed yet to UNCTAD boss Mukhisa Kituyi, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and senate speaker Ken Lusaka, all who are expected to play a pivotal role in the succession matrix.
With his second and final term at the Geneva-based posting coming to an end in 2021, Kituyi has already started sending feelers of a big-time role in the succession exercise, trolling the DP for his bareknuckled attack on Raila in the aftermath of last year’s handshake.
Kituyi’s options are wide open: join a winning combination that will stop Ruto’s ascension to the presidency; throw his weight behind a Luhya candidate or even throw his hat into the ring.
A Bukusu from Bungoma county, Kituyi’s influence will be a matter of keen interest given that a clever Ruto may as well choose to front one of Kituyi’s own to lock out Mudavadi from Bungoma altogether. It is important to note that both Kituyi and Wetang’ula hail from Bungoma.
But Ruto’s sure bet in Bungoma is Lusaka, his key point man reportedly angling for a running mate position to deputise Ruto. The senate speaker is former governor of Bungoma. During the last general election, Lusaka did well to help consolidate substantial support for Jubilee in the county.
Ruto’s other pointmen in the region include former Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale, National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali, Sirisia MP John Waluke, Webuye West’s Dan Wanyama and Didmus Barasa of Kimilili. However, of late, Waluke who is facing criminal charges has been avoiding Ruto visit in the region.
Exit Lusaka, enter Ojaamong. The second-term governor, now serving his last term, has lately been gravitating to the DP. At one point,Busia governor Sospeter Ojaamong, a Teso, declared he would be vying for the presidency come 2022, only to later say he will be backing the DP’s bid in the presidential race.
Observers say Ojaamong could be used to herd the Teso the Ruto way having fallen out of favour with Raila. The Teso are majorly found in Busia county and form a sizeable political constituency.
On Wamalwa, he has for long been a proponent of a united Western region towards gaining political power. Now serving in the executive, the CS has remained quiet, with his 2022 plans remaining a subject of speculation.
It is worth mentioning that Wamalwa has not failed to hide his opposition for a Ruto presidency, a matter that saw the DP unsuccessfully canvass for his removal from cabinet.
And Ruto is not about to stop at the top level. Insiders say the DP has already lined up ‘rival’ parliamentary candidates in various areas to eat into each other’s vote basket to his exclusive advantage.
Other than ODM, ANC and Ford-Kenya, there are a number of political parties that would be more than willing to engage in friendly fire against each other to Ruto’s advantage.
At the Coast, Ruto has been a frequent visitor of Kwale, Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties.
Back in Luhyaland in Kakamega, Ruto decision to pick Khalwale as his key pointman is being resisted by current Jubilee allied MPs who claim they stood with the party in 2017 when Khalwale was fighting them. Those said to be having issues with Khalwale are Ben Shinali (Ikolomani),Washiali (Mumias East), Moses Injendi (Malava) and Emmanuel Wagwe (Navakholo).
It is imperative to note that MPs from others parties who were angling towards Ruto have of late gone missing and rarely want to be associated with the DP camp as he fights powerful forces surrounding Uhuru. Titus Khamala (ANC, Lurambi), Johnson Naicaa (ODM, Mumias West), Justus Murunga (ANC, Matungu) and Enock Kibunguchy (Ford-K, Lukuyani) were trying to engage Ruto at one time. Shinyalu MP Kizito Mugali has no time for Khalwale.
In Vihiga, Hamisi MP George Gemose is now Ruto key ally and is reaching out to political forces in Bunyore land to help the DP have a grass root network. Gemose has on his radar Caleb Ingolo in Emuhaya and political wheeler dealer Khalid Njiraini in Luanda.
Pro-Ruto camp is skipping Maragoli constituencies of Sabatia and Vihiga due to Mudavadi’s influential factor.
However it is said that they plan to have former area mp Yusuf Chanzu who ran for governorship in 2017 go back for constituency seat. If Chanzu declines, then Geoffrey Amadi who was eyeing the plum governorship slot will be prevailed upon to go for Vihiga parliamentary seat.
Ruto strategists are said to be comfortable with former governor Moses Akaranga fighting to reclaim his seat in 2022.
Of late, Ruto has kept off Busia politics due to what is said to be a hostile ground. All those who ran on Jubilee party ticket and lost including Ababu Namwamba are rarely seen with the DP. It is imperative to note, Jubilee did not win any seat in Busia. Edward Kaunya (Teso North) was elected on ANC ticket, Geoffrey Omuse (ODM, Teso South), John Sakwa (ANC, Nambale), Geoffrey Odanga (ODM, Matayos) Joseph Oyula (ODM, Butula), Wilberforce Oundo (ODM, Funyula) and Raphael Wanjala (ODM, Budalangi).
Governor Ojaamong has been angling towards Ruto in hope that he will help him sort out his criminal case in court and if he wins appoint him to his cabinet. Ruto wants Ojaamong currently serving his last term help him win the populous Teso vote that also spreads to Bungoma county.
Apart from Waluke, Alfred Sambu (ANC,Webuye East), Moses Mabonga (Bumula, independent) and James Mukwe (Kabuchai,Ford-K) are playing it safe of late. Webuye West Daniel Barasa and his Kimilili counterpart Didmus Barasa all of Jubilee have come out to be serious Ruto diehard supporters and are willing to die with him politically. Ruto is courting former National Assembly speaker Kenneth Marende .