The political contest, popularity and supremacy between William Ruto and Raila Odinga over the Kisii vote has deepened the political temperatures between the two leaders in the region as campaigns for the next general election intensifies.
The scramble for the Kisii votes by the two has created anxiety, tension and jitters among supporters of the two leaders. Ruto and Raila supporters are burning the midnight oil to make sure that their favourite candidate hits the ground to garner support at the grass-root. Raila has to demonstrate that he is strong enough in the race compared to Ruto, who is making his first stab at the presidency, by making sure that he commands total support from the region.
Since the advent of the multi-party system, Raila has been enjoying support from the Gusii community, but of late, his popularity has started diminishing, a clear indication that he is losing political grip in the land of Omugusii, a factor which could complicate his bid for the top seat. To demonstrate how he is losing popularity in Gusiiland, there is no MP who was elected on Raila’s ODM party ticket in the last general election. Nyamira and Kisii counties which form the Gusii family have 13 MPs but none is elected on the ODM ticket an indication that the Kisii community is losing political confidence in Raila.
The only seats which the ODM party managed to secure are those of governors, John Nyagarama (Nyamira), James Ongwae (Kisii), senators Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Okongo Omogeni (Nyamira) and Janet Ongera (Kisii women rep). In 2007 and 2013 general election, ODM party had the majority of the seats in Gusiiland, thus making it a stamping ground for Raila in the region, but in 2017, the Jubilee party turned tables against ODM, an indicator that in the next general election, things could be worse for Raila in his quest for the top seat.
When Ruto announced that he was going to tour Kisii county, Raila supporters panicked, for they had been giving their boss false information that Ruto had no following in Gusiiland, and that he was just a passing cloud.
However, since the rallies by Ruto in Kisii county, the ODM leadership has been having sleepless nights mapping out, and scheming on how to counter current popularity of Ruto in Gusiiland. Raila’s leading ODM leaders from the Kisii county have also ditched him, the people who were behind Ruto’s triumphal tour to the county.
Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi, the county ODM chairman, Samuel Omwando and Don Bosco Gichana who lent Raila a Hummer vehicle have since ditched Raila in favour of Ruto for the presidency, and they were the men who made sure that Ruto’s visit was not going to be disrupted as planned by his political detractors. Maangi who is leading the Ruto presidential campaign in Gusiiland has expressed his confidence that after the retirement of Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto will be the next in the throne.
Maangi argues that as much as Raila is his party boss, he was for Ruto because of the development he has brought to the entire Gusii region. Omwando on his part, said Raila politics in Gusiiland was irrelevant because it was making the community economically bankrupt. Some of the voters from the community who spoke to us said that they had resolved to ditch Raila politics in Gusiiland because it was unproductive. A voter who identified himself as Dennis Okeyo protested that for a long time, Raila has been using the community to get votes but soon after the elections, he forgets them only to come back when the next elections are due.
Okeyo noted that the handshake between Raila and Uhuru has only his Luo community and challenged him to state what the handshake has assisted the Kisii community with. Leaders from Nyamira county who are supporting Ruto for the top seat have ruled out Raila becoming the next president of Kenya. MPs Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), and Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango) told us that the Kisii community has no space for Raila’s brand of politics which was not assisting the community to grow economically.
Nyamoko said that this time round, Raila was going to get a shock of the year because he could not get votes from the community as it has been the case in the previous general elections. “Raila for a long time has misused our community politically. When he is in the government, he serves his own community, ignoring ours, and therefore this time around, we have no space for him,” Nyamoko stated.