- The Luhya community is the second most populous ethnic group in Kenya after the Kikuyu with an estimated two million registered voters.
- Lugari MP Ayub Savula dismissed Raila’s purported inroads in Western as misleading, insisting the area is locked behind Mudavadi.
ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC's Musalia Mudavadi are heading for a major political showdown in Western, with the former PM keen on locking the region ahead of 2022.
Raila has moved to wrest Western from Mudavadi’s political grip to fortify his foothold as the scramble for the region intensifies.
It is understood that Raila has decided to focus on the region as he prepares for the next election.
The Luhya are the second most populous group after the Kikuyu with two million registered voters.
Since Friday, Raila has been in Western two times, accompanied by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, the ODM deputy party leader.
Insiders say Raila is banking on Oparanya and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa among other Western leaders to lead his hunt for the Luhya vote.
National Assembly Chief Whip Emmanuel Wangwe is also in Raila’s Western camp.
To demonstrate Oparanya’s crucial role, Raila tagged him along to State House for high profile engagements convened by President Uhuru Kenyatta and attended by One Kenya Alliance chiefs.
The strategy by Raila ignores completely Amani National Congress leader Mudavadi, who performed dismally in his own backyard when he contested for the top seat in 2013.
According to the thinking of Raila’s inner circle, Musalia’s presence could complicate things for the ODM supremo who is reportedly looking at the Mountain for his 2022 running mate.
It is also believed amongst Raila’s team that Mudavadi does not hold sway in Western and that the former Prime Minister has performed better in the past even when the Amani leader was on the ballot.
On Friday, Oparanya downplayed both Wetangula and Mudavadi’s presidential bids saying they have no chance in next year’s elections.
“Being on the ballot is nothing. I hear some people insisting that they must be on the ballot, being on the ballot and winning elections are two different things,” Oparanya said.
But Lugari MP Ayub Savula dismissed Raila’s purported inroads in Western as misleading insisting the area is locked behind Mudavadi.
He claimed those pushing Raila’s agenda are lightweights with no influence.
“Oparanya is not adding any value because he is retiring and Eugene is a CS, he cannot even win the governor's seat in Trans Nzoia or even be an MP in the area. Those people campaiging for Tinga are very weak,” Savula told the Star.
“You see, Musalia has teamed up with Wetang'ula to create a formidable force to lock Western region.”
Savula, however, defended Mudavadi’s 2013 poor showing, saying that was his debut and a lot has changed in his favor since then.
“The support for Raila is very low, people are focusing on Mudavadi’s candidature. He was trying for the first time in 2013, this time round his support will soar,” the Lugari MP said.
Raila's forays in Western Kenya come at a time Deputy President William Ruto has slowed down his tours in the area that has backed Odinga in the previous elections.
Ruto went on a charm offensive in the region soon after the 2017 polls after helping Jubilee secure eight out of the 33 parliamentary seats in then Nasa zone.
The DP is even on the record accusing the Western Kenya voters of “misusing” him claiming residents of the region only invite him to support development projects but shun him when he needs their political support.
In the March 4 by-elections in Matungu and Kabuchai, UDA — a party associated with the Deputy President — performed dismally.
Speaking to the Star, Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa cited Covid-19 restrictions that led to a ban of political gatherings and ongoing works for regional economic blueprint for DP’s long absence in the area.
He said the DP has not abandoned the region and is planning an extensive tour of Western Kenya that would ramp up his support.
“We have been doing these very many meeting for the economic blueprint and the issue of Covid-19 pandemic. People were not allowed to hold meetings apart from church functions,” Barasa explained.
“You also know that Western counties were locked after Covid cases went up because of the function that was held in Kisumu.We are resuming those meetings.”
On Friday, Raila was in Kakamega for a regional consultative tour where the leaders from the region endorsed his 2022 candidature.
Yesterday, the ODM leader was in Butere attending the consecration of Rose Okeno as the Bishop of Butere ACK diocese.
National Assembly Majority Whip and Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe read a Western declaration committing the region to back Raila in 2022.
But in an interview with the Star, Barasa said Raila’s influence in the region is exaggerated and surprises await the opposition chief on the ballot in 2022.
According to the Kimilili lawmaker, Raila is only having a headstart in Kakamega because of the Oparanya factor and will find it hard making inroads in the remaining Luhya counties.
“From my point of view, he has a small chance in Kakamega because of the factor of Oparanya being the governor of Kakamega and ODM deputy party leader. In Kakamega it will be a battle between him and the Deputy President,” said Barasa.
Vihiga county, the MP said, will be a battleground for Raila, DP Ruto and Mudavadi if the ANC leader will contest the country’s top seat.
“In Bungoma, Raila Odinga has no chance at all. It will be a miracle for him if he will raise 100,000 votes. He would have tried. I doubt if he can raise 100,000 votes in Bungoma,” the lawmaker said.
“The ground in Bungoma is for William Ruto, I say so because my constituency is in Bungoma. Bungoma is solid behind Ruto.”
Edited by Henry Makori