Baraka Karama @PeopleDailyKe
Defiant and bristling with confidence, Deputy President William Ruto appears set to take the bull by the horns as he builds and reinforces his political stocks countrywide.
A recent decision to brave the heat and extend his hunting expedition to Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s Nyanza stronghold makes an unmistakable statement and comes after he made inroads in the Coastal and Western regions which had strongly supported the Raila-led Nasa coalition in the last election.
To spearhead his onslaught in Nyanza, Ruto has picked a core team of foot soldiers — a governor and two MPs, five former legislators, several former parliamentary aspirants and a host of sitting MCAs to help him mine votes from a region with near fanatical support for Raila and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.
Those in his corner as he builds momentum to seek the Presidency in 2022 when President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term ends, include Migori Governor Okoth Obado, Karachuonyo MP Adipo Kuome, former legislators James Rege (Karachuonyo), Martin Ogindo (Rangwe), Edick Anyanga (Nyatike) and Agostinho Neto (Ndhiwa).
The other key figure in his camp is former Kisumu West MP and current Chief Administrative Secretary (East African Community and Northern Corridor) Ken Obura.
The DP’s visit to the region, which came days after hosting Raila and President Uhuru for lunch at his Karen home in Nairobi, followed a widely publicised tour of the area by Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who is seen as Ruto’s rival in the vote-rich Rift Valley region.
Significantly, the son of retired President Moi was feted by close Raila confidants, who advised him to work with the ODM leader ahead of the 2022 election. This was the DP’s first high profile visit to Luo Nyanza since last year’s election and was by all accounts warmly received in Migori and Homa Bay counties.
He has, however, been to the two Gusii counties and Kuria where Jubilee performed impressively in the last General Election. Ruto’s point men have been tasked to rally support for the DP in the 2022 State House race.
Raila, who many believe will throw his hat once more into the ring, however, early this week announced he is stepping aside from the 2022 succession politics to concentrate on his new appointment as the African Union High representative in charge of infrastructure development.
But key lieutenants have cautioned those toasting the champagne to celebrate what they see as Raila’s quiet exit from politics, saying the ODM leader is going nowhere and if anything would be on the ballot in the 2022 poll.
Addressing a large crowd in Migori town, governor Obado, who is facing a double homicide case — the killing of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno and her unborn baby said: “We welcome you, we will work with you and you are free to come again and again”.
The governor fell out with ODM party fraternity over the Migori senatorial by-election after he opposed the party’s choice of Ochillo Ayacko, a political rival, who was handed direct nomination to vie for the seat that fell vacant following the death of Senator Ben Oluoch.
Obura, who lost to Fred Ouda in the ODM party primaries, will be expected to spearhead Ruto’s political interests in Kisumu.
In Homa Bay county, former MPs Rege and Ogindo lead the pro-Ruto group while Anyanga will hold his banner in Migori.
Others in the team include previously unsuccessful contenders Sam Wakiaga and Tom Alila, who are expected to lead Ruto ’s charge in Suba area and Ndhiwa constituency.
Last Sunday, the Deputy President who spent a night at the Rusinga Lodge, held a meeting with 19 sitting MCAs, former MPs and presumptive parliamentary aspirants from Migori and Homa Bay counties. The meeting was also attended by Anyanga, Rege and Ogindo.
According to Ted Odero, a parliamentary aspirant who attended the meeting, Ruto asked for their support. “As a politician, he asked for our support and we said we are ready to walk with him for the sake of development. The MCAs from Homa Bay, who were present also concurred after he accepted to intervene to renovate Tom Mboya hospital,” he said.
But their mission is not without stiff opposition after MPs Junet Mohamed (Suna East) and John Mbadi (Suba South) and ODM parliamentary whip and chairman respectively boycotted Ruto’s function for allegedly not being officially invited.
“ I cannot go to a place I was not invited. If he wanted us to be there, he should have called us to let us know his mission and we sit down and discuss,” said Mbadi.
But Ruto dismissed the MPs’ sentiments, saying as a national leader he was free to visit any part of Kenya.
“ I am the Deputy President and those who think that I must ask for a permission to visit their regions are daydreaming,” he said.