Raila Odinga’s Fresh Political Strategy To Wrestle Bungoma From President Ruto

………AS Governor Otuoma Plans To Ditch ODM For ANC

By The Weekly Vision Team

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party leader Raila Odinga has launched a sophisticated charm offensive in Bungoma County in an attempt to gain political ground ahead of the 2027 general elections. Bungoma County has been supportive of Raila’s presidential bids since the 2013 election until the last general elections when the region voted overwhelmingly for William Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza-affiliated parties.

During the 2022 general elections, William Ruto garnered 255,755 (62.3%) votes, while Raila Odinga got a paltry 145,106 (35%) votes. Ford-Kenya won the governor’s, women’s, and senatorial seats, as well as almost all MPs and MCAs. The ODM party was left empty-handed. 

Analysts say that Bungoma County provided a swing vote in the 2022 presidential elections, resulting in President Ruto’s victory and eventually rewarding Ford-Kenya Party leader Moses Wetangula with the third-most powerful seat in the country, Speaker of the National Assembly.

The current game plan by the ODM party leader, according to a source, was a meeting between Raila and Wetangula’s father. It is not, however, known what the agenda of the meeting was or if it had the blessings of Moses, but details remain scanty. The meeting, according to sources, culminated in the defection of Wetang’ula’s brother Fred Wetangula from FORD-Kenya to the Orange Democratic Movement.

Aware that the majority of Bungoma residents are disappointed with how President Ruto has failed to fulfil promises he made towards the electorate of 2022, ODM has moved in to conduct a party membership registration drive targeting disgruntled Ford-Kenya members.

Raila’s strategy is to use local leaders from the region to appeal to the locals to abandon Kenya Kwanza and join ODM. Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi is one leader that Raila Odinga travelled with from Nairobi to grace the party’s membership drive in Bungoma.

In his address, Wanyonyi heaped praise on Mr Odinga for endorsing him as the next Nairobi Governor and pleaded with Bungoma people to reciprocate Raila’s goodwill by joining ODM. Nairobi senator Edwin Sifuna, who also hails from Bungoma County, also pleaded with the locals to reciprocate the goodwill that Raila has bestowed on him by making him the party’s secretary general and by ensuring him that he won the Nairobi Senatorial race.

 The game plan is to show the people of Bungoma and, by extension, the Bukusu community that Raila has ensured their sons are strategically placed in ODM. This narrative that ODM has the interest of the Bukusu at heart is Raila’s strategy to wrestle Bungoma from Ruito and Moses Wetangula.

It is not known if Wetangula will vie for the Bungoma senatorial seat in 2027 or if he will go for the gubernatorial seat, but the political realignments expected in western Kenya will depend on whoever Ruto picks as a running mate.

In a scenario where Ruto drops his deputy Rigathi Gachagua for Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, it will be an uphill task for ODM to gain political ground in Bungoma County because the Mudavadi wave will sweep the entire western region.

In another scenario, speculations are rife that former Kakamega Governor and ODM Deputy Party Leader Wycliffe Oparanya is most likely to be a presidential running mate in Azimio; should that happen, then it might also create a wave, and ODM might easily gain ground in Bungoma.

It is imperative to note that Wetangula, by being a state officer, is barred from playing politics, and that has created a political vacuum in Bungoma County politics, leaving ODM with the space to market the party without much opposition.

In Busia, political realignments also seem to be taking centre stage. Barely 24 hours after being heckled during the ODM recruitment drive, Busia Governor Paul Otuoma caught the first flight to Nairobi to meet Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

Governor Otuoma with Musalia Mudavadi

According to sources, after the humiliation by ODM supporters, Otuoma believes his fate in ODM and the 2027 elections have been sealed, done, and dusted. It was for this reason that he held a meeting with Mudavadi intending to join the ANC.

In the last election, out of seven parliamentary seats in Busia, ODM won five: the governor’s seat and the Women’s Representative seat, while the senatorial seat went to Okiya Omutatah, who is also affiliated with Azimio. Analysts say that even if Otuoma decides to jump ship to defend his seat on the ANC ticket in 2027, his chances of retaining the seat look slim and narrow.