Deputy President William Ruto’s camp has been linked to a new plot against Mr Raila Odinga in Western Kenya that has dragged in Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
The plan reportedly is to prop up candidates through at least two smaller parties — including one that snatched a governor’s seat in Nyanza in 2013 — hoping to whittle down ODM’s influence in the region in next year’s elections.
Sources suggested the DP’s camp, alive to the headache of selling his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in the region, particularly if Mr Odinga were to vie for the presidency again next year, is considering the alternative strategy of sponsoring competition in the other elective seats.
And the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), whose leader Omingo Magara has openly backed Ruto’s presidential candidature, and Green Congress of Kenya led by ex-MP Martin Ogindo, are looking to field candidates in the area to rival Mr Odinga’s.
The political scheming had not raised attention until the schemers sought to drag the name of Mr Oparanya, who is ODM’s deputy party leader, into the issue.
The talk is that Mr Oparanya, who is serving his final term as Kakamega governor, has been persuaded to take over PDP’s leadership, presumably to step out of Mr Odinga’s shadows in ODM, and elevate him to a party boss.
“There is a thinking that despite Oparanya’s good track record as governor, ODM has cannibalised him thus he’s not able to match the influence of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula in Luhya politics, hence the need to have him stand alone as a party leader,” a source privy to the plans said.
But Mr Oparanya Monday denied any discussions to work with PDP, insisting that already, Mr Magara had joined DP Ruto’s Tangatanga wing of Jubilee and there is no way he could associate with the outfit.
“I cannot make that mistake. I am in ODM and will apply for the party’s ticket for the presidential candidate. There is still a lot of time and I have to look for the Sh1 million first which is a requirement,” Mr Oparanya said.
A visit two weeks ago by Mr Oparanya to Migori Governor Okoth Obado’s home, where Mr Magara was present, too, has triggered the latest political speculation.
The campaign to upstage Mr Odinga, according to sources, is coalescing around Mr Obado whose frosty relationship with Mr Odinga and ODM is an open secret.
Last year, Mr Obado, who has openly associated with DP Ruto, fought off an attempt by ODM to impeach him.
ODM has questioned Mr Obado’s loyalty to the party that sponsored his re-election in 2017, after he had decamped from PDP on whose ticket he first won the Migori governor’s seat in 2013.
Mr Obado has hosted at least three meetings in his Rapogi home, including late December last year and another two weeks ago.
One of the December meetings, according to sources, lasted from 8pm to around 1am. In attendance were some former MPs and one sitting MP from Migori.
“The team has been meeting regularly to plan for both county and national seats,” added the source who sought to portray the meeting involving Mr Oparanya and Mr Magara as one such forum.
“In a recent meeting at Obado’s Rapogi home, which coincided with the visit by Oparanya, Obado invited PDP leader Omingo Magara who went ahead to ask Oparanya to decamp to PDP and be its leader,” claimed the source.
While Mr Oparanya and Mr Magara acknowledge the visit to Mr Obado’s home to console him following the death of his mother, they gave conflicting accounts of the discussions.
“It is true Magara was there and they were concerned with ODM but I was not part of their PDP discussions,” the Kakamega governor said, insisting he was not aware that Mr Magara was also to visit Mr Obado on the same day.
Mr Magara confirmed the meeting to condole with Mr Obado following his mother’s death last year but alluded to other discussions on “issues of national concern”.
“Governor Oparanya and I never attended Obado’s mother’s funeral and we were quite indebted to him. Remember Obado is my first governor in PDP and is like the party’s first born son,” Mr Magara explained.
He then added, “But of course we met and after that we discussed issues of national concern but nothing concrete yet.”
On the party’s rebranding, Mr Magara said, “We are willing to accommodate anybody who will give us national outlook and we should expect realignments.”
Their host said the two leaders went to condole with him following the death of his mother but added that plans to field other candidates against ODM should be taken positively as they will help open democratic space in the region.
“It will not be the first time PDP will be fielding candidates because even in 2013, Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo and I were elected on the party’s ticket,” Mr Obado said.
“So we should just take it positively because it is democracy,” the governor added.
Mr Obado said he was not aware whether Mr Magara reached out to Mr Oparanya to take over the leadership of PDP.
“Oparanya’s main topic was BBI and he did not even mention PDP. Otherwise their coming was not political,” he said.
He denied a discussion to field candidates under PDP during the meeting adding “but even if it was, it’s not illegal to do that.”
“After all it is not politically correct to have only a candidate from one party contesting in an election. Everybody cannot run on one party. There must be diversity of parties,” he said citing the practice in Gusii region.
In the scheme to counter the ODM wave in the region, South Nyanza is the epicentre of this formation, but the planners are roping in allies across the region.
Mr Obado has hosted a number of the former MPs for talks on formation and strengthening of other parties to rival ODM and to field candidates in the region.
“Governor Obado is working on fielding candidates on Omingo Magara-led PDP ticket which he used in 2013 while Dr (Evans) Kidero is working on doing the same but on his former Rangwe MP Martin Ogindo’s Green Congress of Kenya party,” a source privy to the arrangement said.
Mr Ogindo served as Dr Kidero’s economic adviser when he was the Nairobi governor.
Mr Ogindo insisted that his party will field candidates in all the elective seats in Homa Bay.
“Of course we are rolling out party elections from February. We founded Green Congress of Kenya as an alternative party in our region but also as a national party.
“We want to ensure that the will of the people prevails and is not suffocated,” Mr Ogindo said.
“We want the people of Nyanza to have an alternative avenue of actualising their political dreams and implementing their visions.”
“We are open to the candidature of everybody willing to work with us and we expect to field a full team in Homa Bay County from governor to senators, woman reps, MPs and ward reps.”
Mr Magara cautioned the people of Nyanza against “carrying all your eggs in one basket.”
“When we had our NEC meeting in July, PDP resolved to rebrand, restructure and reposition themselves in terms of preparations for 2022.
“As a party leader, I was mandated to engage other parties on possibility of working together either directly or through a coalition and that is exactly what I’m doing. I have engaged Wiper, ANC, Kanu and even DP Ruto,” Mr Magara said.
ODM national chairman John Mbadi said leaders planning to undermine Mr Odinga in the region will not succeed.
“This is not the first time we’ve heard some leaders from Nyanza region make attempts to undermine Raila. Between 2013 and 2017 there were also such attempts with a choreographed fake narrative that Raila has impoverished Nyanza.
“If you may recall, the region has had many Cabinet ministers during the Kanu regime but no serious development projects came to Nyanza until when Raila became minister for Roads and later prime minister when we witnessed a lot of infrastructural developments in the region,” said Mr Mbadi.
He warned that those scheming against Mr Odinga are inviting their political waterloo.
“Raila is not just a leader of Luo though Luos give him 100 per cent of votes. People have attempted to upstage him including Kalausi and all that, some through fundraisers yet they are beneficiaries of devolution which Mr Odinga played a critical role in making.
“Anybody who just thinks they can call people in their homes, hold a meeting to upstage Raila are day dreaming. It’s not just about calling people to your home. Some of those doing so are beneficiaries of devolution that Raila fought for. Nobody is ready to buy that,” Mr Mbadi added.
Mr Mbadi, however, insisted that their call for ODM presidential hopefuls to apply was not a reaction to Mr Odinga’s opponents in Nyanza.
“This is not what made ODM start the process of seeking for a presidential candidate. We are planning to hold an NDC this year where we shall nominate our candidate.
“We had planned to unveil our candidate this year. Raila will now reach out to Kenyans about 2022. You cannot upstage Raila at this point in time. That’s wishful thinking and complete waste of time,” he said.
Mr Oparanya was accompanied by a host of MCAs from Kakamega to Migori.
But Dr Kidero insisted that he is a life member of ODM and is not party to plans to undermine the ODM leader in the region.
He dismissed as idle talk the suggestion that he is among those plotting to upstage Mr Odinga.
“These are idle people who have nothing to do and are frightened by my appearance in Homa Bay thus generating all sorts of rumors,” said Dr Kidero, adding that he is, however, thankful that the rumours are marketing him.