Outgoing Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya is facing interesting times in his political career. A colourless politician whose rise is linked to ODM party where he is deputy party leader, Oparanya is accused of being selfcentred, egocentric and currently trying to rebrand himself after falling out with ODM leader Raila Odinga following the party’s poor performance in Matungu by-election.
He has been seen holding talks with deputy president William Ruto, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka among other leaders from the political divide in what analysts say is aimed at countering ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-K’s Moses Wetangula wave in Luhya politics. Weekly Citizen has information in Matungu by-election, ODM did not want to field a candidate as it did in Kabuchai but Oparanya being the deputy party leader argued the need to use the Matungu poll to tame Mudavadi. But behind his mind was, if ODM won the seat, he was to benefit as the new political kid in Luhya politics. A poor public speaker, during ODM campaigns, Oparanya failed to sway Matungu voters.
But what Oparanya failed to understand, those in ODM not comfortable with him after the party lost seats in Kakamega during 2017 elections, wanted to use Matungu by-election to score a major first in his bid to seek ODM party ticket to run for president. After the Matungu dismal performance, Oparanya is struggling to survive politically with word, he is now eyeing Butere parliamentary seat. A career accountant, who rose from a financial boss at Kenya Aerotech to MP for two terms, cabinet minister in the former president Mwai Kibaki administration and then to governor, he could exit the political scene crestfallen.
Since he announced his intention to contest as MP in 2022 to use it as a spring board to get deputy prime minister post thanks to BBI, his has been a downward trend. In Butere constituency, even known diehard supporters, former civil servants, business people or just drumbeaters rejected the idea at inception and the rejection is taking shape. The present MP Tindi Mwale immediately came out saying he is ready to step out of the race and support his “uncle” ascend to a higher office. “I will not want to rival with my uncle. If he wants this seat, I will leave it for him and I will contest as running mate to Ayub Savula. I will let the other greenhorns struggle with Oparanya the excavator,” Tindi said. On the ground, Oparanya has fallen out of favour with the electorate.
Concentrating development projects in Butere during his second term as governor has come back to haunt him. A cabal of the so-called elders who used to hang around Oparanya is today not solid enough to point out what he has done in his 10 years at the helm. Promises of a medical training college, water for all, good health facilities and youth employment in Butere have remained a mirage. Butere Sub-county Hospital has no medicine, no mortuary, not staffed with enough doctors or nurses, people still fetch and consume dirty spring water for their daily use as Oparanya’s promise of water to every homestead remains a pipe dream despite Sh200 million being allocated and spent. Ten years down the line, there is not a single flagship project from the county in Butere save for a technical college funded and built by the national government in Mahondo area.
Butere remains a pale shadow of its former self, joblessness, crime, insecurity and poor roads are the order of the day and night. As 2022 draws near, Governor Oparanya has several headaches to cure if he dares contest as Butere MP to use it as a spring board to deputy PM position. A former MCA and parliamentary loser in 2017 general elections Habel Bushuru who was Oparanya’s bootlicker is changing tune and appears to have realised that he has been used for long by the governor with no gain. He has resolved to go against him on an ODM ticket in 2022. Bushuru locally known as Korokoro says it is time Oparanya paved way for other people to lead the constituency. It will be interesting if Bushuru gathers the courage and goes to ODM party primaries with the Oparanya for the parliamentary ticket. Former MP Andrew Toboso is seen as a Ruto’s point man in Butere.
Toboso, who fell out with Oparanya before the 2017 general elections says he is determined to end Oparanya’s 30 or so years of leadership in Butere. Observers have termed Toboso as the only one who can take on Oparanya in the parliamentary race without fear as he is his own man and does not depend on Oparanya for financial support anymore. Oparanya’s meeting with the DP a fortnight ago is in Butere a non issue. It is regarded as seeking relevance and looking for a plan B in case his ODM presidential candidature is in limbo as it obviously is headed to. Toboso, a consultant with the United Nations, has scores to settle with Oparanya and all his backers because in the last poll, Oparanya openly supported Bushuru for the seat a thing that handed victory to Mwale who it is claimed Oparanya hates with a passion.
Another aspirant who wants to end Oparanya’s grip is Valentine Opembe, a security expert and consultant based in Nairobi who is today running several projects in the constituency to do with shelter and spring water protection and provision of subsidised farming implements to poor families. It is said he is filling a leadership void left by both Mwale who has concentrated on building contracts that attract handsome kickbacks unlike provision of clean water that needs personal financing. Opembe, in his late thirties, has welcomed Oparanya’s move to contest as MP saying the only way to end his era is to be beaten at the ballot.
Pundits, however, argue that Oparanya could use his wealth to sway the vote in his favor if he wanted to be MP but on the retrospect, examples of the recent Matungu by-election where Oparanya is said to have spent millions of shillings in support of David Were of ODM. Were lost to ANC’s Peter Nabulindo. According to a critic, Zackaria Momanyi, Oparanya will be shocked at the polls if he contested as Butere MP because currently, the people have questioned his development record in the last 10 years.
Momanyi claims that the governor has nothing to show since for the 10 years, he has not empowered any local contractor despite raking in millions of shillings with county projects. It will be interesting to see Oparanya contest as MP against a back drop of heavy criticism from his own Mabole backyard. The outcome of the elections could have far reaching ramifications on the future of Butere as a constituency. Already, a number of MCAs in Kakamega county are slowly isolating Oparanya as it is emerging, he is set to start a political party to enter into bargain with Ruto. Within ODM, top party officials claim Raila is protecting Oparanya.
Aware that MCAs are against his political goofs, Oparanya is bankrolling a faction of them to come to his rescue. The MCAs led by deputy majority leader Joel Ongoro as the link recently claimed, Oparanya had no plans of defecting to UDA. Butali/Chegulo ward MCA Kelvin Mahelo (Jubilee), Farouk Machanje (Khayega, ANC) and Scholastica Ngina (ODM, nominated) are in pro-Oparanya camp. It has emerged Ruto dispatched a chopper to pick Oparanya at his Butere home in Kakamega county. The broker of the meeting was former cabinet secretary Rashid Echesa. During the talks, Ruto told Oparanya he was not comfortable with current Luhya politicians surrounding him and majority of them were broke like Bonny Khalwale, Sirisia MP John Waluke, Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Webuye West MP Dan Wanyama and Charles Gimose of Hamisi. Oparanya was told to launch his new party which Ruto and his foreign friends will fund as UDA is slowly being rejected in Luhyaland.