Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also the ODM deputy party leader and chairman of the Council of Governors, talked to Nation newspaper about the ongoing political realignments, his 2022 game plan and the state of devolution.
Is ODM warming up to signing a coalition pact with Jubilee?
The essence of any party is to get power, and you cannot be in existence just for the sake of it. The fact that we want to get power as ODM, we must look at options that will make us get that power.
Therefore, we are willing to go into a coalition with any party that we feel can help us get power. I think Jubilee is more attractive in view of its membership and size.
ODM is still a member of the National Super Alliance (Nasa). Do you intend to withdraw from that pre-election pact and chart a new political path?
As the ODM deputy party leader, get it from me, Nasa is no more. It was an amorphous, hopeless coalition that never helped us at all. In any case, it reduced our numerical strength as a party due to numerous sibling rivalries witnessed during the General Election as we fought amongst ourselves.
It wasn’t a good move to have ODM, Wiper, ANC, Ford Kenya, and even CCM, members field candidates in various positions. This made us lose many seats.
Jubilee reaped big from some of our zones since they fielded single candidates while we had several contesting for one position. For instance, in places where we garnered 60 per cent of the votes as a bloc, Jubilee got 40 per cent and won because we divided the 60 per cent amongst ourselves. This is why we have to rethink such a deal.
What is your game plan going into 2022?
Personally, I have stated that at the end of my two terms as governor, I will be vying for President while banking on my development record.
For ODM, we had agreed to hold our grassroots elections in March to strengthen the party and go all the way to conduct our polls at the national level, but this was before the Covid-19 pandemic. We are optimistic that once it is behind us, we shall continue with our plans.
Second, we are also crafting a winning strategy and have already mapped out regions we did not perform well in the last elections, like Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley.
Going forward, we will be seeking coalitions with major parties from the regions to endear ourselves there. In Mt Kenya, for instance, Jubilee is the most attractive in terms of numbers.
ODM nominations have in the past been characterised by chaos that political observers have linked to voter apathy in some of your bastions, how do you plan to tackle this in future?
Our main undoing as a party has been nominations. We have found that we spend too much energy on nominations to an extent that by the time we are facing the main election, most of our candidates are exhausted and depleted financially.
Therefore, they face fresh candidates a majority of whom have been selected by their respective parties without any rigorous process.
The nomination management has also been an issue due to inadequate resources to carry out primaries. We put up a committee that came up with resolutions that we can even select or have a small electoral college within ODM and make a decision on a candidate depending on the circumstances. We must approach the next elections differently if we are to succeed.
Your party leader Raila Odinga says the country will hold a referendum before the 2022 elections. Is this tenable?
The problem is Covid-19. It is a real challenge and we don’t know when it will subside. But if it can be out of our sight by end of September, then we can have the vote within the three months – October, November and December will be ideal.
As CoG chair, how do you rate the performance of counties seven years into devolution?
Devolution has improved healthcare in many counties – Kakamega included – in terms of infrastructure – there are hospitals we have built, some expanded and some renovated.
With the current Covid-19, counties have increased ICU capacity, and in Kakamega, where we used to have only four ICU beds, we now have 14.
Some lieutenants of the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi have read mischief in your endorsement as Luhya kingpin. What do you have to say?
You can’t push a government agenda unless you are in the system. So for us who were elected and we are closer to government, it is our responsibility as leaders of this area to push our agenda.
You will be lying to your people that you can push the development agenda when you are outside government. Secondly, there is no position called Luhya kingpin.
There is nothing of the sort and I don’t intend to hold one. I have set my eyes on the presidency.