- The race will also be a litmus test for Oparanya who was installed by the Luhyas Elders Forum as the community spokesperson during the Azimio rally at Bukhungu stadium, purportedly replacing Mudavadi who was installed as Luhya spokesman on December 31, 2016 by the Western Elder’s Council chaired by Former minister Philip Masinde.
Kakamega is among the most populous counties with two million people covering 3,050 square kilometres.
It borders Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Vihiga, Siaya, Busia and Bungoma counties.
There are 800,000 registered voters with the presence of almost all the 18 Luhya sub-dialects and other tribes, which gives the county the face of Kenya.
The county is the largest in the former Western province with 12 constituencies and 60 electoral wards. Kakamega town served as the provincial headquarters for the former Western province since 1920.
The county has been divided, for ease of administration into three regions; Southern comprising Mumias East (Abakolwe and Abawanga), Mumias West (Abawanga), Matungu (Abawanga and Abatura), Butere (Abamarama) and Khwisero (Abashisa), Northern which has Malava (Kabaras, Abatachoni and Abanyala ba Ndombi), Lugari (Abalogoli, Abanyole, Ababukusu and Kabaras) and Likuyani (Ababukusu, Abalogoli) and Central with Lurambi (Abatsotso), Navakholo (Abanyala ba Ndombi), Ikolomani (Abidakho) and Shinyalu (Abisukha).
Governor Wycliffe Oparanya is serving his second and final term in office, having been elected first governor of Kakamega on an ODM ticket in 2013 and reelected in 2017. Kakamega politics is informed by the various sub-dialects.
Control of Kakamega, the cradle of Western politics, is significant for political figures eyeing national leadership and this leads to hotly contested elections.
As the race to succeed Oparanya shapes up, in the run up to the August 9, general election a number of factors will come into play.
This includes ethnic arithmetic, regional balance (central, northern and southern), party influence, financial muscle, political alignments at the national level, party’s presidential candidates and personal records of candidates will all inform voting patterns.
Kakamega being an agriculture-driven economy with collapsing sugar industry, candidates’ blueprint on how they purpose to address challenges in the agriculture sector will give them credit.
The race has so far attracted eleven hopefuls seeking to vie on various political party tickets in what promises to be a cut throat contest.
Those angling to replace Oparanya include his deputy Philip Kutima, Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito and Ketraco managing director Fernandez Barasa who will be seeking to be cleared by the ODM party for the race.
Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala, founder/managing director of Metropol Corporation that introduced credit rating in Kenya and Uganda Samuel Omukoko and former medical services minister Prof Amukowa Anangwe will square it out for the ANC ticket.
Former senator Dr Boni Khalwale will run on a UDA ticket while Suleiman Sumba will contest on Kanu ticket. Kakamega county assembly Clerk Laban Atemba and lawyer Leonard Shimaka are yet to name their party.
It remains unclear which party, Lugari MP Ayub Savula who has decamped from the One Kenya Alliance to ODM leader Raila Odinga led Azimio la Umoja but insists he is still in ANC, will be running for the seat.
Oparanya has stated several times that he will support his deputy, the latest declaration, being on December 30 at a meeting with a group of elders from Kutima’s Kabras community to assure them that he will stand by their son who has deputised him twice.
However, there are reports that Oparanya’s declarations could just be deception aimed at slowing down Kutima and that his preferred candidate is Barasa who comes from the Southern region and is being popularised by county first lady Priscilla.
Of the aspiring candidates, Barasa, Omukoko, Anangwe and Atemba hails from the southern region where the incumbent come from while Kutima, Savula, and Shimaka are from the northern region. Khalwale, Kizito and Malala comes from the central region.
There are fears by some elected leaders that Oparanya could be plotting “to succeed himself” by fronting Barasa.
Consequently, aspirants from the central and northern regions insist it’s their turn to lead since the southern has had its chance for 10 years through Oparanya.
Despite the heavy CVs being paraded by the aspirants, several dynamics will shape the race, Kakamega being the epicenter of Western politics.
Raila, Deputy President William Ruto and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi will weigh in.
While Mudavadi will be seeking to assert himself as undisputed Luhyas political supremo, Raila will be out to reclaim support in a region that has traditionally supported him. DP Ruto on the other hand will be keen to find a foothold in Luhya land.
Pundits say the contest may be a three-horse race pitting ANC, ODM and UDA as realignments take shape.
Should Mudavadi be on the ballot as either a compromise candidate for any of the formations or for his ANC party, the aspirants leaning towards him could have an edge in the race.
Whether the former vice president will be on the ballot as a coalition candidate or his ANC party will be determined by the stability of the fledgling OKA that brings together his ANC, Ford Kenya, Wiper and Kanu.
The race will also be a litmus test for Oparanya who was installed by the Luhyas Elders Forum as the community spokesperson during the Azimio rally at Bukhungu stadium, purportedly replacing Mudavadi who was installed as Luhya spokesman on December 31, 2016 by the Western Elder’s Council chaired by Former minister Philip Masinde.
It is hoped that Oparanya will be banking on his enviable development track record to propel his preferred candidate to power.
Political commentator Martin Andati says the political parties and individual strength of candidates will have a bearing on the outcome of the race.
Also Read: Senatorial race in Kakamega County
“Regional issues will be the elephant in the room. You will see arrangements meant to lock certain candidates in certain regions because people from specific regions will want to support candidates from the same regions,” he said.
Andati said candidates associated with ANC and Ford Kenya will have an advantage.
Analyst Martin Oloo said there’s going to be a debate when Oparanya leaves office as to whether what the county needs is a politician or a technocrat.
“The urge by the voters for continuity of development started by Oparanya will inform the conversation about his succession,” he said.
- Prof Philip Museve Kutima: Kutima is a professor of Microbiology from the University of North Carolina in the US. He ran unsuccessfully for the Malava parliamentary seat. Before Oparanya picked him as a running mate, he was lecturing at JKUAT. He is the ODM chairman for Kakamega county.
- Dr Boni Khalwale (The Bullfighter): The University of Nairobi-trained medical doctor worked in government before moving to private practice until 2002. He was then elected Ikolomani MP on the Ford Kenya ticket under the Narc coalition. In 2013, he was elected the first Kakamega senator. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2017. He is now the interim deputy party leader of the United Democratic Alliance, which is associated with DP William Ruto.
- Ayub Angatia Savula: He worked as a journalist with the Standard Group and is also a businessman. He was elected Lugari MP on the UDF ticket in 2013 and re-elected on the ANC ticket in 2017. He holds a Bachelor’s of Communication from Moi University and he is pursuing a PhD in Communication from the same institution.
- Justus Kizito: He worked as a lecturer at Catholic University, Senior lecturer and director of performing and creative Arts at Kaimosi Teachers Training College. He is Aquinas Primary Teachers Training Colleges CEO. He is Shinyalu MP on an ODM ticket. Kizito holds a bachelor of education (Languages) from Egerton University and a master of education degree education, administration and financial management from Kenyatta University. Chairman parliamentary broadcasting and library committee of the national assembly and ODM Western region co-ordinating executive committee chair.
- Prof Amukowa Anagwe: He has worked as a district Officer, lecturer, senior lecturer, administration and management at the Kenya Institute of Administration; lecturer and senior lecturer, University of Nairobi; MP Butere and Cabinet Minister Cooperative Development, Development Coordination, and Health portfolios. He is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, he holds a masters in public policy and administration from the Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University-Rotterdam, The Netherlands and PhD in political science from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
- Cleophas Malala: He is a thespian and was Mahiakalo MCA from 2013 to 2017. He is the current Kakamega senator. He holds degree from the United States International University but in an unspecified field. He also holds a diploma in TV and Film production from the East African School of Media.
- Samuel Omukoko: He is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi, where he attained Bachelor’s and Masters degrees. He is an accountant and the founder/ managing director of Metropol Corporation that introduced credit rating in Kenya and Uganda. He formerly worked in the Ministry of Agriculture as a research assistant and the Kenya Commercial Bank as a senior manager.
- Laban Atemba: An alumnus of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, he holds a Bachelor’s of Business Management degree. He is currently the finance director and clerk to the Kakamega county assembly. He initially worked for the old Butere/Mumias County Council, the Kakamega Municipal Council and Mt Elgon County Council as a revenue officer, deputy treasurer and treasurer, respectively.
- Fernandez Barasa: He is the Ketraco Chief Executive officer. He is an accountant by professional and holds a Masters in Finance from the University of Nairobi.