Dr. William Samoei Ruto eventually succeeded Uhuru Kenyatta and has been sworn in as the fifth president of the Republic of Kenya after he beat his closest rival Raila Odinga in the August polls.
This, is, of course, not-so-good news for Raila Odinga’s supporters who had hoped that Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya coalition was going to win the August 9 elections and form the government.
Notably, Raila, who was widely known as Baba during the 2022 elections' campaigns, was trying out his luck for the fifth time since 1997 when he first ran and lost to the late retired president Daniel Moi.
With massive support from majorly his kinsmen, the Luo, Raila became a strong opposition leader after the 1997 general elections.
He singlehandedly fought for the oppressed and put the government of the day in check.
But first thing first. Who are Raila’s supporters? Raila’s supporters are the people who believe in his ideologies and have always religiously supported him in his political journey.
The Babamen are all over the country and, going by the voting patterns, are generally natives of the Western region, Lower Eastern (Ukambani), the Coast, and Nyanza regions.
Luo Nyanza, being his home turf, is the root of Babamen. People there cherish him. They adore him. They regard him so highly. He means everything to them.
667,886 of Babamen voted for him, under the National Development Party (NDP), to finish third in 1997 when Moi won the presidency with 2,500,865 votes.
4,352,993 voted for him, under Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party to finish second behind Mwai Kibaki who garnered 4,584,721 (46.42% of total votes) in 2007. Raila had 44.07% of the total votes in an election that was highly disputed as Kibaki was accused of rigging.
In 2013, Raila garnered 5,340,546 but lost to Uhuru Kenyatta who had 6,173,433 in yet another disputed poll before he got 6,762,224 votes against Uhuru’s 8,203,290 in 2017.
He successfully challenged Uhuru’s win at the Supreme Court but never took part in that year's repeat polls.
Thus far, after every election, Babamen have always re-energized and kept the government of the day in check. They have actually helped Raila fight for the rights of the people at large and seen tremendous social, economic, and constitutional development in the country.
The country’s constitution, democracy, and justice systems, for instance, have greatly developed thanks to his efforts.
In fact, he is, arguably, the father of devolution in the country.
And I bet it’s not easy to keep the government of the day in check. You got to give it to Raila's supporters for their loyalty, stand, demeanour, knowledge of rights, and the urge to speak up. They are not cowards.
It might interest you that Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga also served as the country’s first opposition leader starting in 1966.
Jaramogi’s fallout with the late president Jomo Kenyatta entrenched ethnic divisions along party lines with the Kikuyu majority behind KANU and Luo behind Kenya People’s Union (KPU) in 1966. While in the opposition and regardless of the political situation, they were fighting for the rights of the downtrodden.
A by-election was held that year after a constitutional amendment to allow the breakaway KPU to stand for elections.
KPU won the majority of votes but KANU won the majority of seats. The Senate which had been in existence since pre-independence was abolished subsequently and the House of Representatives transformed into the National Assembly.
Henceforth, Jaramogi led the opposition but his dream to assent to power was cut short when Kenya was transformed into a one-party state in 1969 and KPU was banned leaving KANU as the only party that won all seats in 1969, 1974, 1979, 1983, and 1988 elections led by Kenyatta.
In 1992, President Moi restored multiple party politics after democratic pluralism swept through Africa. He won that year’s elections and went ahead to beat Jaramogi’s son Raila in 1997.
Raila supported Mwai Kibaki to beat Uhuru Kenyatta in 2002 until they fell out after the polls to drift back to the opposition position, all the way to 2007.
Kibaki won in 2007 in an election that saw some 1,300 people killed and more than 600,000 displaced after violence that saw Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2011 for incitement of the ethnic violence against Odinga’s supporters.
The charges were dropped against Kenyatta in December 2014 and against Ruto in April 2016 due to a lack of evidence.
The post-election violence brought forth the 2008 National Accord and Reconciliation Act which made Odinga the first Prime Minister since 1964, and Uhuru his deputy.
Elections were held in 2013 under the new constitution in 2010 that was approved after a referendum and Uhuru Kenyatta defeated Raila Odinga, whose party won the most seats in the National Assembly.
By default, Raila acted as the defacto Opposition leader to 2017 when he, under NASA, successfully challenged his loss to Uhuru and Ruto at the Supreme Court before he failed to take part in the repeat polls.
He continued serving as the defacto opposition leader till 2022 when he lost elections to William Ruto even after challenging the victory at the Supreme Court.
But Raila's supporters must thank him for championing the 2010 constitution and bringing the devolution.
Luo Nyanza region, for example, now has four counties with fully-fledged independent governments including Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, and Migori. Kisii and Nyamira are also notable counties where people strongly believe in Baba and his politics.
It’s high time Baba diehards shifted focus to the counties, and put their governors in check to develop the region.
They now have to stand taller above their adorable and often stereotyped pride to keep off national politics and focus on what matters. What puts food on their tables and what leads to the development of their counties.
They should not bother much about what looting is taking place at which parastatal or what prices of which commodities are skyrocketing at the national level. Or even what national government projects have stalled. Or what promises have not been fulfilled by the government.
Furthermore, according to the 2010 constitution, there’s no Official Opposition position, so leading such a faction is not good. In fact, this is the right time for Raila to honourably retire from politics since he has delivered a lot to the country.
In case of extreme need to keep the government in check, some days, he should pass the baton to his loyalist and Wiper party leader Stephen Kalonzo Musyioka.
Let them leave everything national to the national government to handle at its own pace.
Nyanza has several projects that can transform the region’s economy if handled properly by counties, without relying on the national government.
In a region where key sectors have been struggling on their deathbed, there is hope as new governors take office with ambitious manifestos to transform the sectors.
Most of the projects fall under the devolved sectors and under the discretion of the county governments.
The projects include the sugar industry which falls under the agriculture sector but has been struggling as a result of bad farming and marketing practices.
The region is one of the main areas that produce sugarcane in the country and boasts of a number of private sugar factories as well as State-owned factories.
Kisumu has vast lands under sugarcane produce that ought to have employed thousands of farmers.
Another project that can put Nyanza on a positive economic path is rice farming which also ought to have employed thousands of locals despite the challenges farmers have been facing.
It is no doubt that rice farming can do well for the entire Kisumu County if the county government chips in.
In Siaya, for instance, the focus should be on the fishing industry, cotton production, and the revival of Dominion farms.
Areas such as Bondo and Rarieda are on the Lake Victoria front hence the high potential for tourism.
In agriculture, Siaya county is a food deficit area that relies on imports from the neighbouring counties yet it has Gem, Ugenya and Alego/Usonga sub-Counties which enjoy a good climate that is favourable for agricultural activities.
The county has the potential to produce cotton, coffee, sugarcane, and other crops as cash crops.
In the past years, Siaya’s Dominion farm which is in the vast Yala swamp was producing tons of rice that were serving markets in Siaya and Country-wide but political instability jeopardized the lucrative venture. This is the time to put things in order.
The exit of the American investor Calvin Burgess ruined the rice-growing venture in the Yala swamp, and it’s an area that can be looked into to ensure rice is properly grown as a cash crop.
Then there’s a tourist attraction here. Tourists visiting the neighbouring Ndere Island National Park extend their visit to Nyang’oma K’Ogelo to visit the ancestral home of US president Barrack Obama’s father. Are you seeing what I’m seeing Governor James Aggrey Bob Orengo?
Interestingly, Siaya has 82 beaches including Mahanga, Ugambe, Oyele, Nyaudenge, Utonga, Waria, Nyenye, Uhanya, Mageta, and Sirongo.
Others are Riskis, Usenge, Mageta, Sika, Mtundu, Lwanda Kotieno, Liunda, Uhuaya, Honge, Osieko, Oyele, Wich Lum, Uasi, Liunda, Oyamo, Ndeda, Kalandini, Kamariga among others.
Homa Bay owns the largest percentage of Lake Victoria in Africa but has zero fish processing firms.
Lambwe, Rangwe, and Karachuonyo in Homabay have the best soil for cotton farming while Ndhiwa constituency produces the largest quantity of Sugarcane in the area. These are the areas to focus on for proper regional development.
Nyamira and Kisii counties sit on extremely fertile land for tea, coffee, maize, beans, sweet potatoes, and sugarcane among other agricultural produce. This is the time for the respective county governments to get down to work for regional development.
The writer is Digital Editorial Content Team Lead at Mediamax Network Limited.