WYCLIFFE OPARANYA: THE NEW BLUE-EYED BOY OF KENYAN POLITICS

By Antony Oyugi

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya is turning out to be the new political darling both in Western Kenya and nationally. The second term Governor who is also one of the ODM Deputy Party Leaders has his political star doing just one thing…. shining. Not only is he sitting at the political high table but is also steadily gaining influence as a decision maker on national matters.

Governor Oparanya, an accomplished accountant, walked onto the political stage as Butere MP in 2002. He was appointed Minister for National Planning and Vision 2030 under the coalition government formed after the 2007 elections and quickly cut his teeth as a competent Minister and Raila Odinga loyalist. Not many knew him before then and it was therefore a surprise that a ‘newcomer’ would be appointed to head such a lucrative ministry. Upon the promulgation of the new Constitution Governor Oparanya vied to be Kakamega Governor and won. He has subsequently retained this position and went further to be Chairman of the Council of Governors which demonstrated his popularity and influence amongst his peer Governors

What makes him tick?

At a time when the Mulembe nation has politicians with all hues and political loyalties and some with vast experience, it’s interesting that a man who has been in the political scene for slightly over 14 years can eclipse them. The Mulembe nation boasts of being the home of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya boss Moses Wetangula, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, CAS Ababu Namwamba etc. Save for the last one, Oparanya found the others on the political scene. How come he is overshadowing them? One thing that seems to be working in his favor is his calm and sober mien. This endears him to many people who don’t like confrontational politics. His development record both as MP and Governor is also lauded in many quarters. Some also claim that he’s a master strategist who plays his cards close to his chest. All these attributes seem to be working in his favor at the moment.

Can he deliver the Luhya vote?

This question is out there with no clear answer going by the unpredictable nature of Luhya politics. As is widely acknowledged, Luhyas tend to resort to their sub tribe cocoons when it comes to voting and political support. Being a Khisa, it is therefore rather complicated for Governor Oparanya to marshall the entire Luhya block. Khisas lack the numbers to march the Maragolis or Bukusus. Governor Oparanya would therefore need to work extra hard to get the Luhya vote into one basket. It’s also whispered on the village paths that he’s a Raila puppet and can’t hold his own. This argument ignores the fact that he is contesting against Raila for the ODM presidential ticket. Most of those who propagate this puppet narrative view his Presidential bid especially at ODM level as a charade. As to what the future holds for him politically, time will tell.

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