Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (left) clashes with Senator Boni Khalwale at a recent function. [Photo: File]
The contest for Kakamega governorship will test the strengths of two key parties in the opposition coalition as it pits the incumbent Wycliffe Oparanya against Senator Boni Khalwale.
Mr Oparanya is ODM deputy party leader and a close ally of party leader Raila Odinga while Dr Khalwale was named deputy party leader of Moses Wetangula‘s Ford Kenya.
ODM, Ford Kenya and Wiper are main parties in CORD but the expected formation of National Super Alliance (NASA) may yet spice the contest which is viewed as a two-horse race between Oparanya and Khalwale.
Oparanya, who was ranked most popular governor in western region at 71 per cent in a poll conducted by scientists from University of Nairobi, has vowed to shatter Khalwale‘s dream of making him a one-term governor.
Nonetheless, the combative senator has his eyes focused on the prize.
Oparanya has dismissed his competitors, including the outspoken Khalwale, as mere political greenhorns who stand no chance of dimming his chances of retaining the seat.
“I haven‘t seen any serious competitor among my competitors and it will be a smooth ride for me back into office,“ he said.
Buoyed by “impressive political and development track records“ since 2013, Oparanya is confident that voters will give him a second term in office to complete several projects he initiated.
Political analyst Martin Andati, however, believes Oparanya has not done very well in terms of equitable distribution of resources, governance and uniting the locals.
“Oparanya rode on ODM popularity. The ground has since shifted because the party has lost clout and the governor himself made a blunder by sidelining key members of his campaign team,” argues Andati.
According to him, the incumbent has a loose grip on several constituencies including Lugari, Likuyani, Malava and Lurambi and could face some resistance in Matungu, Khwisero, parts of Mumias and even his Butere backyard.
Nonetheless, he says lack of an alternative candidate as of now gives Oparanya an advantage.
“Khalwale has not been able to package himself as an alternative candidate,“ says Andati.
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The senator has been involved in a tussle with Oparanya who has accused Khalwale of lacking a development agenda and engaging in confrontational politics.
Speaking to The Standard on phone yesterday, Khalwale dismissed rumours doing rounds that he had pulled out of the race.
“It is only yesterday that I complied with all the requirements to prove to the world that I am indeed in the race. Rumours and claims of negotiated democracy emanating are false and could be coming from my panicking competitors,“ he said.
Even with the formation of NASA, Khalwale said no one in the united opposition front, including Oparanya, was guaranteed of direct nomination by their parties.
The senator said he will lay bare his arsenal and manifesto at the opportune time and vowed to give Oparanya a run for his money.
He has accused Oparanya of lacking transparency and accountability.
Others competing against Oparanya are former county executive for Social Services Major (rtd) Suleiman Sumba, former Butere MP Amukowa Anangwe, businesswoman Mabel Muruli and businessman Jose Konzolo among others.
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Andati said locals would have banked their hopes on Ms Muruli only for her to make a wrong political choice by joining Jubilee Party.
“She was being viewed as alternative candidate but she squandered the opportunity,“ he says.
According to him, Prof Anangwe candidature is compounded by confusion since his nomination as the Jubilee Party pointman in the area.
“Khalwale has a chance only if he moves with speed to repackage himself and start connecting with the electorate again. He is a crowd puller and might just pull a surprise,“ argues Andati.
The fact that both Oparanya and Khalwale are deputy party leaders of their respective political parties makes them favourites for the seat.
Both Khalwale and Oparanya have been criss-crossing the country to gauge the mood of the people and engage them about their plans and blueprints.
“I have nothing personal against Governor Oparanya but I have decided to challenge him for failing to be accountable to those who elected him into office,“ the senator told The Standard.
Oparanya has indicated that he is not afraid of facing Khalwale at the ballot since he is confident Kakamega residents would give him another chance to serve them.
“Unlike my competitor, I have no time for politicking in funerals and hurling insults at others,“ he says.
It is left to be seen how the contest will shape up barely six months to the August General Election.