Luo Nyanza and South Nyanza unity appears to be steadily taking shape, with the former warming up to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, whose political ambitions are still a matter of speculation.
In the clearest indication that the Luo, Gusii and Kuria communities were forging a common political front, Dr Matiang’i said on Friday that he was happy about a united front moving in the same direction.
Signalling a clear and deliberate effort to amalgamate the Nyanza bargaining power on the political table, the CS said the Nyanza region had come together as a caucus, presenting an opportunity to push its development agenda.
“I thank leaders from this region and join the rest in thanking President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for bringing us together,” he said at Achego Girls' High School in Muhoroni, where he presided over a fundraiser.
“Nyanza people, for the first time, are planning things together and going in the same direction as led by Raila. Where he says we go, we shall go."
He added: “I am very happy and I honestly believe this is how God wants us to live. Let us continue living as a family and planning as a community. We don’t want to experience problems [faced] in the past [when we pulled in different directions] and looked like a confused people."
The minister's sentiments were on the backdrop of growing speculation that he could get a top government position come the 2022 General Election.
Governors James Ongwae (Kisii), John Nyagarama (Nyamira) and Senator Sam Ongeri (Kisii) have said in the past that it is time for a person from the community to lead the country, endorsing the CS for a top post.
Although the ''super CS'' has immense support in his Gusii backyard, where leaders have been consolidating their support, endorsing him as the kingpin and their best bet for 2022, Dr Matiang’i is yet to declare his political ambitions.
In addition, the Nyanza region has been fragmented politically.
While the Luo Nyanza region has been considered a bedrock of opposition politics for years, South Nyanza has been either inconsistent or missing from the region’s political equation.
The March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga appears to be reshaping the region's politics.
In the recent past, Dr Matiang’i has visited the region several times, hosting leaders at various functions and meeting a section of Luo Nyanza politicians to discuss development.
The meetings began soon after President Kenyatta toured the rehabilitated Kisumu port last year.
Sources who have attended the meetings say they discussed fast-tracking implementation of national government projects in the region.
One of the meetings that Cabinet Secretaries George Magoha (Education), Keriako Tobiko (Environment), Joe Mucheru (ICT) attended agreed on steps to expedite execution of these projects, key among them the port.
Other projects include development of a special economic zone in Kisumu, which is yet to kick off due to a land row, and road construction.
At the fundraiser, the CS gave Sh2 million from President Kenyatta, Sh1 million from Mr Odinga, and a personal contribution of Sh600,000.
“Greetings from Hon Raila Odinga ... he said I am his first born. I am following him very closely so that he shows me which way to go," he said.
Some of the Luo and South Nyanza MPs referred to Dr Matiang'i as Mr Odinga’s first born son and President Kenyatta’s second son after Raila.
The Luo Nyanza MPs said they were ready to throw their weight behind him.
Kisumu Woman Representative Rosa Buyu said: “My people, it is said that whoever gives to you is the one you give back to. If our son gives to us, should we give back to him or not? What Raila says is what we will do and if he says we give to him, we shall."
She told the CS: "Because you are a scratcher, whatever you want we will give to you, I don’t know what that is.”
Muhoroni MP James Onyango K’Oyoo said the region needed a political option.
“We must have a spare wheel so that we are not stranded when we suffer a puncture,” Mr K'Oyoo said.
He noted that with Governor Ongwae as Mr Odinga’s pointman in the Gusii region, the community largely voted for ODM in the 2017 General Election.
“Now we want to expand our brains ... we have the greater Nyanza, Raila and Matiang’i ... you must know they are both our sons. Raila is Uhuru’s first eldest son and Matiang’i is the younger son. When the first born son is away, it is the younger son who takes care of the homestead,” he said, citing the Building Bridges Initiative that resulted from the handshake.
Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, a close ally of Dr Matiang’i, said the region would remain united under the CS and the ODM leader.
“I assure you that Kisii is locked. Kisii Nyanza, Kuria Nyanza and Luo Nyanza will be one. We have closed that chapter. Let them come,” he said.
He added: "We thank Raila for considering Nyanza and realising we are one. We are going to remain one and deliver one thing. I am happy he said Matiang’i is his first born son,” he said.
Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga said Dr Matiang’i had been listening to the region's leaders and helping them.
“In the government we are in, the person we run to is Matiang’i. He is our brother; he holds our hands and shows us where to go and for what. He is our son. That is why we should stand with him,” she said.
Kisii Woman Representative Janet Ongera said the community was solidly behind Mr Odinga.
“Where he says we should go, we shall go," she said. Thank you, [Raila], for holding Matiang’i with your right hand. You have done a good thing because this is your first born son. We are completely in and the clouds are clear. Together with the President and Mr Odinga, we shall get to Canaan."
Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong’o noted that President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga were humble enough to set aside their differences for the sake of national unity.
“If there are reasons to support the BBI, this is one of them. Without the handshake the country would have been ripped apart,” he said.
Nyamira Senator Okong'o Omogeni said President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and Dr Matiang’i were driving the anti-corruption agenda in Kenya, while Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the handshake has been recognised across the world.
Others present at the fundraiser were Borabu MP Benson Momanyi, Tinderet's Julius Kibiwott Melly and Nyanza Regional Commissioner James Kianda.
The Nyanza unity message came out strongly during the BBI rally in Kisii County, which Mr Odinga attended alongside many regional and national leaders.
At the January 10 meeting, the first in the BBI national sensitisation series, Dr Matiang’i urged Nyanza leaders to stay united.