How the Okondo-Osogo political stranglehold on Budalang’i was buried

Hon Raphael Wanjala MP

BUSIA COUNTY-BUDALANG’I CONSTITUENCY

James Osogo was ousted by his long term opponent for that seat, the late former minister and vocal Kanu operative Peter Okondo whom the country’s media came to dub as – “the man with a loose tongue” for his prolific propensity to deny statements he had publicly uttered

By The Weekly Vision Online

Busia County’s Budalangi constituency is historically known to have produced some of the country’s well known vocal and long-serving cabinet ministers since independence. A constituency with more politically aware and astute residents compared to six others in the county. This is home to the region’s first long-serving cabinet minister James Charles Nakhwanga Osogo who served in the late President Jomo Kenyatta’s cabinet and also as an assistant minister in the late retired former President Daniel Arap Moi cabinet.

He was ousted by his long term opponent for that seat the late former minister and vocal Kanu operative Peter Okondo whom the country’s media came to dub as – “the man with loose tongue” for his prolific propensity to deny statements he had publicly uttered. Later Osogo re-captured the seat after Okondo was forced to resign from his Labour ministerial post in the Moi cabinet that eventually consigned him to his political oblivion to his death. 

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The political battle between pro-Osogo or Okondo supporters persisted until when the current area legislator Raphael Wanjala contested and won the seat in the 1992 multi-party general elections on a Ford-Kenya ticket. Ironically he beat his mentor and political veteran for whom he had been part of as the lead campaign manager for years 

Since independence, the constituency’s politics had been jinxed by the domination of the two politicians dividing it squarely in the middle. The political battle between pro-Osogo or Okondo supporters persisted until when the current area legislator Raphael Wanjala contested and won the seat in the 1992 multi-party general elections on a Ford-Kenya ticket. Ironically he beat his mentor and political veteran for whom he had been part of as the lead campaign manager for years. 

The late James Osogo

Mr Osogo was for decades popularly known on the ground as “Orada” a euphemism for Lion and Habenga Okondo out of the constituency’s politics, a completely new political stage was set which saw Hon. Wanjala serve two terms before he was ousted by Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) candidate Ababu Namwamba in the 2007 general elections. Ironically these developments saw the domination of that constituency’s politics by the two politicians at the 2017 general electioneering which saw another yet flamboyant and equally vocal Namwamba bundled out of the seat by Wanjala in a triumphant come back.

Facts that emerged at the time clearly indicated that Namwamba had made perhaps the worst political blunder of his life by ditching ODM which had salvaged him from a political novice to become ODM national Secretary-General where he earned the name “Jenerali” to gravitate to Ruto’s segment of the Jubilee outfit – not knowing that the ground was fiercely pro-ODM.

Hon Ababu Namwamba

Though he tried to defend the seat on little known Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) at the last elections belonging to retired former Funyula legislator Prof. Julia Ojiambo and lost to Wanjala dismally. Sensing a golden opportunity to make a political comeback, Ford-Kenya’s Wanjala popularly locally known as Mbita, quickly defected from the party that had given him a political lifeline to ODM – a move that threw Ababu into political limbo as Wanjala roared back to the constituency’s political centre stage to be the current Member of Parliament.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Ababu Namwamba intends to gun for Busia County’s gubernatorial seat

This time around as the clock hurtles closer to the 2022 general elections the stakes have perhaps grown higher than ever before as Namwamba ponders to make a political comeback with his biggest headache being which political party to run on to regain the seat. That is considering the fact that comparatively, Namwamba is academically superior to Wanjala his rival being a highly trained and experienced lawyer, while Mbita can only claim his academic and professional prowess to having been an Un-Trained Primary School teacher by the time he won that seat from James Osogo and will be defending it on an ODM ticket.

However, there are also unconfirmed reports that Namwamba may be gunning for Busia County’s gubernatorial seat, but still, his choice of a political party will remain a major challenge as the move will propel Wanjala if he secures ODM nomination to have an upper hand.

It must not be forgotten that the constituency’s proximity to the neighbouring Siaya County in Luo Nyanza, notwithstanding deeply rooted inter-marriages between the Banyala and the Luo communities including the latter settling in Budalangi, has always had a powerful impact on the voting patterns in that constituency over the decades and the story is not likely to change any time soon.

The late Peter Okondo

The emerging interesting thing about the constituency’s politics is the fact that it is currently still dominated by Mbita and Jenerali personas with show very little personalities of influence erupting onto the scene to turn topsy-turvy its politics. As a matter of fact, to date, the only other personality from the constituency who has shown serious interest in battling it out with the two as witnessed at the last polling is the former Busia County Chief of Finance Officer in the county cabinet Leonard Obimbira who lost at the last polls.

This time around it is not clear whether Obimbira is going to take another stab at that constituency’s leadership and on what political party and what agenda he has for the constituency and its constituents to best the two. With this state of affairs still reigning high, there is a big threat of its politicking being rendered back to the old former perennial political domination of the constituency’s politics in a stranglehold that was once its supremos in the Okondo-Osogo political divide.

However, what is clear is the fact that with the long time yet to be consumed to the 2022 general electioneering, the possibilities are high of other combatants joining the bandwagon to try and fight out for their political fortunes in a free for all contest. What remains to be seen is who and what are their capacities especially financial and personality influence to have any power, and lasting influence in the constituency’s politicking come to the 2022 general electioneering process. It must also not be forgotten that Budalangi is a constituency with a wide range of socio-economic challenging issues that none of the previous or current elected leaders has ever been able to completely and effectively tackle to bring the desired changes that the voters are still indeed hungry for them to be addressed.

Though decades old floods menacing threats appear to have been silenced, it still is still a major constant threat to the constituents permanently at the mercy of mother nature dictating the terms either to unleash or not extra powerful floodwaters from the mouth of particularly river Nzoia to break its banks and even floor the floods preventive dykes. The other critical issues are freshwater supplies despite being next to the huge water mass of Lake Victoria, the ever-dwindling fish supplies, poor infrastructure in educational institutions and their standards, roads among many other challenges crowned by the constant Ugandan government security officials’ threats on Budalangi fishermen in Lake Victoria.

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