Eliud Owalo: From Raila close aide to serving in Ruto’s Cabinet
Before the 2013 presidential election when he first featured in the political scene as then Cord presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s chief campaigner, little was known of Eliud Owalo.
The tall, outspoken and to some, overbearing son of a founder of one of the indigenous churches in Nyanza, oversaw a fairly competitive presidential election that saw Raila, a veteran opposition leader finish a close second to the eventual winner Uhuru Kenyatta, a result he unsuccessfully contested at the Supreme Court
Owalo would later fall out with Raila and ODM hierarchy and retreat to private practice, making brief appearances on the political scene.
Nine years later, Owalo, the son of Archbishop emeritus of Nomiya Church, the late Gideon Charles Owalo, is on the brink of becoming the new ICT Cabinet Secretary, a meteoric rise by Kenyan, and possibly, African standards.
Unlike many of his contemporaries in the pioneer church movement in Kenya, the late Owalo was one of the pioneer students at both Maseno School and Makerere University, after which he became a high school teacher of mathematics and agriculture for many years.
Some of his well-known students include Raila whom he taught at Maranda High School, the late National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joab Omino whom he taught at Maseno School and Nyamira Deputy Governor James Gesami whom he taught at Kisii School.
His other students are former assistant minister the late Orwa Ojode, High Court Judge Nicholas Ombija and Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga. He died aged 91 in February 2015. After falling out with the ODM leadership, Owalo maintained a low profile, and only emerged in the run-up to the Kibra by-election following the death of then MP Ken Okoth when he unsuccessfully vied for the seat on an Amani National Congress (ANC) party ticket, only to lose to after ODM’s Imran Okoth.
Owalo later quit ANC in the run-up to the last General Election and threw his weight behind President William Ruto and his United Democratic Alliance party, almost single-handedly spearheading the former Deputy President’s campaign in the Nyanza region.
It was, therefore, little surprise when Owalo, an Economist, Management Consultant and Strategy Expert was unveiled ass Ruto’s nominee for the Information, Communication and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary.
Owalo took to social media to express his gratitude to the President for his nomination. He said his appointment served as an opportunity to serve the country and to help the President to deliver on his manifesto.
“ I take this early opportunity to sincerely thank H.E. the President and Commander in Chief of the Defense Forces of the Republic of Kenya, Dr William Samoei Ruto for having nominated me to serve Kenyans as the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and the Digital Economy, he said in a statement sent to newsrooms.
Owalo further acknowledged the President for entrusting him to steer the Ministry of ICT.
“I express my gratitude to the President for the confidence that he has shown in me by assigning me to steer and transform this pivotal sector that is critical for the development of our economy,” he said.
He added: “This is an opportunity for me to serve my country and to help the President deliver on the promises that we made to Kenyans.”
He noted that there is no greater honour than to serve one’s country while promising to be responsive to the needs of Kenyans and to serve selflessly with diligence and efficiency.
“I thank the almighty God for giving me this opportunity to serve my countrymen and women as by serving God’s people, you serve God, “ he quipped.
Owalo joins a long list of sons of Rarieda in Siaya county who have for years challenged Raila’s political supremacy in the greater Nyanza.
They include independence-era politician and a member of the Kapenguria Six, Ramogi Achieng Oneko who, alongside other than Ford Kenya MPs including James Orengo, Dennis Akumu and Prof Ouma Muga, refused to join the National Development (NDP), a party Raila formed after bolting out of Ford Kenya challenging the then leadership of Wamalwa Kijana.
Raila would however have the last laugh after all the “rebels” save for Orengo were swept by the NDP wave in Nyanza in the 1997 General Election.
Raila’s leadership also faced a rebellion from another son of Rarieda, Raphael Tuju, who after riding on the former’s popularity to clinch the parliamentary seat on a Narc ticket in 2002, broke ranks and sided with then President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity