By Onyinkwa O via FB
Governor Oparanya pays his health workers in good time, takes the health docket seriously and is building a referral hospital. He has also done a fairly impressive network of tarmac roads within Kakamega town, and kept them clean and neat with only county government issued kiosks lining their sides. As well as putting up the biggest sports facility ever built by a County government in Kenya, in addition to a lot of other great stuff.
However ~ and quite ironically ~ what put him on the national map as the man that has radically transformed his County, and elevated his stature to a pedestal higher than that of his colleagues was a project that had little to nothing to do with his government. It is the World Bank funded transafrican highway that runs through several African Countries and several Kenyan Counties, and which is by far the biggest thing that ever happened to Kakamega.
It has had a much bigger political, economic and social impact on Kakamega, than Masinde Muliro University, Muliro Gardens and Mukombero put together! And it was an extremely ‘happy accident’ for Oparanya, that so many variables conspired on their own volition to ensure that everything fell into place so neatly, you’d think it was by a script he had written himself. There are a few, but just the 3 that are relevant to this post will suffice.
First, Kakamega is very photogenic. The topography of most of the County is just perfect for such a road. The flat terrain, the lush greenery, and gentle hills ensure that any pictures taken along its length make for amazing PR material. Secondly, the Kakamega section of the highway was completed towards the end of Oparanya’s first term, and start of his second term! “Tumpatie miaka ingine tano amalize projects zake ” quickly comes to mind. Thirdly, the highway cuts through the entire length of the County. That means that “Kazi ya Governor” is felt all over the County.
These are some of the factors that deny the Governors of the other Counties it runs through, the opportunity to ride on this road ~ both literally and figuratively ~ in their political journeys in the manner that Oparanya did. And boy, did he ride that wave! Which brings us to the reason why i have had to use a section of the highway that is 5 Counties and 150 kilometres away to illustrate a problem that is on the same highway, in Kisii County currently.
I am not certain about the arrangements that the national government has with the Chinese contractors in regard to the use of natural resources on their path in the construction of that road, but on the Kisumu to Kakamega highway, the Chinese drew water from rivers, excavated murram and rough stones from road reserves and so on unhindered, and without harassment from the Kisumu, Vihiga or Kakamega County governments.
It therefore shocked me numb to hear that a convoy of Kisii County vehicles laden with County askaris and officials had descended on the construction at Nyakoe just outside Kisii town and carted away road construction equipment and machinery because ~ wait for this ~ they had not paid the County officials for using water from a river belonging to the County government of Kisii! In retaliation, the company’s workers parked the remaining equipment across the road completely blocking the Kisii-Kisumu highway!
Had they been smarter and more strategic, they would ignore the ‘squirrel’ that is the unjustified ‘miserable peanuts’ they are trying to extract from the Company, and focused on the ‘Antelope’ that is the ‘legacy’ that would be attributed to Governor Ongwae ~ albeit erroneously like in Oparanya’s case ~ should the construction remain on schedule and get completed within his term in office. Their stomachs may not see that far ahead, but if they really understood how radically that road would transform our County and town, they’d suspend their insatiable greed just this one time.
As it is, this is the ‘biggest crumb’ of the national cake that has ever fallen off the ‘feeding trough’ on the table above, in the direction of Omogusii. That the greedy County government officials are so eagerly and energetically trying to crush it under their feet at a time when there are discussions about delayed and stalled projects, and their viability is what the Swahili call ‘kucheza na shillingi kwenye shimo la choo”.
They mustn’t forget that unlike Kisumu, Vihiga, Kakamega and other Counties where the road leisurely meanders through their entire lengths, in Kisii, the highway just gives our land an ‘Onyus’ because no sooner does it emerge from one Luo County ~ Homa Bay ~ than it bends right back again at the Kisumu-Kisii-Migori junction towards Luoland. They also mustn’t forget that all that ‘Mwanyagetinge nyakwerigeria’ ever asks for is ‘an enabling environment’ to thrive, and an international highway that connects him or her to an airport, a Lake, 15 Counties and 5 Countries in a matter of hours is the ‘most enabling environment’ we have ever seen since we left the Congo in ‘Nineteen Nyamioro’!