Which way Western? This should be the billion-shilling question uppermost on the lips of many, nay, natives of the vote-rich Luhya nation.
Against a backdrop of heightened political temperatures across the land, the region’s presumed torchbearers have been sending mixed signals, at times cagey on real prospects of bidding to succeed Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2022 political transition.
In the spotlight are Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, Mukhisa Kituyi of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and of course, Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli who are widely expected to help chart the succession path for the Luhya community.
Of the five, Atwoli who in 2017 bankrolled a number of Luhya MPs and was instrumental in financing and crowning of Mudavadi as the Luhya kingpin during Bukhungu one rally, seems to be fully and actively involved in Uhuru succession political warpath both in the region and nationally.
Atwoli has won on his side those opposed to William Ruto succeeding Uhuru and is on the forefront pushing for the change of the constitution via a referendum.
Whereas Atwoli has come up candidly to oppose Ruto’s presidential bid, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula have been playing it safe on matters relating to the referendum.
When Embrace Kenya, a women lobby group pushing for a referendum was in Kakamega, Atwoli was the host just like Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, the coast political kingpin hosted them recently.
Analysts in the region aver that in 2017, Musalia and Wetang’ula parties benefited in the Nasa coalition to win a number of seats in the region and with two camps emerging in Uhuru succession, they have to cast their political neys wider or they will be rendered irrelevant in the political dispensation. For now, those opposed to Ruto’s ascendancy to the presidency seem to have faith in Atwoli as a key player in Luhya nation compared to others.
With Bukhungu Two in the offing, it will be seen if Mudavadi will be crowned again as the Luhya kingpin as it happened in 2017 when Atwoli marshaled the entire community to rally behind Mudavadi.
Since 2017, Mudavadi, former deputy prime minister and one-time vice president is accused of failing to consolidate a united front in the jigsaw puzzle that is the succession matrix. His critics say that he plays spoon-fed type of politics and wait-and- see that has seen him lose in Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki succession.
Mudavadi cannot fight for himself and depends on friends who use his appealing name to bring him on board only to be flushed like a toilet paper after use.
That the Big Five have previously touted willingness to cast their lot with one of them based on better prospects of riding all the way to State House is an intention worth noting. This could not get any better with influential council of governors’ boss, Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya also declaring that he will shelve his presidential ambitions in support of a stronger option from the region.
However, Oparanya link to corruption and claims that he used county money to revive troubled Mumias Sugar to buy a hotel in Kisumu, build a residence in Likuyani and renovate his old Butere residence is haunting him badly.
A road contractor M-Big openly complains to have been blacklisted by Oparanya after he failed to part with millions kickbacks.
Instead, Oparanya has been cutting deals with Asians firms engaged in Bukhungu Stadium project.
But Mudavadi, much as he seems now to have rolled the sleeves ahead of the big battle, is being seen as a willing player in the game of neutrals, not ready to take the bull by its horns yet. With his foot soldiers beating the drums of war, Mudavadi has indicated he is not averse to a new political alliance, complicating his stakes even further.
ANC spokesman Barrack Muluka let the cat out of the bag when he asserted that Mudavadi would be partnering with Ruto to defeat a Raila-Uhuru BBI-led referendum ahead of 2022, and in readiness for 2022 itself.
By teaming up ‘to teach Raila a lesson’ Mudavadi and Ruto would ideally be aiming to take their marriage of convenience a notch higher – 2022 – cunningly partaking of the trappings of the BBI referendum to share power, for they already know they will lose the plebiscite, anyway. Remember Ruto’s ‘No’ to the 2010 plebiscite that ironically went ahead to make him DP?
Weekly Citizen last week reported that Mudavadi was mooting a partnership with Ruto, the very tormentor of yore. By siding with Ruto – especially in the potentially explosive BBI-led referendum – Mudavadi will have sought to wriggle out of ODM chief Raila Odinga’s grip. However, Mudavadi has categorically stated that “This is a big joke!”.
In simpler terms, he is divorcing Raila, himself a master tactician just to spite the Nasa leader. Perhaps as a maiden step, Mudavadi recently tapped Raila’s top aide, Eliud Owalo to his side.
The ANC boss would then go ahead to hand Owalo a direct ticket to do battle with the eventual ODM candidate in the November 7 Kibra by-election, in the race for the seat left vacant after the demise of ODM’s Ken Okoth who was felled by cancer.
The ‘jilted’ ANC brigade is out to teach Raila a lesson in the schismatic aftermath of the March 9 2018 handshake between Raila and Uhuru, a truce they argue has only benefited the former’s Nyanza support base.
Tellingly, the ANC MPs had hitherto sought Ruto’s support for their candidate in Kibra, perhaps buttressing the age-old adage; my enemy’s enemy is my friend. At this point in time, the free-falling Jubilee party was thought to be out of the Kibra mix, thanks to the politics of the handshake.
A precedent had earlier been set with Jubilee staying away from Embakasi South and Ugenya by-elections as a sign of the newfound comradeship with Raila’s ODM. This forced a characteristically dissenting Ruto to do what he does best – running against the grain.
Ruto, the de facto leader of the Tanga Tanga wing of Jubilee fancied sponsoring ODM’s opponents who went ahead to snatch victories from the Raila party’s jaws, a development largely attributable to ODM’s ill advised nomination tendencies.
As Mudavadi relishes the prospects of outsmarting Raila at his own game, critics opine that it is the ANC boss who needs Raila more – not vice versa. It is on record that Mudavadi bagged more seats in Western, trading as Amani in the 2017 polls, compared to 2013 when he tried to ring fence the region on the UDF platform when he ran for the top seat.
But what if – just what if – Raila doesn’t run? To pundits, the answer is simple: Mudavadi would be the biggest beneficiary if he brings on his side the other Luhya forces and stop playing Maragoli local politics that has seen the Banyore and Tiriki rebel in his own Vihiga county.
In Vihiga county 2017 polls, ANC won only Emuhaya seat outside Maragoli land via Omboko Milemba of Kuppet. Atwoli is said to have played a mojor role. Ford Kenya won Hamisi through Charles Gemose. Governor Wilbur Otichillo who Mudavadi Maragoli kinsmen openly attack in his presence is on ODM ticket just like Luanda MP Chris Omulele.
This is an eerie reminder of a Musalia who could possibly have ridden on Raila’s goodwill, then at the top level of the now moribund Nasa coalition. In retrospect, ANC’s outing in Musalia’s backyard of Vihiga, Kakamega and Busia counties was anything but an impressive show.
With a moneyed Ruto waiting in the wings to grab and make capital of inevitable Raila-Mudavadi fallout, pundits appear to have put MM – as Musalia is fondly referred to – on the red alert against the background of a wily Ruto at his cunning best.