BY MAURICE SIMIYU NYARANGA
2017 polls closed, people have shifted their attention to the 2022 mathematics in terms of positioning for power. All eyes have been turned to Luhya leaders on how they will position themselves for their vote to matter and reward.
The political divide in preparation for 2022 appears to be already at play going by the recent ejection of Eugene Wamalwa and his Bukusu delegation from the annual Maragoli Cultural Festival that he has previously been welcomed to every year since the demise of former Vice President and his late brother Michael Kijana Wamalwa. The ejection of Wamalwa and the Bukusu delegation on the 26th Dec 2017 re-ignited the old Bukusu/Maragoli rivalry that previously defined Luhya politics. It is very likely that the Luhya politics of 2022 will significantly be determined by the antagonism between Maragoli led Musalia Mudavadi and the Bukusu led Eugene Wamalwa as the main protagonists.
Eugene Wamalwa appears keen on taking over from where his late brother left. It is imperative to note that by the time of his demise, former Vice President Kijana Wamalwa had successfully consolidated Luhyas to an extent of making Maragolis vote for NARC’s Mwai Kibaki. It was the first time Luhyas voted in the same basket. In promoting the legacy of his late brother, Eugene continued with his commitment of reaching out to other Luhya subtribes. The peak of this commitment emerged when he shelved his ambitions to support Musalia Mudavadi for Presidency in the 2013 general elections.
Musalia’s blind loyalty to ODM leader Raila has seriously compromised his own reputation among Luhyas.It is believed that COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli,-being a Raila sympathizer,has been sent by Raila to put Mudavadi’s political moves in check;-to ensure Mudavadi always plays a subordinate role to Raila. It is for the same reason that Atwoli was behind the mobilization of Luo hecklers to the Maragoli meeting to ensure no Bukusu leader was allowed into the annual Maragoli Cultural Festival. Atwoli’s plan is to alienate Mudavadi from all other Luhya subtribes so that he remains at the mercy of Raila in 2022 where he will have no choice than supporting another Raila attempt at Presidency. This heckling must have come as a blessing in disguise for Eugene Wamalwa who has an opportunity now to consolidate Bukusus and all other Luhya sub-tribes towards a more promising route to the country’s top leadership. That opportunity appears to have presented itself and it is upon Eugene to grab and run with it in the footsteps of his late brother Kijana Wamalwa. With time, Luhyas will easily establish that it will be much easier to gain power through Eugene Wamalwa as the deputy to William Ruto in 2022 than through Mudavadi as a hopeless presidential candidate whose chances of even getting one million votes are remote.
It is on record that in 2013, Mudavadi hardly managed a half a million of votes majority of which came from Bungoma and TransNzioa after the Eugene Wamalwa led New Ford Kenya party resolved to support Mudavadi in the spirit of Luhya unity. It is worthy to note that the inhabitants of Transnzioa and Bungoma are mainly Bukusus.
With the probable exit of Raila Odinga; Kalonzo Musyoka will also be battling to inherit his voting block with Musalia, Joho and James Orengo.
If Luhyas decide to have a presidential candidate, what are the possible sources of support? Musalia is only wishing for Raila’s block to turn in his favor which is almost impossible. Remember NASA existed as a coalition and not a party, should ODM pull out which is a major partner NASA remains with WIPER, FK and ANC as the possible members of the coalition if they choose to form one. Musalia will deputize Kalonzo Musyoka and vice versa which will be another recipe of failure.
On the other side, Jubilee is more likely to front William Ruto as her presidential candidate which is evident that they will. Kikuyus are already perceived as the very egocentric community politically, this notion need to be proved otherwise by them supporting Ruto without thinking of a number two rank again after Uhuru, that will be a political rotatory scheme of the kikuyu Kalenjin power sharing, something that will be rejected by all the other 41 ethnic groups (makondes) included. Ruto will do no such mistake. This favors Eugene Wamalwa as the most senior Luhya politician in Jubilee.
However, Eugene still needs to do a lot especially in consolidating his backyard to rally behind him. The priority is to register as many luhyas as possible to be voters in 2022. This will give him an upper hand because he will have numbers. Luhyas as the most populous community has less number of voters compared to Luos and even Kambas. Capitalizing on the loss by NASA; Eugene should work around the clock to convince the rest of the country that indeed Luhyas have something substantial on his political table.
Currently, Luhyas are not politically locked for any political leader after the exit of Raila. The community will ‘consume’ what will seem to be comforting politically as they are thirsty for power. With Eugene gaining favors from Luhya leaders affiliated to Jubilee, Jubilee as a party and the masses from western region, it is very much likely that he is well positioned to be second most powerful in jubilee and hence take the running mate position.
Currently, after Kalenjin and kikuyus, Luhyas are ranked third in terms of ethnic groups supporting Jubilee. Basing on the 2013 and 2017 Jubilee numbers in Luhyaland, there is a high probability that by 2022 these numbers would have grown significantly. With his charisma, his understanding of his political cards, humility and the heritage of his late brother put Eugene as the surest bet to take the Luhya nation to the top leadership of the country.
The writer is a Political Analyst