The scramble for the Western Province vote has taken a new twist as Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi moves to consolidate the Luhya vote.
Mr Mudavadi last week announced he was quitting ODM and on Saturday he said he would announce his new party next week.
“I will be in the presidential race. I need your support and prayers so that the party I will be unveiling next week can enjoy support and eventually form the next government,” he said at national women’s conference at the Pentecostal Assembly of God Church headquarters in Nyangori, Vihiga County.
But Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa too is counting on the Luhya community for support in his presidential bid.
With this new development, opinion is divided on the political implications of Mr Mudavadi’s exit from the Orange party.
Masinde Muliro University lecturer Prof Egara Kabaji says the DPM risks denting his image as a national leader and thus hurt his presidential campaign if he positions himself as a tribal chief.
Prof Kabaji said Mr Mudavadi’s campaign to unite the Luhya community would fail. “Leaders from Western have learnt to follow the people.
“The (Luhya) people don’t follow their leaders, and that is why attempts by Mudavadi to galvanise a tribal constituency like what Uhuru and Ruto have done with their communities will fail,” he said.
Fight against impunity
“The community supported Narc and later ODM ideas because they were attractive to them.
“That is why Raila will still have votes from the area even without Musalia because the ODM idea of change and fight against impunity is still in the hearts of many,” he said. Prof Kabaji sees a Wamalwa candidature as inconsequential.
“Wamalwa is a creation of the G7 alliance. He has however failed to capture the hearts of residents of the area and that is why Housing minister Soita Shitanda and Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale have abandoned him and instead embraced Mudavadi, whom they want to cling on to for political survival,” he told the Sunday Nation.
Mr Wamalwa has consistently said he will be on the ballot and that the DPM should not expect him to step down for him. Mr Wamalwa wants to run on a New Ford Kenya ticket.
Former nominated MP Mark Too has thrown his weight behind Mr Mudavadi and is urging the Luhya community to support him. Mr Too was in Kakamega last week when the DPM announced that he would leave ODM.
“Eugene should give Mudavadi an opportunity so that the Luhya community does not go to the elections divided,” Mr Too advised.
Dr Martin Mulwale, a lecturer at Maseno University, said Mr Mudavadi’s delay in naming his new party has created the notion of an indecisive leader. Dr Mulwale added that the DPM had failed to unite the Luhya.
“Immediately after he met MPs from the region, a group of legislators broke ranks with him and declared they would stick with ODM,” he observed.
Some ODM MPs from Western Province have announced they would stick with the party. “We urge our brother Mudavadi to remain steadfast in ODM, of which he is deputy party leader.
“We have no doubt whatsoever that he has a bright political future, which would be best realised within ODM,” said Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya.
Another MP who is against Mr Mudavadi’s departure is ODM Parliamentary Group secretary and Budalang’i MP, Ababu Namwamba.
“We believe that the DPM has a clear future in ODM,” Mr Namwamba said.
But former Trade minister Mukhisa Kituyi, who is a Mudavadi ally, said all Luhya MPs in ODM should decamp with Mr Mudavadi, since they joined the party on the basis that he was their leader.
“Mudavadi is our point man as a community in ODM so no leader from Western has any business sticking in that party with his exit,” Dr Kituyi said.
Bungoma county council chairman Meshack Museveni, who is a confidant of Trade minister Moses Wetang’ula, said Ford-Kenya party stands for Luhya unity and the party had opted to stand with Mr Mudavadi “who is pursuing the same cause”.
“We may give him our support if he identifies a party like ours with a national outlook to work with,” Mr Museveni said.