Wetang'ula lacks political weight and gravitas

Thursday March 9 2017

Moses Wetang'ula at the Okoa Kenya movement's office in Nairobi after signing the National Super Alliance's coalition agreement on February 22, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Moses Wetang'ula at the Okoa Kenya movement's office in Nairobi after signing the National Super Alliance's coalition agreement on February 22, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BARRACK MULUKA
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Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is a brilliant and courageous lawyer. He has had an enviably colourful tour of duty. Yet his rich resume has not helped him to cultivate good human relations, an invaluable asset for those who cast their sights high in politics.

His blustery temperament and political thin skin is the biggest setback to his presidential dreams. This comportment has worked to whittle down the strong Ford-Kenya that he inherited from former Vice-President Michael Wamalwa. He can be quick to anger and slow to appease. That was how he acrimoniously forced political stalwarts such as former MPs Musikari Kombo and Mukhisa Kituyi from the party.

Wetang’ula has also failed to cultivate a massive constituency in his western Kenya home front, which would give him firm anchorage in national politics. In 2013, Ford-K lost in his Sirisia home constituency to Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) John Waluke.

To his credit, Wetang’ula forced his presence onto the national consciousness largely out of his own initiative. He rose to national fame when he became the first lawyer to gain an acquittal for his clients before Courts Martial that tried Kenya Air Force soldiers implicated in a failed coup against President Daniel arap Moi in 1982.

The very taking up of this challenge was a huge act of courage. The Nyayo regime was in its element, detaining without trial any lawyer who dared to represent individuals seen to be against the Establishment. Such was the fate that befell John Khaminwa when he went to court to apply for a habeas corpus on behalf of the family of his client detained for turning down a presidential appointment.

MWAI KIBAKI

Wetang’ula would serve as a nominated MP (1992-1997), Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and in a variety of Cabinet portfolios under President Mwai Kibaki. He was the chairman of the Electricity Regulatory Board and served as a magistrate before going into private practice.

He was in the team that brokered the post-election violence deal between President Kibaki’s PNU and Raila Odinga’s ODM, while on the PNU side.

Wetang’ula’s rich history makes him eminently qualified for Office of President of Kenya. Yet he lacks the necessary political weight and gravitas. He has failed to energise even the once-strident Bungoma Professionals Association. His loss of touch with this club and his confrontation with its leaders has worked against him.

Wetang’ula has not cultivated a following within the Luhya community. His presidential ambition is in the throes of a very hard start. When he attempted to kick it into motion in Kakamega late last year, he ran into tempestuous headwinds. Besides unnecessarily taking on the influential Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, he has incurred the Luhya people’s wrath for rubbishing the crowning of Musalia Mudavadi as their spokesman and only reluctantly embracing Nasa.

A hard sale, hence a poor presidential choice for Nasa, Wetang’ula should halt his presidential dreams and nurture winning partnerships for the future