Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has been warned to be wary of politicians within his party who have perfected the art of winning elective seats at his expense.
For almost two decades since Mr Musyoka broke away from former ruling party Kanu in the run-up to the 2002 elections, the political script in Ukambani has been the same – ganging up to whip the community into supporting one of their own.
Every election year, politicians from the region have been joining hands to drum up support for the Wiper leader as a presidential candidate in a bid to create a political wave within Ukambani that only guarantees them elective seats, but not Mr Musyoka.
In 2007, 2013, and 2017, they effectively rode on the Wiper political wave within Ukambani region to win ward and parliamentary seats, but left Mr Musyoka in the cold.
The script is being played again as various politicians including current and former MPs eyeing positions in the 2022 elections have embarked on a campaign to drum up support for Mr Musyoka’s party.
The defections to Wiper are fashioned as aimed at putting the Ukambani house in order in the spirit of the handshake and national reconciliation and have seen several politicians who ran and lost parliamentary seats on the Jubilee Party tickets confirming they have re-joined Wiper.
The Jubilee politicians including former MPs Philip Kaloki, Joe Mutambu, Kisoi Munyao, Kiema Kilonzo and who recently landed state appointments are among Mr Musyoka’s opponents who re-joined his party.
Prof Kaloki, who chairs the Kenya Medical Training College board, wants to succeed Prof Kivutha Kibwana as the governor of Makueni County while Mr Kilonzo, Kenya’s ambassador to Uganda, wants to run for the Kitui governor’s seat.
Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba, who won twice as an independent candidate, has also expressed interest to contest on Wiper party.
Critics are warning Mr Musyoka to be wary of his loyalists and the new Wiper political converts who are counting on his endorsement and standing in the community to get elected to county and national positions.
Leaders attending the burial of Mzee Mutuku Katila, the father of former Makueni County Assembly majority leader Francis Mutuku, told Mr Musyoka that his loyalists are responsible for his failure to build a formidable countrywide network of support.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s Chief of Staff Mwengi Mutuse dropped the bombshell when he warned that the Kamba community stands to lose if leaders focus in creating a political wave in the region that only serves their selfish interests at the ballot.
"You are being used to create a fake wave which does not take Kambas to the national table but hands seats to a few selfish politicians," he told Mr Musyoka who was among the mourners.
Mr Mutuse, who led Maendeleo Chap Chap campaigns in the just concluded Mutonguni ward by-election in Kitui County where Wiper candidate was beaten hands down, said Mr Musyoka’s enemies are within his party.
“When your party MPs campaign for you in a region of three counties where you’re well known to every household, aren’t they setting you up for failure?” Mr Mutuse asked adding "We in other parties are not your enemies, your enemies are with you in Wiper."
Mr Mutuse echoed Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, who recently told Mr Musyoka that he has been in the political cold because of entertaining fake loyalists.
“Your party MPs are only interested in clinging on your his coattails to secure their seats without thinking about what you become," Governor Ngilu said.
Almost a year after he declared he will work with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Musyoka is walking a tightrope following intense infighting between his traditional loyalists and a new team of supporters that is defecting from Jubilee.
The two teams are jostling for various elective positions across Ukambani come 2022 and are counting on Mr Musyoka's blessings.
But these political realignments that are intended to strengthen the Wiper party have triggered fresh internal wrangling with some MPs increasingly becoming jittery and out of favour with the new arrangement.
SCRAMBLE FOR SEATS
Fuelling the rift is the scramble for key county positions including the coveted governorship and senatorial seats which Mr Musyoka is using to entice politicians from other parties.
These fights are intense in Makueni and Machakos counties where Wiper insiders fear they could be big casualties if Mr Musyoka overlooks them in favour of the newcomers.
The entry of Mr Musimba, who is a front runner in the race to succeed Prof Kibwana in Makueni, has seen Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior openly threaten to quit, accusing the party of rewarding rebels.
The senator hoped that he would be the natural Wiper choice to contest the Makueni governorship but the political realignments have transformed him from a loyal party insider to a critic, recently taking on Mr Musyoka regarding the handshake deal.
Mr Munyao told the Nation that Mr Kilonzo has done little or nothing to shield the Wiper leader from attacks by Governor Kibwana in recent months and that he does not deserve the party’s ticket.
“His party loyalty has been questionable of late. His silence when Kalonzo is being bashed in his own county speaks volumes and he shouldn’t therefore cry foul when the party looks elsewhere,” said Mr Munyao.
In Machakos, several candidates including Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Ezekiel Mutua, former senator Johnstone Muthama and MPs Robert Mbui and Patrick Makau are jostling to succeed Governor Mutua.
Mr Muthama, the self-declared financier of the party who also fell out with Mr Musyoka alongside former party chairman David Musila, has also returned to the fold, hoping to fly the party’s flag in Machakos in 2022.
Wiper insiders say loyalty to the party will count more than anything else as Mr Musyoka seeks to avoid the recurrence of the current situation where none of the governors is allied to him.
In Kitui, Governor Ngilu of Narc party is navigating a delicate political relationship with Mr Musyoka as she seeks a second term, which may become untenable if Wiper fields a candidate against her.
Both Dr Mutua and Prof Kibwana are serving their second and final terms in office, and Wiper party is desperate to recapture the two counties.
Mr Musyoka has repeatedly said that his decision to embrace Prof Kibwana ahead of the 2017 elections where he was given a direct ticket to defend his gubernatorial seat is what cost him key allies who had stuck with him for many years.
He says the long-time confidants including Mr Musila felt legitimately aggrieved when they were subjected to party primaries when new comers like Prof Kibwana were favoured with free party tickets.
The 2017 blunders that split the party in the middle prompting Mr Musila to run as an independent candidate against the Wiper candidate in Kitui – former governor Julius Malombe who lost to Mrs Ngilu – are still haunting Mr Musyoka.
Soon after the elections, Prof Kibwana not only fell out with Mr Musyoka but teamed up with Mrs Ngilu and Dr Mutua to openly call for his retirement from politics.
The turn of events left Mr Musyoka largely exposed because in his Ukambani backyard where he draws most of his political support, the three counties are in the hands of governors openly opposed to his leadership and rooting for another political direction.
MUTUA FOR PRESIDENT
On the other hand, Dr Mutua has already declared he will be running for president in 2022 at the expiry of his second and final term as governor, putting him in direct competition with the Wiper party in the scramble for votes in the region.
Governor Mutua enjoys the benefit of incumbency in Machakos and good ties with Mrs Ngilu and Prof Kibwana which allows him to make inroads in the region as he rolls out his presidential bid.
The region has voted for Mr Musyoka as block in the past despite key seats going to some of his harshest critics.
But how he handles the competing political interests and realignments will determine not only his hold on the region but also his standing in national politics.