The clamour for a merger between Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya parties was mooted to unify the vote-rich western region and have the Luhya vote in one basket.
This, according to leaders in the parties led by Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, was meant to lock up the votes in a bid to have a better bargaining power in future elections.
The continued influence of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga and the fight by Deputy President William Ruto to make inroads in the vote-rich region has continued to divide local leaders ahead of the 2022 General Election.
Mr Odinga has on several occasions stated that he was the 13th grand child of Nabongo-Mumia, the revered Wanga king, and called on the regional leaders not to leave him out of the negotiations.
His continued influence in the region that has voted for him massively in the past three elections (2007, 2013 and 2017) has stood out to be a major threat to the ANC-Ford Kenya merger.
A group of young leaders, among them ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna, Senate deputy minority leader and Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, embattled nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi and Vihiga Senator George Khaniri have come out strongly in support of Mr Odinga.
Mr Malala and Mr Osotsi told the Nation in an interview that they were being persecuted by ANC because of their close association with ODM and Mr Odinga.
Mr Sifuna said that leaders from the region “will not be held hostage by those without vision for our community and country.” Mr Osotsi now claims that his “purported” expulsion from ANC has nothing to do with claims of loss of funds in the party.
“I am being fought for my principles. I want to make it clear that I support Raila as the Nasa coalition leader and as an ANC MP, our party is still in Nasa,” Mr Osotsi said.
Since Mr Mudavadi had said that he founded Nasa, Mr Osotsi wondered why he was being victimised for backing Mr Odinga, who was the coalition’s flagbearer in 2017.
He said that, unless ANC withdraws officially from Nasa, his association with ODM and Mr Odinga should not be questioned.
“The truth is that there are some people within Luhya politics who want to muzzle all Raila voices in Western. They want to fight me, Malala and Khaniri because of Raila,” Mr Osotsi stated.
He said the generational change of politics in “Luhyaland cannot be stopped by anyone” and questioned why ANC deputy party leader Kipruto Kirwa and Matungu MP Justus Murunga (ANC) have not been expelled for associating with Mr Ruto.
Mr Malala said they would not be intimidated to submission for backing Mr Odinga.
“Nobody has the capacity to victimise me in ANC. Even in 2017 I was at the forefront, advocating for a Musalia candidature in Nasa. I even led demos in Kakamega saying ‘No Mudavadi No Nasa’ but Musalia convinced us that they had agreed on Raila to fly the flag,” he said, adding that ANC has no authority to expel Mr Osotsi over his links with ODM.
“He (Mr Mudavadi) is the one who took us to Raila and, as we speak, I am the deputy leader of minority at the Senate courtesy of Nasa and our leader is Raila,” said Mr Malala. “If they are talking of lost funds, then a secretary-general alone could not withdraw party funds. The chairman, treasurer and party leader must come out clear on this matter,” he added.
On the quest by ANC and Ford Kenya to merge, he said: “We cannot have a Luhya party joining another Luhya party. If Mudavadi is serious enough, let him merge with other national parties.”
ANC secretary-general Barrack Muluka and his Ford Kenya counterpart Eseli Simiyu have confirmed the merger plans. Mr Muluka said they only went slow under guidance from leaders from both sides after they learnt that the effort had been infiltrated by outsiders.