Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi was declared the spokesman for the Luhya community as six Jubilee MPs from Kakamega held a parallel rally in Mumias town to counter the move.
The MPs, who were led by their Mumias East counterpart Benjamin Washiali, trashed the unveiling of the community spokesman as a waste of time.
They said Mr Francis Atwoli should have focused his attention on popularising Mr Mudavadi as a presidential candidate instead of a community spokesman.
“Our support for Jubilee is unshakeable since President Uhuru Kenyatta will easily clinch a second term in 2017 due to the disjointed opposition. We will not be intimidated to support Mr Atwoli’s idea which is bound to backfire,” said Mr Washiali at a rally at Shianda market.
At Bukhungu stadium, the crowning of Mr Mudavadi came after a spirited initiative by veteran trade unionist Atwoli. The event ended peacefully despite earlier threats by Jubilee supporters to disrupt it.
Mr Mudavadi’s endorsement followed a survey conducted by a team from Nairobi University’s faculty of Political Science between July and November.
Mr Atwoli announced that Mr Mudavadi had emerged the most popular candidate in the rating that saw him garner 39 per cent. Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, who has rejected the idea of a spokesman for the community, and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya tied at 30 per cent.
Some 2,650 respondents from different parts were sampled during the survey that was defended by the authors as credible and accurate.
Mr Atwoli warned Mr Wetang’ula, the Bungoma Senator, and his Kakamega counterpart, Dr Boni Khalwale, to stop creating confusion over the naming of the spokesman saying they were fully involved in the process for the last one year and cannot turn around and disown it.
“I have made a lot of sacrifice and invited all the leaders and elders from Western to involve them in the process of giving the community a political direction for the past one year. The time has now come for all Luhya leaders to accept to work together and forge unity or be doomed politically,” said Mr Atwoli.
Earlier, the Cotu boss, who arrived at the venue in a convoy of vehicles, was given a standing ovation by the crowd. He was dressed in a flowing white kanzu, a white cap and a grey coat.
Mr Mudavadi and Governor Oparanya arrived shortly after 1 pm riding in one vehicle that was in a convoy of several others.
In his speech, Mr Mudavadi said he had accepted the honour with humility and commitment. He said the time had come for the opposition to unite under the National Super Alliance (Nasa) as the surest way to defeat Jubilee in 2017.
Said Mr Mudavadi: “I also accept to serve you dutifully as your servant. The responsibility you have given me is not an easy one. I urge you to work with me so that I can deliver. Don’t let me walk alone.”
He added: “I shall execute the mandate you have given me with dignity because I am not doing it for myself but on behalf of the community.”
He said he will tour all the counties to popularise his candidature and the formation of the super alliance he is propagating.
Mr Mudavadi asked Mr Wetang’ula, the Bungoma Senator and Cord co-principal, and former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo to join him in forging the unity of the Luhya community.
He said: “Our people should register in large numbers as voters. We can use our numerical strength to fight for the top seat.”
He added: “You have given me the power to reach my colleagues in the opposition. I will look for Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others so that we can work under the National Super Alliance (Nasa) to defeat Jubilee in 2017.”
Mr Atwoli said the declaration made at the Bukhungu stadium had opened a new chapter in the quest for the presidency by the Luhya community. He said the decision to name a spokesman was meant to restore respect and dignity for the community.
“Those who have been making political forays to hunt for votes in Western and engage in brinkmanship for personal gain should know the doors have been closed and it will not be easy to confuse the community with their stolen money,” said Mr Atwoli.
MPs at Bukhungu rally included the chair of the caucus of Western parliamentarians Mr John Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), Ayub Savula (Lugari), Raphael Otaalo (Lurambi), Charles Gimose (Hamisi), Benjamin Andola (Khwisero), Paul Otuoma (Funyula), Vihiga’s Yusuf Chanzu and his Sabatia counterpart Mr Alfred Agoi.
The Cotu boss said the unveiling of Mr Mudavadi as Luhya spokesman will bring to an end forays by politicians campaigning to divide the Luhya vote and weaken the community’s chances of ascending to the presidency.
Mr Atwoli said the Luhya community had finally resolved to turn a new page in the region’s and national politics and warned politicians opposed to the initiative were doomed.
“The unveiling and crowning of Mudavadi as spokesman is best new year gift for the Luhya community,” he said.
The research which was conducted between July and November sampled 2,650 respondents and analysed the popularity of five governors from the region.
According to the research, other leaders shared the remaining one per cent.
The survey further established that Mr Oparanya remained the people’s choice for the Kakamega governorship in the next election, with 71 per cent rating.
In Vihiga, the survey showed that the incumbent Moses Akaranga remained the most popular with a 60 per cent approval while in Trans Nzoia, current Governor Patrick Khaemba was the most popular with a 58 per cent approval.
Governor Ken Lusaka of Bungoma and his Busia counterpart Mr Sospeter Ojamoong’ also emerged as the most popular with approvals of 58 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.
Governor Oparanya said he supports the initiative because it will unite the community.
He said; “Luhyas have been derided as watchmen and cooks for a long time by those who are only interested in our votes. We will no longer accept to be taken for a ride by politicians who have no respect for the community.”
By Linet Wafula, Benson Amadala and Derrick Luvega