On March 4, 2021, residents of Kabuchai Constituency in Bungoma County will head to the ballot box to vote for a new Member of Parliament.
This is after the seat fell vacant on December 5th last year following the demise of James Mukwe after a long illness. The former Ford Kenya legislator was understood to be an ardent supporter to Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula.
His demise dealt a big blow to Senator Wetang’ula who is still coming to terms with the pending coup to remove him as the Ford Kenya Party leader.
The threat to lose the seat to ‘outsiders’ is so real that sources within the Wetang’ula camp say that the Senator has suspended ‘all his national and international operations’ to concentrate on reclaiming the seat.
Prior to this election, Senator Wetang’ula had been accused of running the Ford Kenya party as his personal briefcase including issuing nomination certificates to his close allies and highest bidders, same claims that were cited by the party’s Secretary-General Dr. Eseli Simiyu during the attempted coup whose fate still lies before the palms of the the High Court.
The allegations could prove some petals of concern as to why Wetang’ula doesn’t have a single elected MP in Bungoma backing him. Bungoma has nine elected MPs representing the nine constituencies plus the Woman Rep making it ten. But out of the ten, only Woman Representative Catherine Wambilianga is supporting the former KANU operative.
It is remembered that during the 2017 party primaries, the process was so crooked that some aspirants opted out of the party to get a fair chance to be on the ballot. Among them is the Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa whose fate had already been decided by a ‘friendly ticket’ to the then incumbent MP Suleiman Murunga, a close ally to Wetang’ula.
As if his move was God-guided, Barasa, who had moved to the Jubilee Party, floored Mr. Murunga, garnering more that 17,000 votes in a region that was pro-opposition. That spoke a lot about Barasa’s popularity on the ground, something that was definitely ignored by Wetang’ula. Weta ended up losing that seat.
In Bumula Constituency, the race between Jack Wamboka and Mwambu Mabonga was so tight but the later opted out to vie as an Independent after the bungled primaries that landed Jack the ticket. Mwambu won the seat and later joined the Jubilee team, leaving Wetang’ula licking his wounds.
In Kabuchai Constituency where the by election is taking place, the late Nabangi Tale controversially lost to James Mukwe in a case that would go all the way to the Supreme Court where the late survived the onslaught.
James Mukwe Luwsweti had been declared winner with 18,485 votes against Nabangi who polled 18,062 votes in the August 8, 2017 general election, a difference of 423 votes that has already put the popularity of Ford Kenya in Wetang’ula’s own turf at risk.
So far, Wetangula’s FK party has two MPs on Ford Kenya ticket – Kanduyi’s Wafula Wamunyinyi and Tongaren’s Eseli Simiyu – who have since turned their back against him.
– Simiyu Wakajuaness
The rest of the MPs decided not to vie on Wetang’ula’s party, opting to vie on other parties. They include: John Waluke (Sirisia, Jubilee), Alfred Sambu (Webuye East, ANC), Dan Wanyama (Webuye West, Jubilee) and Fred Chesebe Kapondi (Mt. Elgon, Jubilee).
Looking at this data, it’s clear that Wetang’ula is still struggling to control his own backyard, a factor that matters a lot when defining a regional kingpin.
THE RUTO RIVALRY
Last December during a funeral function of Mr. Mwambu’s father, Deputy President humiliated Luhya leaders Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula even though by avoiding to directly use the word ‘lazy’ to refer to their reluctance to solidify their home-base. Ruto’s mockery speech, which had been snubbed by both Wetang’ula and Mudavadi, left the duo torn into pieces without a reply as the DP dominated the stage amid cheers from a section of the mourners.
In a build-up to this, the DP fielded a candidate in the Kabuchai by election, taking the war to Wetang’ula’s doorsteps. By this move, Ruto is only trying to issue two statements to Wetang’ula: that “I don’t need your help to win at your home” and two, “It’s either you join my camp or you perish politically.”
With local elected MPs fully backing Ruto’s Evans Kakai in the Kbuchai mini-poll, Wetang’ula had to seek the help of his Vihiga friend-in-quotes Musalia Mudavadi to drum up support for Ford Kenya’s Majimbo Kalasinga. This shows the magnitude of pressure and frustration that the lawyer is undergoing.
It’s now coming to his reality that the people he squarely need help from are not on good terms with him during this trying moment. Trans Nzoia Governor Patrick Khaemba and Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati who has been financing Ford Kenya since 2014 and who could have provided good financial muscles to FK’s Majimbo Kalasinga have opted to keep distance from the mini-poll even though unconfirmed reports suggest that Wangamati is silently bankrolling Evans Kakai’s operations.
With less than 33 days to the ballot, Wetang’ula will have to use all his cognitive and non-cognitive measures to save his face from the impending shackles of embarrassment should Kakai win this seat.
A win for Majimbo will be will be a glorious jackpot for Wetang’ula. A win for Kakai will reflect the protest anger the locals have against Weta and will sincerely spell doom for Wetang’ula. Interesting times ahead?