By Oscar Obonyo
Battle to lead western Kenya into the elections kicked off with a major miscalculation by an over-confident Eugene Wamalwa, sources say.
Allies of the Saboti MP say he underestimated Musalia Mudavadi, while regarding PM Raila Odinga as his biggest rival in Western. The Saboti MP even once remarked dismissively that Mudavadi “could never defy his ‘Captain’ or get out of his comfort zone in ODM”.
This view changed when Mr Mudavadi began a leadership challenge within ODM before leaving to join the United Democratic Forum. Despite carrying some disadvantages in terms of ethnic affiliation in western Kenya, the more experienced Mudavadi has proved to be a stronger foe than anticipated.
Dealing with him is proving harder than the politically inexperienced Eugene expected, in part because there are too many views on what he should do.
Members of Eugene’s political think-tank, which includes Juma Mukhwana, Executive Director of Sacred Africa, say the MP should weigh his options. Yet others say Eugene has to fight Mudavadi at all costs. This argument is persuaded by the fear that if Mudavadi wins the presidency, Eugene may as well forget about it for decades.
First time MP
Housing minister Soita Shitanda told The Standard On Sunday that his New Ford-Kenya party opted to support Mudavadi’s bid because Eugene was a hard-sell owing to his inexperience: “He came to Parliament just the other day and he is lucky to be a Cabinet minister.
You cannot get to Parliament today, become a minister tomorrow, and hope to be president in the next term. Let him wait.” Ikolomani MP, Bonni Khalwale concurs, saying Eugene publicly promised to step down in favour of Mudavadi on December 26, 2010, during the Maragoli Cultural Festival.
“I, too, appeal to Eugene to be consistent and walk his talk,” says Khalwale. “He should not be driven by personal greed because the (Luhya) community is bigger than him and even Mudavadi.“
But nominated MP Musikari Kombo maintains Eugene has consulted widely on the matter: “It is true he said he would shelve his ambition if Musalia declared his presidential bid. But that was two years ago and all along Musalia responded that he was firmly in ODM and behind the Captain (Raila).”
Eugene, says Kombo, then kicked off his campaigns and “it is wrong for anybody to even suggest that he should disrupt this process now in favour of Mudavadi”.
As to whether Eugene’s remarks in Homa Bay recently suggest a possible deal with Raila, Kombo says Kenyans may be reading too much into his words. Members of the Eugene think-tank say the legislator should stick by Uhuru and Ruto if they run for president, and only seek new alliances if they don’t.
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