By OSCAR OBONYO
Political heavyweights are engaged in a tough behind-the-scenes scramble for a pre-election deal with first-term Member of Parliament Eugene Wamalwa.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy PMs Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi are trying to get him on their side.
A backlash from this battle recently prompted the Saboti MP to make a public show of being awake at the wheel of his own political career.
Although dismissed as a “political flower-girl” by a fellow Western MP, Wamalwa is critical in securing counties in western Kenya, which are among the few solid voting blocs considered undecided.
It was this fact that saw him appointed to his high-profile Cabinet docket so early in his political life, and continues to see the 43-year-old touted as a credible presidential hopeful.
The jostling to get the Justice Minister’s attention has intensified thanks to the entry of Mudavadi, a Western heavyweight, into the presidential race. Eugene had been sitting pretty within the informal G7 grouping that revolves around Uhuru, Kalonzo and Eldoret North MP William Ruto.
He played a key role in the launch of Uhuru’s TNA and was even assured by the Gatundu South MP later that day he was the G7’s pointman in western Kenya.
A seed of doubt was, however, planted in his mind not long after by another senior member of the G7 Alliance.
The Standard On Sunday has reliably learned that the Justice minister was jolted into defensive mode with the warning: “Itabidi ujipange, kwa sababu unapangwa (Make your own plans, because plans are being made for you)”.
While the jipange remark was meant to shake up the balance of power within the G7, other leaders are worried it has prompted an over-reaction, especially in the light of Mudavadi’s interest.
Eugene immediately embarked on a show of independence, denying he had plans to be anyone’s running mate, making overtures at Kalonzo and declaring he would not be part of a Raila-bashing campaign.
An alarmed Uhuru-Ruto axis is now working to win back the MP and dissuade him from strengthening the Raila or Kalonzo camps.
That every crucial political figure wants a piece of Eugene is no surprise. He is youthful, articulate and has the support of the historically unwavering Bukusu, the largest sub-tribe of populous Luhya community. With Mudavadi out of his corner, Raila needs a replacement from western Kenya.
Nobody fits the bill better than Eugene, whose traditional support base is bigger. Kalonzo needs Eugene within the G7, where he may be available for a deal if he is sidelined in favour of Mudavadi. But even the Sabatia MP needs his Saboti colleague to boost his campaign to secure western counties.
Attempts to affect what happens in western Kenya has led to talk of the region’s two top politicians being twin “political projects” of Gatundu South MP Uhuru Kenyatta or other forces in central Kenya.
Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo (UDF) and Raila Odinga aide Barrack Muluka are among those who are pushing this line of thinking. Similar sentiments have been echoed by Forestry minister Noah Wekesa, who believes Mudavadi and Eugene are “being misused to divide the Luhya vote”.
However, Mudavadi himself warns others from Western counties may be pushed into running for president dividing the region’s vote. Addressing opinion leaders in Bungoma County Saturday, he cautioned them to be wary of schemes against them.
“I am ready to talk to my brothers (Eugene and Jirongo) so that we will not divide our people and fall for the scheme of detractors who are encouraging many of us to stand for presidency. It is a scheme to dilute the vote.”
Those convinced of a central Kenya plot say Eugene (‘Project I’) is being groomed to serve as Uhuru’s running mate, while Mudavadi (‘Project II’) waits in the wings as alternative should proceedings at the International Criminal Court or the local Judiciary stand in the way of Uhuru’s bid. Those claiming ODM propaganda say the talk of projects is being made up to disrupt the G7 and limit the influence of rival politicians.
Reached for comment, Uhuru’s spokesman Munyori Buku dismissed the claims of Wamalwa and Mudavadi being ‘projects’.
“Do people become projects simply because they chart an independent path?” Buku posed. “This project talk is the refuge of cowards and political failures.”
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