Musalia Mudavadi faces herculean task to lock Western bloc

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi during a fundraiser at St Cecilia Catholic church in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County on September 4, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi faces a daunting task to lock out his ODM counterpart Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto and others from Western and ensure residents put their votes in one basket.

Despite being a top Luhya politician, the ANC leader does not enjoy the majority support of Western voters, unlike the DP and Raila who have a fanatical following in their Rift Valley and Nyanza backyards.

Luhya is the second most populous ethnic group after the Kikuyu and has largely backed Raila in the elections over the years.

Apart from the two million voters in Western, there is an estimated one million Luhya voters in other parts of the country.

However, DP Ruto is slowly chipping away this support including in areas where Mudavadi is popular.

The ANC leader also does not have most top Luyha politicians in his camp and this could affect efforts to galvanise the Western bloc.

National Assembly Chief Whip Emmanuel Wangwe, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa are among Western leaders set to lead Raila’s campaigns in the region.

On the other hand, former National Assembly Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwalwe and a host of Luhya leaders are in Ruto's camp.

The challenge for the ANC leader is how he will rally the Western bloc without being seen to whip the ethnic card and at the same time maintain a national outlook.

As a matter of political urgency, he might be forced to revamp his party, populated by top officials from Western, to give it the face of Kenya. ANC has 14 seats in the National Assembly and three in the Senate.

Mudavadi has vowed that he will not play second fiddle to Ruto and the ODM leader in the 2022 presidential race.

In the 2013 presidential election, the ANC leader got support in his home area of Vihiga while Raila garnered majority of the Luhya votes.

Mudavadi came a distant third with 483,981 votes against, President Uhuru Kenyatta's 6,173,433 and Raila's 5,340,546 votes.

In 2017, Mudavadi teamed up with Raila in NASA and they secured nearly two million votes in Western and the onus now is on the ANC leader to lock the votes.

Last month, attempts by the president to have Mudavadi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, KANU chairman Gideon Moi and Fork Kenya Moses Wetangula to support a Raila candidature failed after the ANC leader and his Wiper counterpart declared they will not play second fiddle.

The ANC leader who has been out of government since 2013 when he served as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local government will be seeking to convince millions of Kenyans to support his presidential bid in a do or die battle that could save or sink further his political fortunes.

Mudavadi’s ambition will be hit hard unless the community registers in numbers and votes fully for him in 2022.

Central Organisation for Trade Union (COTU)Secretary General Francis Atwoli said there will be a meeting on December 31 for the Mulembe nation to chart the political future in what he dubbed as Bukhungu III.

"Do not worry about what is happening now, we will converge as sons and daughters of the Luhya nation and make a unanimous decision on our future. We will have a single voice thereafter. We cannot allow a divided community. This will give advantage to those who want to use our votes for a selfish reason," said Atwoli.

Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya dismissed Mudavadi’s bid saying winning a presidential election is more than appearing on the ballot paper. “Winning a presidential election is totally a different game. It is beyond community politics,” he said.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula said Musalia has teamed up with Wetang'ula to lock the Luhya vote. “We are focused and this time round we will bring down those who purport to have made inroads in the region during the previous elections,” he said.

A section of Western leaders have been calling for the formation of a coalition between ANC and Ford Kenya.

Columnist Barrack Muluka noted that community leaders working together doesn’t mean that they cannot support someone from outside for President.

“The old and the current must reinvent, repackage and reposition themselves with a breath of freshness,” he said.

In 2017 polls, Jubilee secured eight out of the 33 parliamentary seats in Western.

Dr Khalwale argues that the future of the country’s political discourse is to develop national politics that can push non-ethnic and non-regional politics.

“We can not be practicing that which has failed for 50 years plus. We are going to make minced meat of our competitors,” he said.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala has been drumming up support for Mudavadi and said they will take the vote hunt across the country.

“We have the numbers from across the country. Every game you must have it with a game plan. There always must be a fall back plan. We will go beyond western Kenya; the quest to eat into other regions will shock many,” he said.

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