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Luhya unity: Why Abaluhya won’t produce president

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The former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill is credited with coining the phrase “all politics is local”. When you see a national issue of concern, be assured it has its tentacles at the local.

The phrase encapsulates the principle that a politician’s success is directly proportional to his/her ability to understand and influence the issues of his/her constituents.

It’s often the local issues that influence the elections which, by default, influence national politics. Which brings me to the elephant in the room - the sorry state of political affairs in Western Kenya, the ancestral home of all the Abaluhya residing in the country.

Unlike other ethnic communities like Luos, Kamba, Kikuyu and Kalenjin who have historically united around one of their own, the same can’t be said bravely of the Abaluhya, the second most populous tribe in Kenya.

Unity is strength - we are always reminded. Take the presidency for instance. All the tribes that have produced a president - we’ve had four of them, all coming from two tribes - have history of coalescing around one of their own like moths.

Kikuyus, who’ve produced three of our four presidents; Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta, have stood with their own since we got 1963. The jury is out there on the benefits that have accrued to them pursuant to producing three out of the four gentlemen who’ve occupied the house on the hill since independence.

Kalenjins on the other hand have produced one president, the retired President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi.

History teaches us that Kalenjins were previously a divided lot. Each kalenjin sub-tribe was pulling in a different direction. Very bad for politics. But they discovered that divided, they’ll fall like a house of cards. They then united and their unimpeachable loyalty and unity enabled Moi stay in power. Presently, their son is the deputy president - William Ruto - who also has his eyes on the throne in 2022.

We all know that Luos have stood with the Odingas for decades. Jaramogi had Luos in his pocket for his entire political life. When he died, he passed the button to his son, Raila Odinga. Luos produced the first vice president, Jaramogi, and the second Prime Minister of Kenya, Mr Odinga, both of whom were serious presidential candidates. Raila missed presidency by a whisker in 2007 when former president Mwai Kibaki removed the bone from his mouth.

While the Abaluhya have produced two vice presidents, the late Wamalwa Kijana and uncle Moody Awuori, they’ve never produced a serious presidential candidate despite being the second most populous tribe. By producing a serious candidate I mean, one who has managed to amass votes across the country in a presidential contest in addition to bagging all the Luhya votes. It hasn’t happened because they’ve never allowed charity to begin at home. There’s no way other tribes will vote for a Luhya presidential candidate if Luhyas continue to abandon their own.

Last time ANC leader vied, he performed dismally. The most embarrassing part is that Luhyas never voted for him. They divided the votes among Mudavadi, Raila, Kibaki and others. Which raises a question. Why can’t Luhyas unite around one of their own in pursuit of presidency?

Not even Luhyas have the answer to this question. Several attempts to unite Luhya leaders have come a cropper. Just recently, there were plans to merge Ford Kenya and ANC with a view to forming one political vehicle. Before the ink that was used to draft the merger agreement dried, the talks collapsed.

Was it a joke or something? The so called Luhya leaders are constantly at war against each other. As we speak, there’s scramble and partition of Luhya votes. Raila has a chunk of support in Western, Mudavadi is trying to get his pound of flesh, Wetangula wants to be the King while William Ruto is buying his way into Western vote bloc.

Luhyas, including their leaders, must now cut us some slack and unite. If they don’t they’ll have themselves to blame. They can’t talk of presidency as a divided house.

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