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ELECTION 2022

How the wily and witty Wetangula has stood the test of time

POLITICS
By Oscar Obonyo | May 14th 2022 | 6 min read

Ford Kenya Party Leader Moses Wetangula during the signing of the coalition agreement between the Democratic Party and Kenya Kwanza Alliance at the Hermosa Gardens in Karen on April  9, 2022. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Even as political rivals throw barbs at a power-sharing deal hammered out by Kenya Kwanza Coalition leaders led by Deputy President William Ruto and partners, the Ford-Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula stands out above the rest as one with the safest bet.

Born on September 13 1956, Wetangula who kicked off his political career in 1992 as Nominated MP of the independence party, Kanu, is the most politically experienced partner in the coalition that also includes Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi’s Democratic Party among others.    

Experienced and witty, Wetangula in the recent past has teamed up with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka under the aegis of Coalition for Restoration of Democracy (CORD) in 2013 and National Super Alliance (NASA) in 2017, has this time switched camp to the Ruto-led outfit.  

In the two previous polls, Raila and Kalonzo were left in the political cold after failing to secure victory as their partner, Wetangula, secured an elective seat and even served as Minority Leader in the Senate.

In 2017, Mudavadi who came on board with the NASA outfit, which was his baby child, equally stayed in the wings as Wetangula comfortably landed his seat in the Senate – thanks to his 'Plan B ploy'.

And this time around the wily Wetangula has even more seats within his orbit – three.

In his usual calculative approach, the Ford-Kenya leader is eyeing the Speaker’s seat in the National Assembly, which – if it comes through – will constitutionally place him as the third most senior government official after the President and Deputy President.

This is a move that will technically catapult him to a position higher than Mudavadi’s in the government pecking order. 

Wetangula has two additional seats within his reach as a fallback position – a Senate seat and a ministerial position, in the event Ruto clinches the presidency but with minority seats in the National Assembly.

On Saturday, the former Foreign Affairs minister conceded to having “done a good job” at the deal table but was reluctant to take full credit.

He maintained that the deal was fair to deal for all – Ruto, Mudavadi, himself and the entire Kenya Kwanza fraternity.   

The Kenya Kwanza team led by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula, Deputy President William Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi during a political rally in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County on May 5, 2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

     
 

The Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement deposited with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) proposes Mudavadi as 'Prime Cabinet Secretary', with Wetangula destined to take up the slot of Speaker of the National Assembly.

Of the two, Wetangula is the political junior partner of Mudavadi, a former Vice President who also served as Deputy Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition Government of 2007-2013.  

In the event of a Ruto presidency, the deal envisages a 50-50 share out of Cabinet slots and other positions in government between the ANC and Ford-Kenya leaders.

With regards to Mudavadi, the deal says in part, that “the ministries responsible for interior and coordination of national government, shall be placed under the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary”.

Unlike Wetang'ula, Mudavadi’s position is strictly hinged on Kenya Kwanza forming government.  

Therefore, unlike his “brother” Mudavadi, whose deal is solely dependent on Ruto’s poll win, Wetangula has several cards at play whether or not Kenya Kwanza forms the next government.

Even if Ruto is defeated by his main rival, Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya’s nominee, Raila, Wetangula can still secure what he bargained for as Speaker of the National Assembly.

His manoeuvres to maintain his elective seat in Bungoma county and stay politically relevant notwithstanding, opponents have alleged that Wetangula’s acrobatic moves are a pointer to the fact that his side of the coalition had sensed defeat in the August poll.

 

Former NASA Principals Moses Wetangula, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga during a NASA Summit at Stone Athi hotel in Machakos county on March 12, 2018. [File, Standard]

Defence Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa, particularly unleashed a loaded statement via Twitter on Friday evening when he tweeted: “My brother Wetangula, congratulations on your sweetheart deal! But as the Prince of Morocco was told in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, not all that glitters is GOLD. If you are confident of your win and deal, why are you still vying for the senator’s seat in Bungoma?"

On Saturday, Wetangula hit back at the CS by daring him to make public what was entailed in his deal with Raila Odinga. Terming Wamalwa – his Azimio political challenger in the western Kenya region – as an “empty-handed conformist”, Wetangula argued that he and Mudavadi had struck the best deal for members of the Luhya community. 

Indeed, closer scrutiny reveals that even in light of parliamentary elections, the deal with Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has benefitted Wetangula more than it has Mudavadi.

Courtesy of teaming up, the politician’s Ford-Kenya party has inherited the neighbouring political constituencies of Mt Elgon sub-county in Bungoma County and Trans Nzoia County, which have traditionally been Ruto-leaning.

Below are excerpts of our interview with the Ford-Kenya boss.

Q: Mheshimiwa, the power-sharing deal you and Hon Mudavadi recently entered has become of great interest with some describing it as unfavourable to your political constituency in western Kenya. What is your take?

A: I personally appended my signature to this document and as an experienced lawyer and politician, you do not expect me to commit myself, my people and my side of the coalition to a porous deal that is not useful to them.

Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi during the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) National Delegates Conference (NDC) at the Kasarani Sports Complex, Nairobi on March 15, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

 

Q: I personally feel you negotiated well, particularly with reference to your positions.

A: Thank you for the compliments, however, you do not expect me to blow my own trumpet or open up on how advantageous the deal is to me or us. It is simply a win-win situation for all.

Q: Are you still going for the Senator’s seat?

A: Yes, it is true I will also be running for the position of Senator for Bungoma, and this is because of the support base I enjoy in my home county. It is a good thing because those who come out to vote for me will also get an opportunity to vote for my preferred presidential candidate.

Q: But as CS Wamalwa has observed, many are persuaded to think you are playing smart just in case you fail to form the next government?  

A: No. This is just the way of approaching the polls as I have always done before, and what happens thereafter is a matter of conjecture.   

Q: In which case, are you confessing to the assertion by Hon Wamalwa that this is about securing your personal interests?

A: I do not wish to talk about Eugene’s claims. He himself has not vied and won for a seat for quite some time and has no capacity to deliver anything for himself, let alone the western region.

Q: Are you suggesting the pact with the DP puts you in a better position to deliver western Kenya to Kenya Kwanza?

A: That is pretty accurate and at the moment we have swept the entire Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties almost to the tune of 90 per cent support.       

Q: Isn’t  90 per cent on the higher side Mheshimiwa? Your rivals, on the flip side, believe they are in the driver’s seat     

A: You are asking me these questions including details of our deal because our side of the coalition is open and transparent. You cannot possibly try these games on our competitors (Azimio One-Kenya) because everything is done under a cover of secrecy and no one really knows what is in their deal or game plan.

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