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Why Oparanya’s claims that Wetangula is out to undermine CORD should be ignored

By Joseph Mutua Ndonga | April 14th 2016

As an observer, I have continued to follow with keen interest the renewed fight for political supremacy pitting Cord co-principal and Bungoma senator Moses Wetangula and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

Although from the outset the governor would leave one with no doubt that he was opposed to the senator’s bid to rally the Luhya community behind him, the situation escalated in the countdown to the launch of Wetangula’s presidential bid.

It all started when Oparanya, who is the ODM deputy party leader and key ally of Raila Odinga, declared that his county government will not allow the senator to use Muliro Gardens in Kakamega town for the launch. “As the CORD family, we have already settled on Hon Raila as our presidential candidate. He is the most popular of all the co-principals and as such well prepared to ‘unseat’ President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 General Election.   As such, the senator is unwelcome in Kakamega because his actions would amount to undermining that spirit. If he insists on launching his bid, let him look for another venue,” said Oparanya.

Notably, Wetangula is the chairman of Ford Kenya which is one of the three mainstream parties forming the Cord coalition. His team led by Kakamega senator Bonny Khalwale, who has already declared his interest to unseat Oparanya, immediately hit back and vowed to converge in Muliro Gardens for the launch. “Wetangula is a Kenyan and he is legally and democratically entitled to contest any seat. As such, he is free to use any venue he chooses in this country,” said Khalwale.

Khalwale’s team also reminded the governor that they had followed the law to the letter and spirit. Besides notifying the police, they had already paid Sh100, 000 booking fee for the garden.

As expected, the launch would be briefly disrupted as supporters of Wetangula and those of the governor clashed. The situation calmed down after the senator’s supporters overpowered those of ODM. Undeterred, the senator, who had just been installed as a Luhya elder, took to the podium to lay down his roadmap to State House which was anchored on 5-point agenda.

Notably, Raila did not attend the rally and instead he flew to Tanzania to meet President Pombe Magufuli at his rural home located in Mwanza. However, Wiper leader and Co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka attended the launch.  Raila’s absence came as a surprise because he had earlier confirmed at least three times that he will attend. So, the question that did not escape the public mind is, did he snub the launch because he did not want to antagonize the loyal members of the ODM in the county? Did he fear this would be translated to mean that he had passed the baton to the senator? 

Earlier, reports indicated that Raila had even convened a meeting and invited Oparanya so that they iron out their differences on this matter and come up with a common position. For the governor, reports indicated he would put a caveat that he will allow the launch to take place only if Wetangula involved him in preparation of his speech and organizers allow him to host the event. However, the Khalwale team immediately denounced these demands and accused the governor of plotting to hijack the event. “We want to tell the governor in no uncertain term that this will not give him an opportunity to sabotage the launch,” he said.

As things stand now, Oparanya has not given up the war aimed at portraying Wetangula as a spoiler out to rock the Cord boat from within. In his latest attack, the governor takes great offense with the remarks attributed to the senator when he took his campaign to Budalangi and called upon the Luhya community to ditch ODM and join Ford Kenya. These sentiments, he argued demonstrated that the senator was working at the behest of Jubilee coalition to undermine and divide the Cord coalition. He did not however bother to provide any evidence to prove his claims.

Allow me to explain why I beg to differ with the governor? First, the three principals have all long left no doubt that they consider themselves as equal partners and assure their supporters that they believe each one of them can make a good President. The three leaders have since repeatedly stated that they were looking forward to come up with an agreeable formula on how to pick one of them as Cord presidential candidate. Given this scenario, it means that each affiliate party is free to strengthen its support base and mobilize and drum support for their respective candidate. So, if the principals truly believe in the spirit of democracy and public participation, then one would expect the affiliate parties to wound up their campaigns when the deadline set out in the coalition agreement elapses.

In light of this, the governor has only one option. He should focus on drumming support for his party and its flag bearer. If he fails to change, I can bet his style of politics will do more harm than good to the Hon Raila as it will portray him as a politician who preaches water and drinks wine.  The days when leaders who considered themselves superior and arm-twisted other leaders and used short cut to ascend to power are long gone.  Kenyans have come a long way and the new constitution provides a level playing grounds for all aspiring candidates. 

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