THREE MUSKETEERS WITHOUT MUSKETS

Ukambani governors are political Lilliputians who can't rival Kalonzo

Going by the mood on the ground, and considering past political trends, it is obvious the trio won’t make any significant impact in the presidential arena

In Summary

• The fact of the matter is that Mutua, Ngilu and Kibwana will be of little consequence in the 2022 presidential contest. The Three Musketeers have no muskets. 

• In fact, Kalonzo, totally sure that his Ukambani backyard is secure, will not be campaigning in the region but has now set his sights on other parts of Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Ukambani Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) during the launch of Huduma Namba in Machakos county on March 2, 2019.
UKAMBANI POLITICS: President Uhuru Kenyatta with Ukambani Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) during the launch of Huduma Namba in Machakos county on March 2, 2019.
Image: COURTESY

An article appearing in this paper on September 13 titled "How Mutua's presidential bid poses tough test for Kalonzo" cannot be left to pass without a robust rebuttal.

The article appeared to insinuate that Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua's entry into the presidential race will pose a major challenge to Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka's bid, and particularly in the latter's political backyard.

The reporter went on to argue that should Mutua join forces with Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and her Makueni counterpart Kivutha Kibwana, they would undermine Kalonzo's bid.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth!

My first impression on reading that article was that either the writer is a stranger who has chosen to totally ignore the general 'political psyche' of the voters of the Lower Eastern Region or has deliberately decided to undertake the blissful sojourn into the make-believe world, savouring the fruits of wishful thinking.

The fact of the matter is that Mutua, Ngilu and Kibwana will be of little consequence in the 2022 presidential contest. They will be totally obliterated by the Kalonzo wave in Ukambani.

In fact, Kalonzo, totally sure that his Ukambani backyard is secure, will not be campaigning in the region but has now set his sights on other parts of Kenya.

Going by the mood on the ground, and taking into account past political trends, it is obvious the trio won’t make any significant impact in the presidential arena.

They will be of little value for anyone to consider as running mates since they will be offering near-nil returns to their cohorts.

Anyone doubting my forecast had better look at the past patterns concerning the popularity of each of the three so-called Kalonzo rivals, starting with Mutua.

Mutua in 2013 stood for (and won) the Machakos governorship on the Wiper party, carrying with him an overwhelming mandate of MCAs. In 2017, he was reelected on his Maendeleo Chap Chap Party but this time with only half the number of the MCAs (nine) elected on MCCP.

What happened? How could voters love Mutua so much as to elect him, but deny him, troops, to fight for him in the county assembly? Your guess is as good as mine!

 

Soon after the 2017 General Election, there was talk of 'computer-generated' governors, most of whom Kenyans believe were later 'sanitised' by the Supreme Court, despite their victories having been earlier annulled by the Court of Appeal. Mutua was one of them.

Is it not odd that there were various legislators whose elections were nullified by the courts and forced to undergo by-elections, while all the governors were declared as 'white as snow by the Supreme Court?

When Mutua and his supporters 'won'" the Mutonguni civic by-election, they were over the moon, with Mutua thinking he had outsmarted Kalonzo.

What Mutua and his then-cheering squad failed to recognise was the fact that the seat in contention was not Wiper, in the first place.

The by-election winner, one Musee Mati, had actually won that seat earlier in August 2017 on the ticket of the Nasa affiliate, Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU), only for the same to be awarded to Ngilu's Narc candidate.

This essentially meant Mati would have won the seat on any other party ticket, let alone Mutua's, because apparently, he was the choice of the voters. But trust Mutua to take advantage of a situation - he was shouting he had beaten Kalonzo in his backyard.

Interestingly, at the time Mutua was shouting about Mutonguni, his candidate in Embakasi South had just earned a measly 298 votes whereas Musili Mawathe of Wiper had won resoundingly! And Raila and ODM had just lost Ugenya to a little-known party.

On the national front, Mutua was unable to help President Uhuru Kenyatta to garner a significant vote from Ukambani in 2017, where Nasa, through Kalonzo, managed well over 80 per cent of the vote.

In fact, political pundits opine that were it not for the overall efforts of  Jubilee's well-oiled campaign machine led by businessman Peter Muthoka, Jubilee would even have fared much worse than it did.

Exit Mutua, and enter Ngilu. 

First of all, it is common knowledge that Ngilu hung onto Kalonzo's coattails to be elected governor. 

During the campaigns prior to the 2017 General Election, Ngilu would accompany Kalonzo to most campaign meetings, where she would pledge her allegiance to the Wiper leader.

"Mimi nataka kiti ya huku chini. Ile ya huko juu naunga ndugu yangu Mheshimiwa Kalonzo Musyoka” (I want the seat at this lower level (governorship). For the one at the national level, I support my brother, Hon Kalonzo Musyoka),” she would state repeatedly.

Partly due to her popularity, and partly due to a stroke of luck, Ngilu was elected governor after her opponents, Julius Malombe (Wiper) and David Musila (former Wiper chairman who had resigned in protest after disputed nominations and vied as an Independent) went on to split Kalonzo’s portion, allowing her to “kupita katikati yao” (to pass in between them)!

Ngilu's win, however, came with serious shortcomings, in that she came with a minority of MCAs. She also failed to get even a single MP from her Ukambani backyard.

In contrast, Wiper not only attained majority control of the Kitui county assembly but also garnered most MPs from Ukambani.

It follows, therefore, that Ngilu's political advantage in relation to getting the Ukambani vote will be minimal, if her experience with Raila Odinga in 2007, and with Jubilee in 2013, is anything to go by.

In 2007, Raila got the shock of his life when he found out that Ngilu could not muster even five per cent of the Ukambani vote despite her being on his side.

In 2013, it was Uhuru's turn to discover the futility of having Ngilu on his side. She not only failed to marshal any significant numbers for Jubilee but also lost her senatorial bid.

As for Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, the less said about him, the better.

How would you describe a politician who abandons his own party and joins another to retain his gubernatorial seat?

That is exactly what Kibwana did, by ditching his Muungano Party and hitch-hiking on Wiper in a desperate effort to retain the governorship and avoid consignment to political Siberia.

I reiterate the advice I have given to Kibwana in these columns: Beware of online cheerleaders! They can be very dangerous to a politician.

If in doubt, look back at what happened to Peter Kenneth in the  2013 General Election, where the King of Internet got the shock of his life after the election results were announced. Little has changed in the political scene since then. 

So, are these three musketeers - Mutua, Ngilu, and Kibwana - the people Kalonzo's rivals hope they will upset his political backyard?

Where else in the world have political Lilliputians held any sway in a contest?

Spare me the peals of laughter, please!

Onesmus Kilonzo is the head of Communication,  Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya