What’s next for Kalonzo after Wiper loses control of Ukambani politics?
Election results for governor, national and county assembly seats across the Ukambani region are pointing to a gradual shift of power and diminishing influence of the dominant Wiper party.
Although all Wiper MPs who defected to Jubilee lost their parliamentary seats, the party, which is led by Nasa presidential running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, won fewer seats in both national and county assemblies than in the 2013 General Election.
More significantly, several senior leaders who have been key pillars of the Wiper party — including Mrs Nyiva Mwendwa, Mr David Musila and Mr Johnson Muthama — are standing on a cliff and have already started exiting the political stage due to age.
Mrs Mwendwa has already quit elective politics while Mr Musila, who resigned as Wiper party chairman in April, conceded defeat after losing in the Kitui governor race, a pointer he may also retire.
Mr Muthama did not defend his Machakos Senate seat and it is not clear how he will participate actively in politics outside the House.
In 2013, Mr Musyoka, who was ODM leader Raila Odinga’s running mate, lost the presidential election but his party secured four governor and five Senate seats. It also won 24 National Assembly seats, including those for woman representatives.
However, in the just-ended election, the party lost all the four governor seats it held, including that of Mr Musyoka’s Kitui backyard, which was won by former Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu who has had an on-and-off relationship with him.
It also landed only two Senate seats, 20 National Assembly positions and a lower number of seats in various county assemblies than in 2013. Most of the seats went to rival political outfits, including the Jubilee Party.
Governors Nathif Jama (Garissa), Julius Malombe (Kitui), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Hussein Dado (Tana River) won on Wiper tickets in 2013, but this time, only Prof Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), who defected to the party, and Mr Granton Samboja (Taita-Taveta), got elected.
It is on the basis of these figures that the party’s political strength is seen to have diminished and key counties are in the hands of leaders who are not considered Mr Musyoka’s loyalists.
The election of Mrs Ngilu in Kitui and Dr Alfred Mutua as Machakos governor presents a fresh political headache for the Wiper leader as he seeks to regain control of the region that forms his bedrock support.
While celebrating his re-election, Dr Mutua indicated that his disagreements with Mr Musyoka were not over and that his victory was a major triumph not just against his main opponent, Ms Wavinya Ndeti, but against the Wiper leader.
Mrs Ngilu weathered great resistance from Mr Musyoka to beat his candidate, Dr Malombe, who was a distant third, and her win is seen as a major statement of intent to dislodge Wiper from the county politics.
Speculation is already rife that Mrs Ngilu may revive her long- standing political rivalry with Mr Musyoka, especially if she embarks on rebuilding her Narc party to claim a controlling political stake across the region.
Prof Kibwana’s Muungano entered into a pact with Wiper that expires in December. His defection is seen as a temporary truce to conveniently secure his re-election and his commitment to Mr Musyoka’s party is, therefore, not guaranteed.
According to Makueni Senator- elect Mutula Kilonzo Jr, Wiper’s poor performance was due to ineffective management of the party affairs in the run-up to last week’s General Election.
Mr Kilonzo Jr, who won by a landslide, gave a self-indictment over the manner in which the party conducted its primaries for various positions, saying the fallouts were inevitable.
“It is true, as a political party, we lost some ground in terms of the number of seats we won in this election. We must now work hard to rebuild what we have lost,” said the senator.
He said the party must reinvent itself and consistently engage the youth to avoid suffering from what he termed “diminishing marginal utility” and that he will lead efforts to rebrand the outfit.
“What happened across Ukambani and other regions such as Garissa, Mombasa and Tana River, where we held key positions, was due to our own blunders, especially regarding party nominations,” he said, adding that many people shied away from our party.
He gave the example of former Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo, who won as an independent. He said Mr Kilonzo never stood any chance in the primaries because the “party bosses” preferred another candidate.
The same happened in several constituencies where the party lost, including Kitui South, Mbooni, Kangundo and Machakos Town.
The senator’s sentiments were echoed by former Kitui South MP Isaac Muoki, who said major political realignments are going to take place in Ukambani, with new young leaders taking over from the retiring crop of leaders.
Mr Muoki, who lost in the controversial Wiper nominations, said the re-emergence of Mrs Ngilu and Dr Mutua will definitely challenge the Wiper dominance in the region’s politics.
“The reality of politics the world over is about numbers. Younger MPs will now start playing a bigger role in shaping the community’s political direction,” he told the Sunday Nation.
He observed that the exit of key Wiper leaders had left Mr Musyoka exposed in both local and national politics and he must now start grooming the younger generation of leaders who will eventually take over from him.
“After the 2022 elections, the political landscape in Ukambani will have changed significantly. It is upon the young MPs to work hard and prove that they can take over from the Nyiva-Musila generation,” he said.