How Kalonzo can turn around dwindling fame

Caleb Ratemo

A recent declaration in Matuu by three governors from the Lower Eastern —Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) — that time is up for Wiper supremo Kalonzo Musyoka to hang his boots in Ukambani politics has sent shockwaves in the region.

It was daring but not entirely unexpected for those who keenly watch the region’s politics, especially the never-ending fights between the governors, who come across as guests in the Wiper Democratic Movement, Members of the County Assemblies and the grassroots leadership with direct links to Kalonzo.

The three governors are tapping into what they perceive as a groundswell of restlessness — and even fatigue — with the Kalonzo leadership which has yet to gain momentum in the race for State House or initiate political realignment moves.

Fast fading

Kibwana’s insistence that he is a Muungano Party member acting as Wiper chairman in itself begs many questions on whether Kalonzo is indeed the undisputed regional kingpin.

That all the three governors, having been elected through different political outfits, have jointly raised eyebrows that lend credence to claims that the clout and influence which Kalonzo used to enjoy in the area could be fast fading is telling.

The question one needs to ask is where did the rain start beating the Wiper leader? Could it be when he declared that he was joining hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta as an errand boy? Did he demean the community and allies who have invested in him so much capital, time, resources and emotions?

The Kalonzo-factor in Ukambani is such that any community leader aiming to join the negotiating table with Uhuru has to read carefully. Already, two of the three governors — Mutua and Kibwana — have declared an intention to vie for the presidency.

The two insist they are obeying calls by the community to vie for the presidency and stake by their claim with the like-minded leaders on the prize. Perhaps this is why Kibwana challenged Kalonzo to explain to people of Ukambani what he has done for the community since the leadership baton was passed to him in 2004 when Mulu Mutisya — who was the undisputed kingpin of the region — died.

But Kalonzo’s stalwarts believe he has what it takes to capture the presidency and consider him sober and uniquely suitable. However, some analysts say these qualities are not enough to propel one to the presidency.

What Kalonzo must do is appeal to wider Kenyan constituency to gain national appeal. His critics say he is risk-averse which is critical in politics. For him to regain credibility, Kalonzo must come out and quell the rebellion in his own backyard and deal with the discontent fueled at the grassroots by members of the county assembly who are out to wreck the ship from within and deny Kalonzo the ultimate trophy.

Recently, Wiper MCAs in the region were accused of crippling county operations and holding to ransom, three governors, when they questioned Kalonzo’s authority. An example is the recent supplementary budgets for Kitui and Machakos counties — which are yet to be passed.

Way forward

In his first term, Kibwana faced a similar rebellion which even threatened to lead to the dissolution of the county. He fixed the problem and ensured the MCAs opposing him were trounced in the 2017 elections.

Aristotle once said; “men are swayed more by fear than reverence”.  The Kamba nation wants to have a share of the national cake come 2022. They do not want to be in the opposition. The three governors want one of them to chase this dream and they do not have a problem telling the king ‘he is naked’.

Kalonzo has to sit down with the three governors and chart out the way forward. But he must first tame Wiper MCAs and secondly, he must engage his supporters at the base.

Having expressed interest in the presidency come 2022, he must first fix his home turf. He must accept that charity begins at home and invest in winning the base as a springboard to higher political space. —The writer is a reporter at K24.

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