By Ababu Nambwamba
â€œWhat appears to be a manâ€™s tragedy may in fact be Godâ€™s strategy.â€ This gem of wisdom was shared by Bungoma Senator-elect, Moses Masika Wetangâ€™ula, as we campaigned together in the County last week.
The former Foreign Affairs minister whispered to me that this was one of countless messages of goodwill he was receiving from friends across the world in his moment of need. In retrospectâ€¦with the by-election done and dusted, you could well say this single message strikingly manifests the full range of implications of this keenly watched and furiously contested by-election.
Indeed, of all the by-elections from the yet again controversy-ridden General Election of March 4th, this undoubtedly was the most high-staked.
For Wetangâ€™ula, this was a battle of a lifetimeâ€¦ a do or die! And, take it from me, this was not, for a single minute, lost on the man simply known as â€œWetaâ€ to his bosom buddies and followers.
He knew this was a defining moment that would either unmake or reload his chequered political career that has ebbed and flowed but grown steadily since he was first nominated to Parliament by President Moi after the 1997 General Election. Anxious like I have never seen him before, but focused like a Buddhist monk, he campaigned with the relentless energy, singular determination and touching persuasion of a man on a mission.
And every so often, he would pause to reflect on whether this was his date with â€œmanâ€™s tragedyâ€ or â€œGodâ€™s strategyâ€. Now he knows, as do the rest of us: Bungoma voters delivered the verdict last Thursday, unequivocally. Handed a much more decisive mandate than that contested in court, Wetangâ€™ula returns to the Senate stronger. It is a huge personal triumph that raises his political stock significantly.
For local rivals, Musikari Nazi Kombo, Eugene Ludovic Wamalwa, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi and Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka, the manner of defeat is a devastating blow that could well prove politically fatal. Komboâ€™s case is straightforward: a septuagenarian in his political twilight, he probably has lost his final chance for a comeback. Eugene and Mudavadi had a different mission: stop Wetangâ€™ula from becoming a political top cat, torpedo the CORD juggernaut and hand themselves a new political lifeline.
Their failure could accelerate their slide to irrelevance. The scenario is not rosy for Dr Lusaka either. Against his better judgment, perhaps due to pressure from his New Ford-Kenya party, he shed his neutrality garb and entered the campaign fray directly in favour of Kombo. That the people of Bungoma firmly ignored his voice, only eight months after his gubernatorial triumph, must be cause for serious concern for this otherwise fine technocrat running the politically turbo-charged county. In the frame of national politics, CORD has won big.
The coalition not only retained a key political constituency in a significant region, it did so in such commanding and tactical fashion that lifts the spirits of the rank and file and enacts a template for future battles. Of course the return of Wetangâ€™ula as Senate Minority Leader also keeps one of the CORD co-principals within the legislative loop – a key factor.
But it is the political calculus of western Kenya that perhaps comes into sharpest focus after this epic duel. The aftermath of the 2013 General Election left the people of Western at unprecedented political crossroads. Effectively locked out of national government for the first time in independent Kenyaâ€™s 50-year history, and unwittingly spread thin across myriad political outfits with minimal potency, the past eight months have been a period of drift, flux and introspection for the countryâ€™s second most populous region.
And while the people have remained proudly defiant in the face of what they perceive to be a â€œtwo-tribeâ€ jubilee government, they have not concealed their desire for a reawakening, a new anchor, a fresh impetus. That is exactly what the Bungoma senatorial by-election provided. And the manner in which the leading political lights across the region shunted aside party affiliations and other parochial differences to rally around Weta and deliver a decisive victory could well be the catalyst required for a renaissanceâ€¦Manâ€™s tragedy, Godâ€™s strategy?
Merry Christmas folks!
This article was first published for the Standard Newspaper. Ababu Namwamba is the MP for Budalangi Constituency.