Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka appears to have pulled a fast one on Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party in the Machakos senatorial poll slated for tomorrow (Thursday).
The last-minute decision by Maendeleo Chap Chap party to withdraw its candidate, former Cabinet Minister Mutua Katuku, is viewed as a game-changer in Ukambani political landscape.
The action by party leader Alfred Mutua barely two days to the hotly contested poll now leaves Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his political nemesis Johnstone Muthama to fight for the control of the region.
A bruising political battle was expected among key candidates gunning for the Machakos senatorial seat in Thursday’s mini poll billed as a supremacy battle between top political leaders.
Machakos electorate had expressed anxiety as they prepared to go to the polls to pick their next senator amid heightened political rivalry and competition.
Before the surprise turn of events, the popular African proverb ‘when two elephants fight, it is the innocent grass that suffers’, best described the feeling of most residents who were not only exercising their democratic right on Thursday but would be voting for the political future of the lower eastern region.
The poll pitting Kalonzo, Alfred Mutua and Muthama who had fielded candidates in the by-election had left the community divided.
Mutua said his party’s withdrawal from the race was an extension of goodwill to the President, to ODM party leader Raila Odinga, BBI partners and was meant to counter the agenda of detractors citing Muthama’s United Democratic Alliance party (UDA) party which is allied to the Deputy President.
With Katuku out of the race, Urbanus Ngengele of (UDA) will now face off with Muthama’s ex-wife and Wiper candidate Agnes Kavindu in an election where political stakes for both Kalonzo and Muthama will remain at a premium.
Unlike the previous elections where Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka was the undisputed Ukambani Kingpin, his stewardship has been under threat from Alfred Mutua and Muthama.
If Katuku had not stepped down, the Thursday poll would have been a litmus test for the bigwigs.
The race would also have had a major bearing on the country’s political landscape.
For Kalonzo, a win will bolster the ANC, Wiper, Ford Kenya and Kanu political alliance that is in the works just like the just concluded Matungu and Kabuchai by-elections.
Musalia Mudavadi, Gideon Moi and Moses Wetangula have been traversing the county that boasts of 623,536 registered voters campaigning for Kavindu up until Friday when political gatherings were banned over the prevailing Covid situation.
If Kavindu loses, Kalonzo’s 2022 presidential ambition and that of his would-be coalition partners will be dealt a major blow.
For Governor Mutua, Katuku’s win would have given him a new impetus. His efforts to dislodge Kalonzo and have a grip on the region would have finally paid off as well as buoy his 2022 presidential bid.
Muthama is also a man under pressure. Deputy President William Ruto who is making inroads in Ukambani is banking on him through the UDA candidate Ngengele to deliver the region to him.
The campaigns had fiercely been competitive with several candidates losing influential supporters in a spate of defections, an indication that there was no favourite candidate and that the allegiances were only but a gamble.
Pundits now say the result of the poll will be a pointer of how things will shape up ahead of the BBI referendum and 2022 general election.
The stakes are high and the unfolding events could partly be the reason why President Kenyatta Tuesday morning held a consultative meeting with a section of political party leadership in the country.
Uhuru who met leaders from the ODM, ANC, KANU, Ford-Kenya, NARC and Wiper parties urged all political affiliates and supporters in Machakos to find a peaceful, amicable and uniting way forward during the upcoming by-election.
And in response to the President’s appeal, governor Mutua withdrew his candidate in what he described as a move to end the culture of divisive and winner takes it all politics.
“Finally, to our supporters, we know you have been ready to unanimously vote for our candidate and we thank you. This is a strategic decision and tactical decision made in the best interest of our members, supporters and our future plans” Mutua said in a statement.
The seat which fell vacant following the death of Boniface Kabaka had attracted 10 candidates namely John Katuku (Maendeleo Chap chap) Agnes Kavindu(Wiper) Stanley Muindi (Party of Economic Democracy), Jonathan Maweu (independent), Francis Munyambu (independent), Sebastian Nthama (independent). Others are Urbanus Ngengele (UDA), Simeon Kitheka (Grand Dream Development Party), John Musingi (Muungano) and Musembi Nthenge of Ford Asili.
All eyes are now on the residents of Machakos County who have the absolute power to determine the region’s political destiny.