BY POLITICAL REPORTER
A fierce political battle is expected in Webuye east constituency ahead of 2022 general election where political heavy weights have declared interest to succeed incumbent Alfred Sambu who is set to hang his political boots come 2022.
Already, all the major political outfits namely – Amani National Congress, ODM, Jubilee Party, Ford Kenya and Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) have identified candidates expected to battle it out in the polls. Political pundits aver that clan, parties’ popularity and financial muscle will be a determining factor.
Campaigns in the constituency have intensified in the last four months, with aspirants traversing the three wards of Ndivisi, Mihuu and Maraka wards.
The incumbent Sambu has held the seat for the last 15 years after defeating ex-cabinet minister Musikari Kombo in 2007. Sambu who was elected on an ODM ticket 2007, surprised all and sundry when he ditched it for the UDF in 2013 and now ANC.
Dr.Iyaya Wanjala,a perennial loser, has previously lost to incumbent twice and cried foul on both occasions. Dr.Wanjala believes he needs no introduction in the constituency, having contested in the last General Election to come second, which gives him a head start over rivals Noah Chiuli, Evans Murumba and Aggrey Namisi who are making a stab in politics for the first time.
Job Chelongo, Bungoma county governor deputy chief of staff, on the other hand is tired of being in the cold and is fighting hard to get back the seat. Noah Chiuli, a youthful business magnate, is a native from Ngachi clan and enjoys fanatical youthful following courtesy of his rapport and sound financial muscle. Mr Chiuli, a prominent businessman, says his “unparalleled” track record as an entrepreneur has prepared him adequately to be the next Mp of Webuye East. “My decision is founded on the poverty levels that are increasingly getting out of hand in Webuye East constituency” he said. For the last couple of months, he embarked on a vigorous fundraising campaign trying to build schools, Churches and has extended his Olive branch to bright but destitute students in Webuye East and its environs.
Initially, the contest appeared like it would be a three-horse race pitting Dr. Iyaya, Job Chelongo and Bungoma east Knut Executive secretary Aggrey Namisi. However, Ford Kenya die hard Noah Chiuli entry has completely changed the equation, making the race a hard nut to crack. The younger business tycoon is believed to have played a leading role in Ford Kenya campaigns in 2017 due to his financial muscles and interaction with women and youth groups.
Pundits say the presence of the four candidates in Ngachi clan, which has the bulk of votes in the constituency, and hosts Tachoni sub-tribe voting block might work to its disadvantage since the votes may be split. “Non tachoni’s may vote as a block for their candidate and a split is also likely to surface. Aggrey Namisi despite the fact that he has been a resident of Webuye West and having contested before and lost in the primaries and recently relocated to Maraka Ward, on his part did not waste the chance as he urged the residents to give him a chance to become their MP, promising visibility since he is an outspoken politician with national stature. “I am the best candidate for the seat. Being well connected in teacher’s union I am the best bet. The people of Webuye East need a strong leader who will be able to champion their interests at the national level and even globally,” Namisi said.
The candidates are banking on a free and fair nomination exercise; with some warning of unspecified dire political consequences should the exercise be marred with irregularities and favouritism. The aspirants, most of whom are allies of Moses Wetang’ula, are all eyeing the Ford Kenya Party ticket. Anyone who will lose the nomination would have to sit out the entire election, unless he or she defects to another party. This is why the aspirants are of the opinion that the primaries should be free and fair, devoid of any external interference. Voting patterns in Webuye East revolve around clan politics and the entry into the race by other candidates is likely to tilt performance scales for the top three aspirants in the race. Dr.Iyaya, Noah Chiuli, Aggrey Namisi, Evans Murumba hails from Ngachi clan while Masoni comes from Abasang’alo clan. This leaves Job Chelongo clan with the critical swing vote to determine the next MP. The non tachoni’s feel they have a stake in the constituency leadership, having invested in the region. The Tachoni, on the other hand, feel they are the natives. This scenario and a probable voting pattern have forced candidates to mount vigorous campaigns, with concentration on the critical swing vote bloc. Candidates have avoided ‘highway’ campaigns but instead adopted a village to village vote-hunting strategy. Others who are rumoured might join the race are Bungoma county CEC for youths and gender Evelyne Kakai and Maraka ward MCA Ali Mutoka Balala.