Ukambani succession politics heats up

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Kitui's Charity Ngilu, Makueni's Kivutha Kibwana and Alfred Mutua of Machakos in a recent event. IMAGE/COURTESY

Political realignments in Ukambani has seen the war taken to Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s doorstep. The former VP is under siege as two separate camps battle for the control of his Ukambani backyard ahead of the 2022 polls.

One faction is led by three governors from the region: Kitui’s Charity Ngilu, Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana and Alfred Mutua of Machakos.

The other camp led by former Machakos Senator Johnston Muthama is supporting Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid.

This vicious rivalry in Ukambani came to the fore in a leaked audio conversation between Ngilu and former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile.

Ngilu in the audio, accuses Kalonzo of pursuing his selfish interests whenever an opportunity for Ukambani arises. She concludes that the Wiper boss cannot be trusted to negotiate the interests of the region.

“Kalonzo will never negotiate for the community. If he negotiates for us, we are finished,” Ngilu says in the audio, confirmed as legit by Ndile.

Kalonzo nominated his son to the East African Legislative Assembly and left behind one of his closest advisers, Temi Mutia, who was seen to have sacrificed a lot  for Wiper.

The adviser, who was among those fronted for Wiper’s single ticket to EALA, was rescued by Governor Ngilu, who hired him as an adviser in Kitui county.

When the issue of Cabinet changes came up recently, there was talk that when President Uhuru Kenyatta asked Wiper to nominate a candidate, Kalonzo presented himself.

In the leaked conversation, Ngilu dismissed Kalonzo’s presidential bid, citing his “ever-shifting political alliances”.

Kalembe suggests to the governor to convene a meeting at Stone Athi to chart the plan, one that brings Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko on board.

And to show that she is tipped to take her fights with Kalonzo beyond Kitui where the former VP reportedly backed her impeachment, Ngilu has hinted that she may not defend her governor seat.

She said in a TV address that she is angling for a top national seat reserved for women through the BBI arrangement.

Ngilu is an ardent supporter of the BBI and was among the last governors to host its campaigns before Covid-19 interfered with the rallies.

But Kalonzo, through his spokesman Dennis Kavisu, said the assertions and plots by Ngilu are nothing new.

Kavisu listed several projects in Ukambani allegedly spearheaded by Kalonzo, including the Kibwezi–Kitui-Mwingi Road, which he said the former VP negotiated its funding before leaving office in 2012.

Muthama, for his part, said that Ngilu and Kalonzo “have been having differences from the word go”. The former senator laughed off Kalonzo cooperation agreement with Uhuru, saying it will amount to nothing.

He noted that Ngilu may be plotting “to remain in leadership since she may not stand to be reelected looking at the ground in Kitui”.

“Ngilu is trying to find a way of associating with Raila so that should the latter win, he will have a soft landing for her,” the ex-senator said.

Muthama says he stands for one national party and would field Ruto as a presidential candidate.

“If Ruto remains in Jubilee, we will all go to Jubilee. If he joins or forms another party, we will go to that party and the positions shared across the country’s communities,” he said.

The outspoken politician said neither Kalonzo nor Ngilu can be trusted to advocate the region’s interests.

“Ngilu doesn’t stand to command the decision of leading a coalition. The person who stands to lead Ukambani to a coalition is Kivutha,” he said.

Kivutha has thrown his hat in the ring for 2022 presidency putting him at a pedestal to negotiate with other parties and coalitions.

Muthama says those waiting on Uhuru’s endorsement stand to lose as “whoever will be handed the mantle will not be elected by Kenyans…this is clear in the face of the resistance in Central.”

“Let us try to change this face of dominance from one family to this family…that is why I am convinced that we will come out successfully with where we are going with Ruto.”