It’s do-or-die for Ruto, Raila in Msambweni by-election
Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu
It is a do- or-die contest for Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto-led ‘Hustler’ movement, as the two sides gear up for the Msambweni by-election slated for December 15.
On Friday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cleared nine candidates in the battle for the seat that fell vacant following the death of former MP Suleiman Dori on March, 9.
Four people will contest as Independent candidates, while political parties sponsor five.
Former Gombato Bongwe Ward Rep Omar Boga, a younger brother of Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamad Boga, will fly the ODM flag, Khamis Mwakaonje (United Green Movement), Bashir Kilalo (Kadu Asili), Peter Nzuki (Democratic Party of Kenya), Marere wa Mwachai (National Vision Party), Ali Mwakulonda (Party of Economic Democracy) and Sheikh Mahmoud (Wiper Party).
Feisal Abdalla Bader, is being backed by Ruto, and is leading the almost crowded list of Independent candidates, alongside Mariam Sharlet, Mansury Kumaka and Charles Bilali.
Msambweni Constituency comprises of four wards: Gombato Bongwe, Ukunda, Kinondo and Ramisi.
In 2017 General Election, the constituency had 68,621 registered voters, with Ukunda ward leading with 21,500, followed by Ramisi with 18,569, Gombato Bongwe ( 17,536) while Kinondo had 11,014.
Already, political temperatures in Msambweni have scaled up and spilled over to the rest of the Coast region, as the candidates draw their daggers, ready to go for each other’s jugular in what is expected to be a bruising political showdown.
The battle is fast shaping up between Raila and Raila. ODM’s ‘Handshake candidate’ enjoys the ruling Jubilee Party’s backing while on the other hand, Bader, has received huge support from Ruto’s allies at the Coast, including Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, Mohammed Ali (Nyali), outspoken Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is expected to lead the ODM brigade in a campaign to reclaim the seat.
Joho vowed to teach Ruto an unforgettable political lesson, saying he will pitch tent in Msambweni alongside his fellow governors Dhadho Godhana (Tana River), Amason Kingi (Kilifi) and Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) to ensure ODM secures a landslide victory.
“Boga was born and raised in Msambweni, schooled and worked here. He knows all the problems facing the constituents. He is, therefore, the right person to represent you,” said Joho.
On his part, Boga presented himself as the best candidate to address the issues such as land, settlement of squatters as well as youth and women empowerment.
Besides the party popularity, the ODM candidate has an upper hand, having served as Bongwe Gombato ward Rep, which has 17,536 registered voters and is said to enjoy considerable support from other wards.
But on the other hand, the fact that his closest rival; Bader hails from Ukunda Ward that commands 21,500 registered voters, throws the race wide open for the two especially considering that voter turnout in by-election cannot be predicted.
With the Jubilee party already backed-down in the contest, the pressure is largely on ODM that seeks to underscore its supremacy in the region perceived to be one of its traditional bedrocks.
The Orange party will be extra-keen not to let the seat slip through their fingers, as a miss could cast doubts on Raila’s popularity and continued influence in the region he has sustained command for long.
On the other hand, armed with Bader- a close relative of the late Suleiman Dori- as his candidate, the Deputy President probably views the by-election as a mouth-watering chance to gauge his single-handed impact in forays he has so far made in the region.
Against the above backdrop, Ruto will certainly be preparing to practically leak his lips at any slight mistake that will guarantee ODM’s slip in favour of his candidate, as this could hand the DP an advantage in his 2022 ambitions.
While pundits have declared the contest a two-horse race between Boga and Bader, others have indicated that Wiper’s Sheikh Mahmoud should not be underestimated, as he could as well pull a surprise.
While unveiling the candidate at the party’s headquarters in Nairobi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka warned that those peddling the two-horse narrative to brace for a ‘political shock.’
“As Wiper, we are well prepared and we are confident with our candidate. Those saying the race is between Raila and Ruto will be in for a rude shock,” said Kalonzo.