David Makali: Is Eugene a state house project?

Eugene Wamalwa has a very important date with destiny on January 31. It is the day he has appointed to announce or launch his presidential bid. Or rather it is the date his backers have chosen to propose him formally to the public as a candidate for presidency. I think it is a beautiful idea that someone of his mould should lead this country if it comes to pass.

And as one of his generation, I cannot begrudge him the high ambition. His drive is also rare for the Luhya who have specialised in being the second best. It will be laudable if he can marshal support from other communities behind him whatever their composition to take a stab at the top job.

But his bid and its timing is fraught with many challenges that he has to surmount to get the nod on his Big Day. First, his move is attracting pronounced resistance from the Ford-Kenya fraternity, which should be backing him in the first place.

They argue that Eugene is not only employing lone-ranger tactics in building alliances but his association with the amorphous movement called Simama Kenya patronised by President Kibaki's son Jimi is suspect.

Two things can be said about that. There is not much about Ford-K current status that Eugene can draw on to run his race. The party is a shell that its current leaders headed by Musikari Kombo conveniently killed in the pursuit of his dream of being Vice President.

But it is a potent shell that someone else can pick up and use, which is why Eugene, Moses Wetangula and Moses Akaranga are trying to wrest it from his grip.

I see no reason why Eugene should not take it as a first step to joining the main political league; he is better placed than all his opponents to restore the dream of the Grand March that Wamalwa Kijana promised my Bukusu people.

In my view, Wetangula is too schooled in Kanu's ways to fit the new Kenya vision while Akaranga is just a nice pastor.

Eugene's detractors should present a better alternative to his youth, freshness and clean resume.

They should show Ford-K members what they have done with the party they took into the PNU alliance and lost face. Now they are swearing they will never enter into any other pre-election pact but that is a lie if you look at the future politics of Kenya.

But Eugene needs to wrack his brains a little as he goes forth to Bungoma: This country is not, strictly speaking, in the campaign mode yet. The constitution review and all the justice issues being canvassed are more pressing and he needs to speak about those, so we know what he stands for.

Then there is his association with or membership in the Simama Kenya Initiative. Simama is a hard sale and Eugene should know where to pitch its tent. Nor should he shun it. In his position, he cannot afford to discriminate against any support or endorsement he gets. He needs that support now to take over Ford-K but he must avoid being judged "by the company he keeps.

Those who are propping him up, all the way up to State House, must understand that appearing to chaperone him too much may not be in their own long-term interest.

Eugene springs from a rich political lineage that can either benefit his cause or frustrate it depending on how he plays his cards.

As Barack Obama amply demonstrated, proper political networking and a credible and savvy campaign team can deliver impossible results. Eugene can inspire and deliver a generational revolution if he plays smart at those two levels.

It is clear his moves have the blessings of State House and Intelligence and fit squarely in the political strategising for 2012. But any appearance that he is not his own man, or he is an anointed successor in a dynastic pact between his late brother Kijana Wamalwa and Kibaki, which the later has never owned up to, could prove disastrous. Just like Moi tried to impose Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor, there is all the likelihood that any arrangement that Kibaki crafts to reward Uhuru and Eugene could prove problematic.

Before the emergence of the Simama Kenya and Eugene, speculation had festered that the Central Kenya axis was sending feelers to Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi to be their candidate.

It turned out that Mudavadi was rock loyal to his captain in ODM. Which leaves the question: Is Eugene being groomed for premier under President Uhuru Kenyatta?

Whatever grand plan he is part of, if he can pull it off, Eugene will be a true political genius.

Makali is the director of The Media Institute. dmakali@yahoo.com

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