The Bungoma senator suggested Raila should finally hang up his boots, a popular saying among Jubilee foes, referring to Raila’s age of 71 years.
He also protested being left out of Raila’s five-day Western tour ending today.
Wetang’ula’s very public remarks on KTN on Thursday night have lifted the lid on the tension and behind the scenes intrigues threatening to dismember the coalition. Raila, Wetangu’la and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka earlier pledged Cord will not disintegrate. All three want to be President.
“He [Raila] is now in Western trying to popularise ODM. You have seen there is some resistance. That resistance is not just that people are tired of ODM. It’s because Weta [short for Wetang’ula] is around. People are asking why did they come without Weta?” he asked in the KTN interview.
Wetang’ula, a Cord co-principal with Raila and Kalonzo, spoke as Raila struggled to claw back his support in Western against Jubilee’s onslaught.
Raila has been on a relentless charm offensive, rejuvenating grassroots networks, following resignations of key ODM politicians.
In the interview, Wetang’ula said Raila stands little chance against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He threw in a snide comment that his huge rallies won’t translate into a huge vote.
“In politics, there is the doctrine of diminishing returns. There is also the doctrine of voter fatigue. People vote, you win, it’s stolen, you win, it’s stolen. They begin to imagine, even if we vote, it will be the same thing,” Wetangu’la said.
“Of course, one must bear in mind crowds are not votes and votes are not crowds so we have to go much deeper than that.”
His remarks have infuriated ODM supporters but they are music to Jubilee’s ears, as the ruling coalition pursues a divide-and-conquer strategy to splinter the opposition.
ODM considers the remarks a betrayal at a time when Raila is fighting dissent and scouring nearly every village in Western to re-position ODM as the region’s choice.
Raila’s Western tour has been called a success, with so-called rebels in retreat.
ODM’s Director of Communication told off Wetangu’la and said Raila will definitely be on the ballot.
Butere MP Andrew Toboso said Raila is the sole Cord candidate for State House.
“Wetangu’la is putting the cart before the horse by preempting the outcome of the presidential nomination process. Raila garnered over five million votes, while the highest Wetangu’la has ever received as a leader is barely 200,000 votes, with the backing and support of Baba Raila,” Toboso said yesterday.
The ex-Prime Minister met party delegates, branch officials, and staged well-attended rallies focusing on what he did for the Luhya nation in the grand coalition government.
Two MPs – Luanda’s Chris Omulele and his Emuhaya counterpart Wilbur Otichilo after weeks of speculation, affirmed their ODM allegiance and rejected any association with Jubilee they said senior Jubilee officials tried to bribe them to dump Raila, but they refused.
Funyula MP Paul Otuoma, who resigned as ODM vice chair, has backtracked and says he’s in ODM for good.
This leaves Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba and his Sirisia counterpart John Waluke as the only public faces of the ODM mutiny in the Luhya nation. Ababu quit as secretary general and Waluke as security director, but both remain in the party.
Still, Wetang’ula’s remarks portend trouble.
“People want to ride on Raila’s back to advance. When asked to reciprocate, they start silly narratives. Not now,” ODM communications director Philip Etale said on Friday.
Maseno University political science don Tom Mboya termed the Western “rebellion” a media fiction.
“The rebel story was a creation of the media. It never reflected reality on the ground. But it was important for Raila to tour the region to do away with speculation,” Mboya said in an
interview yesterday. He called it “very successful”.
Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho and his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya joined Raila. Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, a key Raila ally, said people’s power had literally driven the rebels out of town.
“The ground is totally ODM. It’s not even Cord, it’s ODM. In fact, my friends Ababu and Otuoma are finding it increasingly difficult to survive on the ground. They can only salvage
their fortunes by coming back quickly because the window is closing fast,” Wandayi said.
Aspirants jostling to replace the rebels joined Raila’s tour.
But TNA Chairman Johnson Sakaja said Western would back President Uhuru because of development benefits.
“We will continue providing good services in public facilities, reviving companies and creating jobs. Our role as Jubilee is to improve lives and not engage in useless politics,” he said.
“You see how much we have pumped into Western. I am sure they love development and will remain with us.”
Raila received a rousing welcome in Budalang’i and Funyula on Wednesday, making several stops to rally the electorate.
“Our enemy is not Ababu but Jubilee, which we must kick out in 2017,” he said at Busagwa centre, to cheers.
Chakol North MCA Stephen Ekapolon (URP) told the Star news paper that they long ago abandoned Jubilee because people yearn for Raila as President.