Msambweni MP-elect Feisal Bader and Deputy President William Ruto
Msambweni MP-elect Feisal Bader and Deputy President William Ruto/ Courtesy

By Reporter

Deputy President William Ruto’s decisive victory in the Msambweni by-election has inflicted a political wound on the handshake and deflated the BBI momentum.

The surprise win by independent candidate Feisal Bader against the ODM political machinewith the blessing of the state machineryhas also sent President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange party leader Raila Odinga back to the drawing board over 2022 political calculations.

Bader, an ally of the DP, crushed ODM’s Omar Boga after garnering 15,251 votes against 10,444, ending Raila’s 13-year grip on the Coastal constituency.

Boga had been presented as the handshake candidate, with the backing of both Raila and Uhuru. Uhuru met Boga alongside Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho last week in what was seen as a public display of endorsement.

The high-stakes by-election was couched as a political duel pitting Building Bridges Initiate proponents, led by Uhuru and Raila, against Ruto’s ‘hustler nation’.

Raila had framed the by-election as a contest against politicians opposed to the BBI process and insisted that a loss would signal turbulence for the BBI.

“This election will be a control experiment to show if the BBI will succeed or not. If ODM will be defeated here, then the BBI will have a problem,” Raila said in Msambweni on December 10.

Ruto did not personally campaign for Bader. However, he deployed a strong team of Tangatanga politicians, including a host of his allies from the Coast led by Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya.

Political analysts say the outcome has tested the BBI spirit and the prospects of the proposed referendum sailing through.

Raila has also been smoked out of his comfort that the Coast region remains his ‘bedroom’.

Political commentator Martin Andati warned that the push to amend the Constitution now sits at a precarious position.

“Even without proper leadership at the NO front, masses are likely to very easily reject the BBI,” Andati said.

“The masses are obviously not happy with the priorities, so it appears they (Uhuru and Raila) are forcing the thing down the throat of the masses.”

The next battlefront will be Matungu (Kakamega) and Kabuchai (Bungoma) constituencies where ODM would be seeking to stamp its authority in Western.

Those fronted by ODM, a party born out of a referendum victory of 2005, will still square it off against candidates fielded by Ruto, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya).

Voters in Matungu go to the polls on March 4 next year.

Candidates associated with Ruto also made a surprise win in Gaturi ward where Esther Mwihaki of the People’s Empowerment Party trounced Jubilee’s Rosemary Wakuthii.

The PEP is linked to Ruto’s Mt Kenya point man Moses Kuria, who is also the Gatundu South MP. Ruto’s win continued in Lake View, Nakuru, where Jubilee Party lost. 

The ‘hustler nation’ victories could trigger a breakaway from Jubilee ahead of the 2022 polls.

On Wednesday, the DP’s allies claimed the victories were a clear testament that the hustler movement is a force to reckon with.

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi said unless the ruling Jubilee Party “wakes up and puts its house in order, by 2022 it will be a pale shadow of its past”.

“I urge Kenyans not to be afraid, the so-called ‘system’ are a few clueless men who employ cheap theatrics, intimidation and coercion,” the outspoken legislator said.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi said Bader’s victory is a strong message that Kenyans will no longer be taken for granted.

“The writing is on the wall. Whenever we say we want a dialogue, don’t chest-thump, we know what we’re saying,” he said.

MP Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga) said the Msambweni outcome was testimony that the hustlers are unstoppable.

But Kenya National Congress Party leader Manson Nyamweya dismissed suggestions that Uhuru and Raila lost in Msambweni.

“The lesson that the Msambweni by-election has taught us is that politics is local and is not about the big boys but the electorate,” Nyamweya said.

He said regional political dynamics beyond Uhuru and Raila’s control played out in Msambweni.

“There appeared to be a strong message being sent out by Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya that he is still in charge,” said Nyamweya, a former South Mugirango MP.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a key Ruto critic, said the battle was lost but the war is not over yet.

“Fortunately, as Jubilee, we will live to fight another day as the war is not over yet. We look forward to the next battle,” Ngunjiri said.

The MP, who supported Boga, said the handshake lost “fairly to a much better-organised team”.

“We have lost this particular battle. We have also watched your performance both in the campaign, turning out the vote, and protecting it,” he said.

Ngunjiri has previously attacked Ruto for trying to undermine the President.

Ruto Wednesday thanked the people of Msambweni for electing Bader and like his disciples left no doubt in his social media posts that hustlers are unstoppable.

“Congratulations my friend Feisal Bader. Your win cements our trust in God and the people, democracy and people power have triumphed,” the DP tweeted.

What was ODM’s Achilles heel in the Msambweni contest?

There were concerns that the Raila team appeared disjointed in their campaigns and centred their messaging on Ruto and the BBI at the expense of the real issues facing residents.

Bungoma Senator Wetang’ula said the ODM loss was a clear indication that obscenities and hate speech “mitigated by the helpless state apparatus” are counterproductive to the BBI process.

“Reason has triumphed over abuses, insults and negative and unhelpful display of political bad manners. We must insist on good political hygiene,” he tweeted.

Ruto’s allies claimed they were terrorised and intimidated by security forces while touring various polling stations across Msambweni.

Former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and Belgut MP Nelson Koech were arrested on election day and released on Wednesday on bond.