Wetang’ula move to politicise bribery issue may not get him out of the mess

By: GITAU WARIGI

An instance of the convoluted nature of opposition politics in this country is offered by the case of Senator Moses Wetang’ula of Bungoma.

What started as a legal matter, and should have been kept that way, has in a strange way been turned political by Mr Wetang’ula and his associates.

They are being thoroughly dishonest. And they know it.

PETITION

The problem goes back to the post-election petition filed by Mr Wetang’ula’s rival, Mr Musikari Kombo.

A key court finding was that the senator had “treated voters” — a euphemism for bribery. It is a serious electoral offence.

Mr Wetang’ula was lucky he got off with just a nullification of his election.

The judge had the option to push for tougher punishment, like a jail term. But he let it pass.

As it were, Mr Wetang’ula won the subsequent by-election handily.

BRIBERY RULING

However, the senator, also a lawyer, knew that the implications of the bribery ruling would continue to dog him.

He moved to the Court of Appeal, and then to the Supreme Court, losing in both instances when the bribery ruling was upheld.

This is what now threatens his political career.

The law requires the registrar of the Supreme Court to formally notify the Speaker of the Senate to gazette the court finding. All this has already been done.

What remains now is for the IEBC to meet and consider removing the name of the offender from the voters register.

I am informed the IEBC has already consulted a top lawyer on the step it intends to take.

IMPLICATIONS

Once your name is removed from the register, you automatically lose your elective seat. You can’t even vote.

The duration of the punishment (when your name remains deleted from the IEBC roll) is five years.

For Mr Wetang’ula, it is particularly dangerous because that would mean he would be ineligible to run for any position in 2017.

He can only vie again in the 2022 General Election. That is a long way off.

It would mean almost certain political death for a man who peripherally started dabbling in national politics only the other day.

BLAMING JUBILEE

Mr Wetang’ula and his friends are blaming Jubilee for the senator’s predicament. The senator knows perfectly well that this is bogus.

So do his political associates. Yet to milk mileage out of his woes has prompted them to call out the government as the scapegoat.

I doubt Jubilee stands to benefit if Mr Wetang’ula is knocked out of action.

It would leave the Bukusu community with no clear reference point in Cord.

An opposition coalition that has fewer “principals” is not what Jubilee presumably would wish for.

For them, the more the merrier. And the noisier the inevitable fallout.

LUHYA UNITY

ODM elections-cum-primaries-cum-whatever are known by their brand name of confusion and chaos, and that is precisely how Jubilee would want matters to be in Cord as the General Election approaches.

Only the band of self-seekers who try to hide their ambition through the monotonous call for “Luhya unity” stand to gain when one of their number is down.

As it were, Mr Wetang’ula has said he prefers a “boardroom” selection of a joint Cord candidate for 2017.

He knows he stands a rat’s chance in hell if the duel went to primaries.

Surely Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu cannot be serious when he says Mr Wetang’ula is the opposition candidate Jubilee fears most.

Anyway, people have the freedom to live with their illusions.

For a Jubilee anti-Wetang’ula “plot” to be remotely plausible, it would have had to lock in the Judiciary, the IEBC, and the Speaker of the Senate.

I am sure Chief Justice Willy Mutunga would laugh off the suggestion that his fiercely independent branch of the government is in cahoots with the Jubilee executive over this bribery affair — of all things.

The Bungoma senator seems to have picked one or two things from Jubilee and their handling of the ICC cases. Politicise everything. Call rallies in Bungoma. Hold prayers.

Whether this will work in the legal mess he is in is another matter.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION