By Paul Mukana
The Bungoma county gubernatorial race has been termed by political pundits as a battle of titans and will undoubtedly be among the hotly contested.
The showdown will be a repeat of the 2017 election when incumbent governor Wickliffe Wangamati narrowly skewed his predecessor Kenneth Lusaka.
In the 2017 match, Wangamati garnered 200,723 votes against Lusaka’s 179,379.
In this year’s contention, the two rivals are again facing off with each other in a simmering cold war.
Wangamati will be vying on a Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) ticket which is affiliated to the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance.
The first time governor enjoys blessings of ODM leader Raila Odinga, Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa and a number of Azimio’s lieutenants.
Wangamati is literally an Azimio La Umoja One Kenya candidate.
He will be riding on his set of incomplete projects to try and woo voters to give him another chance.
He has set up a number of KCPE scholarship programmes for top performers and it has earned him accolades as well as criticism.
“Education is an equalizer and the students I started with have completed their secondary school education with most of them be scoring As. We will be seeking re-election on account of what we have done as compared to what they did while in office.It is a world apart,” Wangamati noted at a recent political jamboree.
Wangamati’s other projects include the Musikoma – Kanduyi dual carriageway, the renovation of the Masinde Muliro stadium and the construction of a 300 bed capacity pediatric wing hospital.
On the other hand, Lusaka who is the senate speaker is seeking a comeback to the county’s top seat via a Ford Kenya party ticket .
Ford Kenya is an umbrella party of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by DP Ruto.
Thus Lusaka is definitely a Kenya Kwanza Candidate since he is reading on the same script with Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula and DP Ruto’s outfit.
Lusaka has poked holes inside Wangamati’s projects terming them directionless.
“The essence of devolution was to develop villages but plumbing all projects in one ward doesn’t make any sense,” Lusaka scoffed.
Lusaka said he is the one who launched the policy of the programmes that Wangamati is boosting about.
Apparently, opinion polls have put Lusaka ahead but political commentators have maintained that the race is far from over.
Lusaka enjoys credible support from Mt Elgon, Tongaren, Kimilili, Webuye East , Webuye West and Kabuchai constituencies, Kabuchai being the home turf of Wetangula.
Wangamati is exponentially popular in Bumula and Sirisia constituencies whilst Kanduyi constituency is considered to be the battle ground since both candidates enjoy virtually equal support.
Thus, the Bungoma gubernatorial race has turned out to be a fight beyond the county’s precincts since more stakeholders from the national level are playing fundamental roles.
It is a tussle between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza.
Governor Wangamati is being pushed by Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa who is an ardent hit man of both Azimio’s presidential candidate Raila Odinga and president Uhuru Kenyatta.
On the other hand, Lusaka has the blessings of Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula who is a midfielder inside DP Ruto’s kitchen cabinet.
Both political alliances are determined to mint the Bungoma gubernatorial seat so as to attain the requisite charisma to muddle the political space of western Kenya moreso in the presidential election.
Another battle factor is the choice of running mates with Wangamati dropping his deputy governor Charles Ngome and picking Sitati Nangalama from Kimilili.
Lusaka settled on renowned gender rights activist Jennifer Mbatiany from Mt Elgon.
Both candidates are determined to capitalize on their choice of deputies to add weight on their campaign trails.
It should be noted that governor Wangamati was once a close ally of Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula but launched a rebellion together with Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu, Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi and CS Eugene Wamalwa.
That was the genesis of the DAP-K party which was formed by the trio to counter the insurgency of Ford Kenya in the western region.
Bungoma county has 559,850 registered voters , 1186 polling stations and 9 constituencies.
Apart from Lusaka and Wangamati, another gubernatorial candidates is Zachariah Barasa of UDP party which is rooted to the Azimio wing.
Barasa was once a DP Ruto close ally and was set to vie on a UDA party ticket but fell out after he turned down DP Ruto’s plea to step down for Lusaka.