As Wajir West By-election Enters Its Last Stretch, the Race is too Close to Call

As Wajir West By-election Enters Its Last Stretch, the Race is too Close to Call

By Guled Haji,

The Wajir West by-election enters its final stretch as the 25th April poll date draws to a close. The contest that was initially seen as a duel between the Deputy President and ODM leader Raila Odinga, is now a 2 horse race between Jubilee and Kanu after the ODM candidate withdrew in favour of the Jubilee candidate,a credit claimed by the Deputy President. However sub-plot political manouvers appear to be taking a centre stage. The Tangatanga team of Deputy President and the Handshake team of President Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and Gedion Moi’s bitter politics has reared its head as ODM is said to be smarting from the humiliating move by their nominee who defected to the Tangatanga team. After the surprise withdrawal of their candidate, ODM is said to have called  an impromptu closed door meeting with the TNA wing of Jubilee and Kanu’s Gedion Moi to thwart a URP’s win. The by-election was and still remains a testing ground for the 2022 succession war between the various players at least in the region. While the scale appeared to have tilted after Prof Elmi’s surprise withdrawal, the political stage seems to be shifting between the two remaining candidates making predictions a murky business.

Mr Qolosh hails from the constituency’s populous Mataan sub-clan of  the Degodia, the former governor’s sub-clan. After Prof Elmi’s withdrawal many of his supporters were expected to join Mr Qolosh’s campaign team boosting Mr Qolosh’s chances by a considerable margin. Until few days ago, Mr Qolosh appeared to have the casting card as he enjoyed the backing of the majority Mataan sub-clan which he hails from. However, in a surprise turn of events the Maow of the former governor are said to be up in arms against Mr Qolosh thereby dimming his chances to recapture the seat. A move that has prompted the former governor to fly to Wajir tomorrow with senior Midimal elders including former TSC chairman Mr Ibrahim Dhere and his brother former IEBC Commissioner Mr Abdullahi Sharawe to try to mend fences although many of the Maow and Midimal members we spoke to say it is tantamount to closing the gate after the horse has bolted.  The Gelible sub-clan of the Degodia who have considerable number of voters are also said to have joined Mr Sheikh’s camp, a move that is likely to aid Mr Sheikh’s win.   Mr Qolosh who was the front runner by far after ODM’s humiliating withdrawal is limping to victory by a small margin and that is if luck smiles at him. The winning scale appears to be tilting as his political plunders mount. Two days ago, the immediate former MP slapped a woman who shouted his rival’s name that shocked many of his supporters. In the somali culture nothing diminishes a man’s status more than hitting a woman. After this incident his lead team were a worried lot. Voters claim hubris is taking a toll on Mr Qolosh and may cost him the election that was his to win. Politicians who have been using the clan card to woo voters are finding a brick wall judging from the rallies and the number of Degodia voters fronting for Mr Sheikh.

In the mix of this murky political waters is the just concluded but protracted court petition against the sitting Governor. The petition pitted former governor Ahmed Abdullahi and the current governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud in a bitterly fought court petition that was in the end controversially won by Mr Abdi. Mr Kolosh hails from the former governor’s sub-clan who does  not see the sitting governor eye to eye,a  relationship that soured even more with the protracted court petition spearheaded by Mr Ahmed. In the same camp with the sitting governor is Mr Adan Keynan a  bitter political rival of former governor and the region’s longest serving MP. Mr Qolosh has a frosty political relationship with Mr Keynan. It is because of this that some constituents claim Keynan, a cunning politician, will vote against Qolosh but behind the scenes after the DP prevailed upon Prof Elmi and other Degodia elders to step down for the immediate former MP.

Mr Ibrahim Sheikh who is running a vigorous and seemingly well-oiled campaign is the Kanu nominee who successfully petitioned the then sitting MP. A son of both the Ajuran and the Degodia, Sheikh is backing on all the votes of the Ajuran. His maternal uncles the Fai are backing him. The Fai are a politically astute sub-clan and have a considerable clout in the County politics. Supporters of Prof Elmi who were disappointed by the surprise withdrawal of the ODM candidate have refused to cast their lot with the clan and are giving Mr Sheikh a considerable boost. In a country where elections are won or lost on clannism, it will be interesting to see how this pans out. From analysis of their campaign rallies and observations of their actions, Mr Qolosh’s chances have improved considerably since ODM’s withdrawal and Mr Sheikh who was expected to benefit from a split vote of the two Mataan candidates was smarting from Prof Elmi’s backing of Mr Qolosh. However, events may be taking another twist and Wajir West voters, a constituency that has voted more with the opposition than with a sitting government, the outcome appears too unpredictable. Prof Elmi is said to have taken a backseat after Mr Qolosh appeared to have reneged on some of the promises. 

Once Prof Elmi was out of the picture and majority of his supporters expected to join Mr Qolosh and that the sitting governor and Eldas MP prevailed upon by the DP to toe the party line, Mr Qolosh was considered the unopposed candidate in this by-election. However, a spot check indicates that while Mr Qolosh remains the man to beat, Mr Sheikh is fighting his corner like an infuriated buffalo. The advantage Mr Sheikh enjoys over Mr Qolosh is that the Ajuran Clan who are voting him to a man are all in close proximity to voting stations while many of Mr Qolosh’s supporters are disenfranchised by the drought and are said to have crossed borders. It is also thought that Mr Qolosh has given in to hubris after Mr Elmi’s withdrawal which is alienating many voters. There are forces working behind the scenes who would like ”to teach Mr Qolosh a lesson”. Political nemesis who are hellbent to deny Mr Qolosh a return to parliament and hail from his degodia clan are said to be working behind the scenes while publicly claiming to toe the party line. It is worth remembering that both H.E. Abdi Mohamud, the sitting Governor and Eldas MP Hon. Kenyan are Jubilee and may find politically tricky to publicly campaign against their political nemesis but it is an open secret that they do  not see him as a political friend. They may fight his comeback campaign behind the scenes, a factor said to be working against him.

While the degodia are larger in number in the constituency and despite the platform Mr Qolosh was given by the defection of the Prof to his camp, the young flamboyant immediate member of parliament is unable to capitalise on his political advantage. Other candidates who were also prevailed upon to step down for him are bitter with his political operation and are wooing voters for Mr Sheikh.  Yesterday, Mr Qolosh sent an SOS message to prominent elders of the Degodia like the Nairobi tycoon Mr Burhan and Mzee Isburash and others after sensing defeat engineered by many who were disgruntled by Prof Elmi’s withdrawal and other degodia forces who do not subscribe to Mr Qolosh’s ”political approach”.  Mr Sheikh who is fighting the fight of his political life and appealing to both camps is edging closer than was previously expected. Mr Sheikh enjoys the support of the ‘government’ and the system and has rejuvinated his operations after shillings 25 million was injected into his campaign by the powers-that-be. The handshake team comprising of President Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and Gedion Moi is said to be exerting considerable influence on the system to beat the Tangatanga candidate to pique the deputy president’s pride.

As the race enters its injury time and the scales keep tilting towards the Kanu candidate, it remains too close to call.