All hat and no cattle: Senator with much talk but zero muscle

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On any given day, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula can be a gem when he takes to the floor of the Senate to contribute in  a debate.

At such times, friend and foe alike follow his contributions keenly because you never know where it will end.

Sample this: moments after the ODM senators had schemed to oust him as the Senate Minority Leader in March, Wetang’ula took to the floor of the Senate and promised a “messy, noisy” divorce.

“I want to say it will also have casualties and I’m ready to confront my enemies mundu khu mundu (man to man),” he memorably charged at this pals-turned-foes in the National Super Alliance (Nasa) where he is one of the four principals.

His declaration of war against ODM, the big brother in the Nasa coalition, was almost comical since he lacks the political strength to take on former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s party.

Anyway, that was classic Wetangula: a man of oversize ego with a puppyish bark.

When Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka suspended his removal because he deemed the election of Mr James Orengo illegal, many thought that Mr Wetangula had been handed a lifeline.

Instead of reaching out to his colleagues to plead his case, he attended a public rally in his native Bungoma County, and blustered that nothing would shake him.

“If a dog backs at you, you don’t talk to it instead you go right to the owner and ask him to put his dog on a leash. That is what I will do,” he said. Wrong move.

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Sitting with Parliamentary journalists after the ODM’s coup against Wetangula in favour of Orengo , Lusaka quoted the Bible, 1 Samuel 24: 1.13 that talks about the story of Saul and David.

“This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish,” Lusaka gleefully told journalists over the vanquishing of his political nemesis.

“Weta” was among the very few lawyers who stood up to defend the Kenya Air Force rebels after the failed 1982 coup.

Whereas experienced lawyers made a conscious decision to keep off the cases for fear of falling into the government’s bad books, Wetangula, then a young lawyer, bravely defended them.

Weta, as he is commonly referred to, is endowed with immense academic qualifications and the gift of the gab. 

His contribution from the floor is always interspersed with strong historical contexts on both local and global issues.

Yet, whenever the Ford Kenya leader speaks either on the floor of the Senate, or in a public rally, he uses his intellect like a sledgehammer with which to bludgeon opponents into oblivion.

Though he lacks the political clout of his co-principals in the NASA coalition, Weta has exploited the little opportunities that have come his way to effective use, projecting himself as a political giant.

Whereas he projects himself as a liberal and a democrat, Wetangula can also be petulant

Miffed by a challenge from Isaac Mwaura, he retorted by dismissing him as “a Senator from nowhere” in reference to Mr Mwaura’s status as a Nominated Senator.

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Weta’s critics say he has never stood with progressive forces in the country. After his 1982 moment, he faded away and stood with Moi throughout his rule, who nominated him to Parliament in 1992.

While there is consensus about his abilities, there are those who think he has failed to harness his strengths and that he would readily sacrifice his strength for short-term personal gain.



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