ODM leader Raila Odinga and ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi at Bukhungu Stadium, Kakamega, in a past function. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The bad blood between former comrades Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga was evident today when Mudavadi announced he would not attend Raila’s much-touted AzimioLaUmoja launch at Kasarani, Nairobi tomorrow.

“Regrettably, I will not be able to attend because of personal engagements,” said Mudavadi in a statement on his Twitter account.

The ANC leader said although Raila is a worthy competitor, he wishes him well because tomorrow will clearly be his [Raila’s] day in the sun.

He said, “I have just received an official invitation to Azimio la Umoja Convention. As noted herein, the invitation was addressed in my personal capacity as ANC Party Leader and not OKA Principal. Regrettably, I will not be able to attend because of personal engagements.”

Musalia’s remarks come amid claims that all the OKA principals will snub the event.

 Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka is in Juba, South Sudan. So far, there is no word whether Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetangula will attend.

It was also expected that president Uhuru Kenyatta would attend the event but he is in Tanzania for their 60th Independence Day celebrations.

Raila is expected to declare his presidential bid during the declaration.

The party is looking to attendance by 10,000 delegates drawn from ODM and Jubilee, across the country while 50,000 supporters are expected to come on their own from Nairobi and neighbouring counties.

ODM director of elections Junet Mohammed says they have been forced to limit the number of invited guests from each of the 1,450 wards to five people to create room for other guests.

“We have invited five people from each ward; that will be about 7,000. We also have about 3,000 special guests. The other 50,000 are open for supporters of ODM, Jubilee and other parties supporting Azimio La Umoja,” he said.

“Invitations are going on. We have invited dignitaries from outside the country, including former presidents. Remember this man is African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development.”

Mudavadi has been at loggerheads with Raila accusing him of being ‘dishonest on sharing of political parties’ funds among the former NASA parties’.

He has on various occasions accused his competitors of trying to link him with the “failures” of the Jubilee administration.

In a thinly veiled attack against Raila, Mudavadi said those linking him to the Jubilee administration were already in bed with the government.

Although Mudavadi, who is also the former Deputy Prime Minister, has been under pressure to step down and throw his weight behind Raila, he has vowed to go all the way to the ballot in his quest for the presidency.

This leaves him with the staggering task of locking Raila and Deputy President William Ruto out of his Western stronghold.

Unlike Raila and Ruto who enjoy a huge following in their respective backyards of Nyanza and Rift Valley, Mudavadi does not enjoy majority support in his Western backyard.

Luhya is the second most populous ethnic group after the Kikuyu. Apart from the two million voters in Western, there is an estimated one million Luhya voters in other parts of the country.

The headache for Mudavadi is that Luhyas have backed Raila over the years and Ruto is slowly making inroads in Western. Worse, Luyha politicians are divided between backing him, Raila and Ruto.

The challenge for Mudavadi is how he will rally the Western bloc without being seen as using the ethnic card and at the same time maintain a national outlook.

Meanwhile, Raila has dismissed claims of engaging in early campaigns as baseless and unfounded.

Speaking when he met defectors to the Orange Party at Chungwa House, including Marsabit Woman representative Saphia Sheikh Adan, Raila defended his Azimio la Umoja rallies terming them non-political and only meant to unite Kenyans.

“Azimio la Umoja is basically a consultation with Kenyans. I don’t know how that can be interpreted as campaigning,” Raila said yesterday.

He noted that, unlike his competitors, ODM had not picked a presidential candidate, yet, and that his ‘campaigning’ was not factual.

“We have been consulting people around the country. We have been asking people what they want. That cannot be remotely interpreted as early campaigns,” he added.