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Kalonzo holds the key to NASA’s leadership quest

By Makau Mutua | Published Sun, March 19th 2017 at 00:01, Updated March 19th 2017 at 00:03 GMT +3

The National Super Alliance (NASA), the political juggernaut that could sweep Jubilee out of power, smells blood in the water. Everyone knows there’s acute indigestion in the house that Jubilee leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto built.

Kanu, a growing powerhouse in the Rift Valley, could undercut Mr Ruto’s value to Jubilee. The menace of the International Criminal Court, which brought Mr Kenyatta and Ruto together, is history. Simply put the duo has no compelling emotion to sell to the Kelenjin and Kikuyu. Their record in office in the last four years has been dismal. Even so, they have the advantage of incumbency. But they’ve panicked. Their only hope of retaining power is putting NASA asunder.

Let me tell you what NASA should guard against, and what could be its Waterloo. These factors could put NASA asunder. First, NASA is working on a political model that can’t be replicated. It’s trying to recreate NARC — but that’s impossible.

The stars were perfectly aligned for NARC in 2002. Kenyans were universally tired of Kanu.

Kanu itself was tired, and had lost any reason to rule. Mr Kenyatta, then picked as Kanu’s flagbearer, was a political novice. Except in the Rift Valley among the Kalenjin, Kanu had lost purchase everywhere else in the country. As proof of Kanu’s lost glory, NARC’s Mwai Kibaki beat Mr Kenyatta like a drum. The outcome was never in doubt.

Today, no one can predict with any certainty who will win in August. Only bloviators and propagandists are selling snake oil. Unlike 2002 when— Luo, Kamba, and Luhya—– are together. The Coast, Kisii, and the northern frontier will remain constant as they were in 2012 — largely in the Opposition.

All told, that’s not tribal math NASA can take to the bank. The Kikuyu-Kalenjin duopoly remains a formidable force, even if it’s now hobbling — and gasping for air. That’s why NASA needs to realise that the 2002 chessboard isn’t available. NASA is working on a razor thin margin. A single defection among the principals will collapse humpty dumpty.

Second, unlike 2002, there’s a real contest for the flagbearer. It’s true that ODM’s Raila Odinga — the most senior and seasoned of the NASA quartet — is the early favourite. There can be no doubt that Mr Odinga is the pivot of the Opposition and the sole reason NASA has come together. But this is the question — does Mr Odinga want to be king, or kingmaker? He has two plausible challengers — Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi.

Between Mr Mudavadi and Mr Musyoka, the smart money is on Mr Musyoka. In fact, Mr Musyoka is the ace in any matrix under which NASA has a chance of unseating Jubilee. Simply put, Mr Musyoka must either be numero uno or numero dos.

Some NASA brainiacs think the Opposition is built on the Western Strategy. This is an argument about pure numbers — that Nyanza and Western votes are indispensable. I agree. But to stop the argument there would be foolish and lead to certain defeat. This is where the Eastern Strategy comes in. Mr Musyoka is the only one with the key to the Eastern Gate. Mark this down — NASA will be sent home by Jubilee if Mr Musyoka doesn’t use his key to open the Eastern Gate. It’s fair to assume that he can do so as either numero uno or numeros do — nothing less. Are Mr Odinga and Mr Mudavadi prepared to accept this reality? If they don’t, then NASA is dead.

Third, each of the four principals — especially those who lose in the sweepstakes for the two top slots — must be committed to whipping their surrogates and followers to vote for NASA. If any one of them becomes a sore loser and equivocates on being anti-Jubilee then the game is lost.

These wounds can be bound in advance by giving the losers ironclad promises of prominent positions in a NASA government. One way is to create a premiership or the office of chief minister. Another is to extract from Mr Odinga, if he’s the chosen one, a one-term presidency. NASA has no margin for error. The principals should play the game as though their lives depend on it.

Fourth, Jubilee is walking behind NASA like the proverbial hyena — waiting for the arm to drop off. But every analyst knows Jubilee is doing more. Jubilee will harass, persecute, and prosecute the NASA principals on the flimsiest of excuses.

You’ve already seen Jubilee hatchet man — the NGO Board’s Fazul Mohamed — going after Mr Musyoka. Jubilee has been after Mombasa governor Hassan Joho. Expect Jubilee to step up the gestapo tactics of the police state against NASA.


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