When he vied for the presidency in the 2013 elections and came a distant third after President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM’s Raila Odinga, many thought he had just written his political obituary.
And when he failed to clinch the presidential candidacy for NASA, it was concluded that the vote-rich Western Kenya would be split because Musalia Mudavadi was not the compromise presidential candidate.
NASA’s deputy presidential candidate Kalonzo Musyoka had even dismissed Mudavadi in unpalatable terms for floating the idea of a national super alliance to take on Jubilee.
While others thought he would walk out of NASA for failing to clinch the presidential candidacy, Mudavadi did not.
Instead he was the one who announced the NASA team at a well-attended rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, that has now put him in the spotlight as a game changer.
But Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria (Jubilee) doesn’t think so.
“When I heard that Musalia is the campaign team leader for NASA, I just said God loves Jubilee. That Jubilee will win is a foregone conclusion,” he thinks.
“Maybe Mudavadi would have been a better presidential candidate if somebody else campaigned for him,” he adds in his usual abrasive tone.
Jubilee Party’s secretary General Raphael Tuju on the other hand downplays Mudavadi’s popularity and role in the NASA campaign.
“I know Mudavadi personally. As a person I have great respect for him. I would never make any negative comments about him. However, come August 8 after the results, we should be ready to accept the decision Kenyans will have made."
But, only a month to the elections, the profile of Musalia, the son of the late Moses Mudavadi, a powerful Cabinet minister in former President Daniel Arap Moi’s cabinet, is riding high.
He is the head of the National Campaign Committee (NACACO) for NASA’s presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his deputy Musyoka.
“He has solidly identified himself as a national leader by strategically placing his Amani National Congress as a national party and NASA a coalition party,” says Nambale MP John Bunyasi, a member of ANC party.
Mudavadi’s bid to vie for presidency in 2013 on AMANI coalition that brought him together with Kanu was viewed by many as a strategic move by the Jubilee coalition to split the Luhya vote, which was considered a stronghold of Mr Odinga.
The March 2013 General Election was a duel between Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee coalition and Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).
Uhuru got 6,173,433 votes (50.51 per cent) and Raila 5,340,546 (43.70 per cent). Mudavadi’s AMANI coalition got 483,981, (3.96 per cent) to come a distant third.
Now things have changed. Raila, Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper, Moses Wetang’ula of Ford Kenya and Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani have come together to form the National Super Alliance.
Mudavadi sees the ultimate victory that would propel NASA to the helm of the national government can only be achieved through the ballot box. “The biggest undoing has been low voter turnout in NASA zones. The only way this battle would be won is if Kenyans turn up in large numbers to vote in NASA,” Mudavadi says.
He says all the praise he is getting will amount to nothing if NASA supporters do not turn out to vote in large numbers.
“The ultimate victory lies in maximum voter turnout in Western, Eastern and Nyanza.”
“He has brought the creative approach and the unification of political parties,” says Bunyasi.
“What took 20 years to unite political parties took only six months. When he came up with NASA, he has completely changed the game.”
Described as a king maker, he attributes Mudavadi’s change of fortunes to a number of personal abilities that have endeared him to many, both friends and foe.
“Although I belong to another political party, Jubilee, Mudavadi is an asset to the people from Western region,” says Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinali, who is defending his seat on a Jubilee ticket.
Pundits say Mudavadi with his new clout could dictate, if not upset, the electoral equation in 2022.