At 8.17am on December 13, Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi checked in at State House and an hour later after a tete-a-tete with President Uhuru Kenyatta, they were airborne to Garissa aboard Kenya Air Force One.
The president had two engagements, unveiling Kenya’s newest army barracks and home to the 6th Brigade and inaugurating the 50MW Garissa Solar Power plant in Mbalambala, Garissa County. The plant is the largest solar energy installation in East and Central Africa.
Apart from the presidential orderlies in the French-manufactured Puma helicopter, Mudavadi was the only outsider on board and pundits are now reading in between the lines.
But unknown to Kenyans is that a night before, President Kenyatta had a three-hour meeting with Mudavadi at his (Uhuru) residence on Dennis Pritt Road, Nairobi, in what could signal deepening ties.
The meeting started a few minutes before 9pm and went on late into the night. According to sources, the president had to finish with some of the leaders whom he had exclusively invited to his home after the Garden party at State House before the meeting with Mudavadi.
“The two leaders had their meeting late into the night, those at the president’s private residence had long left,” said the source who sought anonymity.
The ANC leader’s presence at the commissioning of Modika Barracks and launch of Soldier’s Legacy, a book documenting the 55-year history of the Kenya Army and the soldiers who stood at the front line to defend Kenya, was quite telling.
“His presence at the launch of the barracks and the Solar project with the president Kilometres away after flying with him in the same chopper is quite telling, it only signals bigger things,” says Dismas Mokua, political risk analyst with Sadiki East Africa.
He notes that the two enjoy close ties that date back to decades and there coming together was not ordinary.
Mudavadi in an interview with Sunday Standard said that the trip with the president was just that, a visit “Kenyans should not read much in this trip.”
Lugari MP and ANC deputy leader Ayub Savula, says that indeed the two leaders met and the party does not mind the deepening of ties.
But the president and Mudavadi’s political relationship dates back to their times in Kanu when they were ministers in the former President Moi Cabinet in the nineties.
Then Kenyatta was the minister for Local government while Mudavadi was the Minister of Transport and Communication.
However, the relationship was jolted after the famous mademoni remarks where Kenyatta claimed that dark forces led him to consider abandoning his presidential ambition in favour of the ANC leader.
Kenyatta told TNA party delegates that he had resolved to drop out of the presidential race after being coerced by some dark forces to step down for Mudavadi for the Jubilee alliance presidential ticket.
The leaders went separate ways and Kenyatta who paired with Deputy President William Ruto won the elections with the ANC leader coming third.
Two weeks ago ANC party held a parliamentary group meeting in a Nairobi hotel and unanimously agreed that they should ‘not go hard’ on President Kenyatta, a move that could suggest a need to give room for deeper ties.
“We firmly believe that Mudavadi should work closely with President Kenyatta, we will ask him to go slow on hitting the government,” says Mr Savula.
The president’s allies have previously held series of meetings with Mudavadi that could have escaped the eyes of Kenyans but this points to a political strategy in the making.
“There have been continuous talks between our party and Uhuru allies,” says Savula.
On Boxing Day last year, Mudavadi hosted leaders in his Mululu home in Vihiga County including Jubilee vice chair and the president’s ally David Murathe, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
Mr Murathe’s would later be the guest of honour at the Vihiga cultural festival.
Earlier, the Jubilee vice chair hosted Mudavadi and the president’s cousin and de facto spokesman of the Kenyatta family, Capt Kungu Muigai.
It is at the Mululu meeting where Murathe said he will make sure that Ruto retires together with Kenyatta in 2022.
The ANC leader has been meeting leaders from central Kenya in his bid to build alliances ahead of 2022.
And the ANC women league has kicked a countrywide campaign to drum up support for Mudavadi.
The campaign dubbed ‘elect Mudavadi for prosperity’ is spearheaded by Vihiga Woman Rep Beatrice Adangala.
On Friday Ms Adangala said the drive also targets to mobilise women to actively get involved in the electioneering process and vote for credible leaders.
Speaking in Kitale after a meeting with local women, the Woman Rep expressed confidence that Mudavadi is a visionary leader.
“We are meeting women countrywide and the campaign is encouraging. Majority of Kenyan women have pledged their support for the ANC party leader,” said Adangala.
“As women we want to declare that we are not going to support corrupt leaders. We want credible leaders to ascend to power,’’ said former nominated MCA Teresa Masibo.
- Additional reporting by Osinde Obare