If they don’t grope towards each other with a sense of joint purpose, political survival will be a big challenge
When they failed to turn up for ODM leader Raila Odinga’s mock swearing-in on January 30, 2018, they fastened their joint fate in a triple-knot. Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) will stand together, or perish separately.
They are the latter day Three Musketeers, in the fashion of Alexandre Dumas’ three inseparable characters in his 1844 eponymous novel. Like Dumas’ characters, their motto in 2020 and beyond must be “One for all and all for one”.
Although each has his own space, his followers and his core merits, their political future reposes in remaining loyal to each other. They may each believe in their own abilities and unstoppable force. They may know each other’s weaknesses and dislike them. Yet all this may not count for much for any one of them. Fate has bound them together for survival or destruction, whichever they will choose. If they will not deliberately grope towards each other with a sense of joint purpose, political survival will be a big challenge.
The positioning of the Raila swearing left them with significant sludge on the face. Two years later, they still have image repair issues. Raila’s friends and foes alike characterised them as spineless and lily-livered, notwithstanding the futility of the swearing in vis-à-vis the real control of the instruments and benefits of State power.
At the time of the swearing in, a significant swathe of their National Super Alliance (NASA) fraternity actually believed that the event would spin around the wheel of history. They believed that the Jubilee government would collapse. Raila would take over.
In the moment of truth and frustrated consciousness to reality, NASA diehards had to find something to strike at. The ‘three musketeers’ were the best objects. They were painted in all manner of ridiculous colours. It did not help matters that some of them had previously made costly political missteps, or waffled over critical national issues in times of reckoning.
For the Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader, Mudavadi, his historical waterloo was returning to Kanu in 2002 after Raila had led out of the party what would become the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) squad in the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). For Wiper Party’s Kalonzo, the sin was his apparent doublespeak and waffling during the 2010 campaigns for Kenya’s new Constitution. Ford-K’s Wetang’ula has had a more resolute history, regardless that he makes popular or unpopular decisions. He has not winced or faltered. However, on January 30, he was guilty by association.
To their credit, the three NASA musketeers have held together in the face of what can only be described as being jointly ditched by ODM.
Raila’s youthful and loud political town criers in the incarnation of MPs John Mbadi, Junet Mohamed, TJ Kajwang’, Godfrey Osotsi, Opiyo Wandayi, Samuel Atandi and Senator Cleophas Malalah are in the habit of ridiculing them at every opportunity. The objective is to keep them looking irreparably dirty and dull, to the extent that they are ruled out for any useful role in the 2022 succession arena.
The other thread of this tactic is to roll Deputy President William Ruto through political sewage, and to go on to associate the three with him. In a country where tribal ethnic formations are critical in alliances that compete for the presidency, this leaves the three musketeers in a tight spot. For in 2022 they must be a part of a bigger alliance to keep their hopes alive.
So far, the frontrunners appear to be the deputy president and the ODM leader. ODM is teasing the three musketeers to pick out of three choices – to join Raila as his juniors, to run alone and lose, or to join Ruto and be seen to be part of the sewer that ODM has fashioned out as the DP’s docket.
Whichever way you look at it, the three musketeers have entered 2020 with difficult political choices before them. The situation is compounded by a lack of clarity on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s own game plan for 2022 and beyond. Last year, the president told a public gathering in his backyard that he would shock the country in 2022. Whatever he has in the bag is anybody’s guess.
Lately, people close to Uhuru, among them former Gatanga MP David Murathe, have suggested that the president could be calculating to rule the country beyond 2022. Any overtures that he makes towards the other giants in the political arena must be seen through lenses that capture the possibility of this intent.
If the president courts you, like he has courted the ODM leader and has also seemed to court the ANC leader, you would be unwise to ignore the possibility that you could only be a pawn in a bigger scheme. You must seek to consciously widen your horizon.
The three NASA musketeers get into 2020 with a workload of challenges. Some they will have to address jointly while each must also sort out his own corner. Collectively, they enter the new year with unresolved business around the Political Parties Fund. According to the NASA coalition agreement of April 2017, ODM is supposed to share with each of the parties a portion of funds the Orange party receives from the statutory fund.
Workload of challenges
ODM has since disowned them, with the Office of Registrar of Political Parties sending out conflicting signals on the right position before the law. The ANC, WDP and Ford-K leaders need funds to run their parties and to keep themselves in focus for future competitions and opportunities. They have this riddle to sort out in the new year. Equally important is the need for them to sort out the health of the coalition.
While they did not capture State power in 2017, the need for regular consultative and other formal meetings within the coalition remains. It is understood that with the frosty relations between them on the one hand and Raila on the other, meetings have ground to a halt. The future of the coalition hangs precariously in the balance.
Going forward, they would do well to jointly agree about future co-operation with other heavyweights rather than negotiating with outsiders each on his own. Going hand in hand with collective concerns, Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula must each chew gum and run. They must address their corners.