Chief Minister: A poisoned chalice?

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his ANC counterpart Musalia Mudavadi have been promised Prime Minister positions. [Samson Wire. Standard]

Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka share a lot in common, but the Chief Minister position that they have both been promised is what could set them apart.

Mudavadi, 61, and Kalonzo, 68, who have been in the political cold for ten years are eyeing the powerful position which they have been promised by UDA presidential candidate William Ruto and Azimio’s Raila Odinga respectively, if they ascend to power in the August 9 elections.

The two leaders’ have had political journeys that are almost similar, however, after August 9, only one of them will be in government.

Mudavadi and Kalonzo who are considered gentlemen of politics have been vice presidents, Cabinet ministers and are leaders of political parties.

They have unsuccessfully run for the presidency and have been together in CORD and NASA, when they rallied behind the candidature of Raila Odinga in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

Azimio in their coalition agreement deposited at the Registrar of Political Parties presented the name of Wiper leader Kalonzo as Chief Minister.

On the other hand, Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance has promised ANC leader Mudavadi the portfolio of the Chief Minister.

The Wiper leader had initially insisted on being appointed Azimio presidential running mate and bolted out when Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua was appointed by Raila to the position. Kalonzo launched his presidential bid on the same day Ms Karua was unveiled but later returned to the Azimio fold.

“Following wide consultations with my family and supporters and after some deep reflection I have decided to come back to Azimio la Umoja and support Raila Odinga for president and Martha Karua as deputy president,” Kalonzo said.

Mudavadi and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, the Ford-Kenya party leader, have been tasked to deliver 70 per cent of Western region votes to get a third of the Kenya Kwanza alliance government.

Ruto promised the ANC leader the Prime Cabinet Secretary position which will be equivalent to a Prime Minister with his role being to assist the president and deputy president in coordinating and supervising ministries and State departments. 

“Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula have promised to deliver 95 per cent of the Western votes to Kenya Kwanza Alliance while I have asked them to deliver only 70 per cent of the votes in order to be entitled to 30 per cent of our government positions if we win the elections,” the DP said.

On the other hand, the Wiper leader said he was ready to serve the country as the Chief Cabinet Secretary which he said would be the third most powerful position in the Azimio government and would support Raila and Karua in performing their duties.

Notably therefore either Mudavadi or Kalonzo will be third in command in either Ruto or Raila’s government.

But what exactly does the position being eyed by the two seasoned politicians- with over two decades of service as ministers -entail.

Both leaders shelved their presidential ambitions after being promised the post.

A sneak preview of what the Chief Minister position entails can be derived from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Executive order Number one of 2018, which gave Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i powers to chair a committee for the coordination and implementation of all government projects.  

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi said the position that Kalonzo and Mudavadi have been promised is not provided for by law.

“The president will be at liberty to create the position and draw the hierarchy and the roles and responsibilities of the person, but most times it will be to ensure the coordination of the different ministries,” said Mr Mkangi.

President Kenyatta delegated to a Cabinet Secretary the responsibility to oversee the implementation of government projects, a position which critics said was the preserve of the deputy president who was now left without any major responsibilities.

Ruto has publicly said he is not to blame for anything that might have gone wrong during the Jubilee government’s second term since his responsibilities had been given to other people.

Just like in the Jubilee government where Dr Matiang’i was seen to be taking the DP’s lunch, the position of the Chief Minister is likely to create political strife, given that it is likely to dwarf the position of deputy president. The ANC leader who has been in politics for 33 years has more experience than Ruto’s running mate Rigathi Gachagua same to Kalonzo’s 38 years stint in politics compared to Karua’s.

“If the position was not discussed well it will be a recipe for squabbles and political pitfalls. They say the seat is as big or small as the occupier of the office, failure to stipulate the mandates of the position will be potential breeding ground for conflict that will affect the operations of either of the government,” said Mkangi.

Addressing a rally in Nairobi after Kalonzo rejoined Azimio, Raila said the Chief Minister position will be equivalent to the Prime Minister post that he held in the grand coalition government.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech said Mudavadi was a mature politician who has played his politics respectfully and envisaged no political commotion from him.

“We in Kenya Kwanza are confident that once Ruto forms government, all those inside his government will draw energy from each other, any political commotion will depend on who is at the top and his focus. We are confident Ruto will steer the ship towards the direction of a better Kenya,” said Koech.

Former Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow believes that the Chief Minister position will cause friction because the appointees (Mudavadi and Kalonzo) look more senior than the respective presidential running mates making it a possible conflict area.

“I don’t think any president would like to create two centres of power, the chief minister position will easily eat into the powers of the DP, given that the appointee will run the coordination of Cabinet denying the second in command much needed clout in the government, It will bring friction,” said Kerrow.