Mudavadi is a man destined for a bigger pie

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi when he appeared before the National Assembly Defence and Foreign Relations at Continental House, Nairobi on May 15, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Prime Cabinet Secretary Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi has a unique political identity. Often perceived as a reluctant fellow who can’t hurt a fly, his calm demeanour is a weapon.

He shares some traits with late US Senator John McCain. A war veteran who gave Mr Barack Obama a run for his money in the 2008 polls, Mr McCain was civil and soft but had an iron will.

The senator’s 10-minute concession speech, asking Americans to stop the prideful bigotry against blacks, moved the world to tears. Like Mr McCain, Mr Mudavadi’s composure is phenomenal.

Rarely has the ANC leader thrown mad at anyone or used his privileged background to belittle critics. During the Kofi Annan-led post-election mediation in 2008, his devotion to peace as the country bled from post-poll wounds was unwavering.

As Deputy Prime Minister from 2008 to 2013, he maintained his composure despite hostility from PNU hardliners. In the 2013 and 2017 elections while part of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and the National Super Alliance (NASA), Mr Mudavadi spoke truth to power, famously declaring ‘nasa hao’ to push for leadership change.

Even in the face of personal attacks, such as when Uhuru Kenyatta infamously labeled him the ‘devil’ after a failed political deal that would have seen the former VP fly the Jubilee coalition flag, Mr Mudavadi remained unflappable.

Come 2022, his promise of an ‘earthquake’ aborted but upon joining President William Ruto’s government, he eschewed victimhood, the ‘shares’ ideology and the media ridicule that his peers embraced. Instead, he stressed commitment to serving Kenyans.

Mr Mudavadi, also called MaDVD, has now channelled his energies into crafting Kenya’s foremost foreign policy sessional paper, which he promises will revolutionise the country’s diplomacy. In all fairness, the man has performed admirably by Kenyan standards.  

As Raila Odinga prepares to exit the political stage and the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) grapples with internal divisions over ‘village’ politics and the ‘one man one vote and one shilling’ controversy, Mr Mudavadi’s moment could finally be on the horizon.

The man from Vihiga’s prospects hinge on how effectively he capitalises on the evolving political landscape. He must navigate the complexities of Raila’s succession in his favour in the wider western bloc.

As UDA fights intensify, he should come out as a unifying figure destined for a bigger pie in 2027 if push comes to shove in the ruling party. 

His current role demands that he proves himself to be the ‘safe pair of hands’ he once claimed to be.

A strategic approach to diplomacy, particularly by ensuring Raila’s African Union bid succeeds, could earn the ANC leader huge political capital. He recently hosted Raila at his Railways office, promising a well-oiled campaign.

For the record, Mr Mudavadi remains a formidable figure within the Luhya community. Forget Mr Moses Wetang’ula, Mr George Natembeya and Mr Eugene Wamalwa who have been testing the Mulembe waters to no avail.  

If recent happenings are anything to go by, Mr Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya is limping, Mr Natembeya’s appeal is largely rhetorical under ‘Tawe’ movement which died upon arrival. For Mr Wamalwa, observers say he isn’t ready yet for national politics.

Crucially, Mr Mudavadi’s friendship with Ruto and Raila places him in a unique position to garner support, be it for 2027 or 2032.

For now, he must leverage his clout in Kenya Kwanza to win further trust from Ruto and extend his influence nationally.

Any single misstep could jeopardise his political future. Like Lionel Messi, the footballer he so much admires, Mr Mudavadi must chase the ball and aim at the goal with precision. He has the advantage of age and experience.

In the dynamic and often volatile realm of Kenyan politics, his calm and steady approach may indeed be the key to his golden moment. But he badly needs Ruto and Raila.

The writer is a communications practitioner. X: @markoloo