Kalonzo Musyoka's three options in race for State House

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka when he addressed the media over a secret deal with ODM leader Raila Odinga on March 1, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

If you are the impatient type, or unaware of the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s negotiation style, then you are in for a major political heartache. Kalonzo never comes easy, and when he finally does, he is the last man to get on board.  

It is neither easy to cajole nor compel the seasoned politician, who has over the years distinguished himself as a chief negotiator, mediator and deal-breaker in the region, to hurriedly embrace a political pact. This is a reality that restless Dagorreti North MP Simba Arati and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who have been hitting out at the former Vice President in rallies for “delaying the Azimio La Umoja train” will soon come to terms with.    

However, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga and his Narc counterpart Charity Ngilu, know better. Having worked together for over two decades, including in 2002 when they historically ended the ruling party Kanu’s 40-year rule, they are alive to the reality that Kalonzo will either bolt or get on board last.

Amid the impatience from the Azimio camp, Sunday Standard has reliably established a massive effort underway aimed at bringing Kalonzo on board. According to a source within the ODM party, former Head of Public Service Dr Sally Kosgei, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, and governors Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), James Ongwae (Kisii) and Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) are among those tasked with this responsibility.

“In the meantime, Raila has immediately called for an end to the confrontation with his brother Kalonzo,” confided the source last evening.

Kalonzo raised the current storm on Tuesday, when he lifted the lid on his secret pact with Raila signed on April 30, 2017. According to the Wiper leader, Raila is supposed to support his presidential bid this year.

According to Dr Richard Bosire, a political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Kalonzo’s main interest is to remain politically relevant: “He wants to have a chance in government, the only problem is how to manuevre his way there.”

There are three available avenues for Kalonzo – through Azimio, Kenya Kwanza Alliance and One Kenya Alliance. Although less likely, the fourth option would be to pull out of the race altogether and instead identify an alternative flag bearer from his Wiper party.

“He can either join Raila, which means he has to challenge him for the top seat, which is how I view his move to unearth the secret pact with the former Premier, or alternatively go it alone to the ballot,” says Dr Bosire.

The Ruto alternative, says the political scientist, is equally plausible in the event the storm he has kicked off with Raila backfires. Teaming up with former NASA partners, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, would greatly reinforce the anti-Raila narrative. Such would spell doom for Raila.

Nonetheless, says Dr Bosire, the choices for the former Vice President are not easy this time around owing to sustained political competition from his own Ukambani backyard as well as the complication arising from his differences with Raila.  

Despite his impressive credentials as a negotiator, Kalonzo is ironically unable to fix his current standoff with Raila – a matter that made him open the lid on a five-year-old Memorandum of Understanding that he secretly signed with the ODM leader.

Revenue sharing

“This is a typical case of the Swahili adage, mganga hajigangi (a doctor cannot treat oneself). It is unbelievable that a chief negotiator has to seek services of a relatively inexperienced negotiator  (Uhuru) to pull him out of the current mess. He needs to sort this out by himself,” says Dr Bosire.

However, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua says he is not aware of any coalition disputes that Kalonzo has been unable to resolve: “He resolved the tiff with ODM over revenue sharing among NASA coalition partners. What other dispute are we talking about?”

Besides resolving the political parties funding dispute, ODM has similarly been friendly to Kalonzo and MPs allied to his party. For while the Raila party has used its majority within the defunct NASA and in Parliament to kick out MPs allied to former co-principals, Musalia and Wetang’ula, the ODM MPs have spared their Wiper counterparts.

Whereas, for instance, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr and Kathiani MP Robert Mbui remain Senate Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Leader in the National Assembly, respectively, their counterparts including Ford-Kenya party leader himself, were dropped. Wetang’ula was replaced as Senate Minority Leader by Siaya Senator James Orengo, as well as Cleophas Malala as Senate Deputy Minority Leader, who was replaced by Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo, while in the National Assembly,Mumias East MP Ben Washiali was dropped as Deputy Minority Whip.  His position was taken over by Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe.

However, some within Wiper, like Wambua, do not consider their party leader as one confronted with a major dilemma. He also doesn’t comprehend why some people are anxious or are giving Kalonzo ultimatums. 

“What next move are Kenyans waiting for from my party leader? He has been duly nominated by Wiper to run for President and he has accepted the nomination. He has said he is keen on building a coalition of trusted partners in OKA to form a government. What more clarity is needed?” poses Wambua.

Nonetheless, Dr Bosire opines that Kalonzo may have brought to the fore the 2017 pact as a bargaining strategy “to try to position himself and raise his political worth to possible partners for the upcoming elections”.  

“Politics is about negotiations, about what is possible, and I, therefore, think that Kalonzo should calculate properly because he is a younger man and has a longer political runway than Raila,” advises Prof Makau Mutua, head of Raila campaign’s think-tank.

Man of integrity

In an interview with KTN on Wednesday night, Prof  Mutua appealed to Kalonzo “to come to terms with the reality” that Raila was his senior in politics and even in biological age, and that only he can give way first for “his brother” because “it is not possible to flip this equation the other way”.

“And I am not saying this to diminish Mr Musyoka’s importance, he is a man of integrity and a significant player that Azimio requires at this point. We want to win this election with him,” he said.  

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana is similarly in agreement: “Of course, in Azimio, we want everyone on board. And if Kalonzo comes I will not say, No, and I will not begrudge him and his OKA colleagues because we want numbers and that is what counts in elections.”

Kibwana, who alongside the other two governors from Ukambani – Ngilu (Kitui) and Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos) – are embroiled in domestic rivalry, is on record claiming that the Wiper party leader is an overrated politician.

Kalonzo himself has explained that he deliberately wanted to call out national leaders to be responsible, especially after committing themselves to certain agreements.

Nonetheless, Kalonzo maintains that after deep consultation with his party and OKA, he had agreed and was ready to work with Raila “under a structured arrangement of a three-pillar Grand Coalition, akin to the African stool”.

But owing to the slippery nature of politicians, and which Kalonzo is not excluded from, anything could happen. Pundits opine that nothing stops the former VP from bolting out or changing his stance over teaming up with the DP. In the meantime, the Kalonzo waiting game continues. Even in 2002, the scenario was not different. In the early afternoon of Sunday, October 13, Prof George Saitoti, who had been sacked as Vice President alongside Higher Education minister Joseph Kamotho, held a press conference at Nairobi’s Norfolk Hotel to defect to the opposition. This was barely two and a half months away from the General Elections.   

Song and dance

This was just the first in a series of choreographed exercises where all ministers in the Moi government opposed to the handpicking of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kanu’s presidential flag bearer, had agreed to resign. After waiting for Kalonzo in vain and with panic setting in among politicians and their aides who had gathered at Serena Hotel, Raila Odinga (Energy), William Ntimama (State), Adhu Awiti (Planning) and several assistant ministers, including Moody Awori, Andrew Ligale and Orwa Ojode, proceeded to publicly tender their resignations.     

The following day, however, the huge crowd that had thronged Uhuru Park for a rally by opposition leaders broke into ululations, song and dance at the sight of the Mwingi North MP. Kalonzo had apparently resigned that morning and his defection was most celebrated, as he joined the opposition forces to form a united front under Mwai Kibaki, thereby sweeping the boards in the December 29 poll.

Five years later when Raila and Kalonzo joined forces with opposition colleagues, Uhuru and Ruto, to form the Orange outfit after falling out with President Kibaki – Kalonzo was the last politician again to signal his political direction. With Uhuru bolting out much earlier after the 2005 constitutional referendum, Kalonzo kept his colleagues – Raila, Ruto, Ngilu, Musalia Mudavadi, Joseph Nyagah and Najib Balala – in the dark, only to proclaim at the eleventh hour that he was going it alone.      

And later with Ford-Kenya party leader, Wetang’ula and later ANC leader, Musalia, yielding to a Raila candidature under the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and National Super Alliance (NASA), Kalonzo’s endorsement came last in both cases. And when it did, he came through emphatically in his microphone-friendly voice “in support of my brother”.  

“Those expecting a different approach or a different Kalonzo are in dreamland. Kalonzo will still come around – but at his pace and at the very end – with a proclamation of teaming up with Raila, Ruto or going it alone,” observes Dr Bosire.