For a long time, Kenyans considered Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi a blooming flower in the desert. As most leaders thrived on political deceit, he was steadfast and level-headed.
The man, who became an MP in 1989 at 29, stood out for his good judgment and affable personality. He always built valuable bridges and couldn’t hurt a fly.
In Kanu, the soft-spoken politician outshone veterans. Critics called him a ‘systems’ person. When he lost the Sabatia seat in 2002 after briefly serving as vice president, he embraced his shock loss.
As deputy premier in the grand coalition of Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga between 2008 and 2013, at no time did Mudavadi lose his cool despite frustrations he and the ODM camp faced at the hands of bully PNU power brokers. Like US statesman John McCain, he never mistook being gentle for weakness.
During the Kofi Annan-led post-poll mediation in 2008, the man from Vihiga was devoted to the cause. When Gichugu MP Martha Karua and William Ruto of Eldoret North stuck to their guns at the knife-edge Serena talks, Mudavadi had a masterful way of calming storms.
In 2013 and 2017 when he was in Cord and Nasa, Mudavadi spoke truth to power and declared ‘nasa hao’ to push for leadership change. Kenyans recall the day he was cheated out of his presidential dream when Uhuru Kenyatta blamed the ‘devil’ for a botched plan to hand over the ticket to the ANC boss. Yes, he moved on without drama.
Mudavadi could also foretell the future. Speaking in Nyandarua in 2021, he held a bottle upside-down in his mouth and prophesied that the bottom-up economic model would hurt us. Months later, he promised an ‘earthquake’, joined Kenya Kwanza then lady luck struck.
A few days into government, the land economist lost it when he started off with the launch of the office of the wife of the Prime Cabinet Secretary. It earned him backlash from Kenyans.
And last week, he emerged to mock calls for mediation, saying Kenya was just fine.
Mudavadi’s fans are struggling to accept his change of style and ideology. Despite the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio impasse that has caused nearly 50 deaths in street protests, Mudavadi insists we aren’t in an international crisis. He scoffs at calls to invite a mediator.
Speaking in Kwale last week, he quipped that when President Cyril Ramaphosa had a difficult time in South Africa, Kenya was not consulted to mediate, same as when Uganda had problems. He was comparing apples with bananas. How now?
As author Nicole Brown would say, Mudavadi’s metamorphosis is that of the same person with the same name, just a different mindset and a new game.
He fits the character of Johannes, also known as JP Williamson in ‘Mine Boy’ by Peter Abrahams. JP was gentle as a lamb but could also be lurid and boastful – a mishmash of characters!
Mudavadi’s 2032 prospects will depend on his ideals and consistency, not the length he went to defend Kenya Kwanza. In his present job which is nowhere in the Constitution, he shouldn’t blow hot and cold on key issues. He must prove to be the ‘safe pair of hands’ he once promised while seeking the presidency.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
There can’t be palm trees without sand. Same way, there can’t be a future without political stability. Those averse to dialogue are simply enemies of Wanjiku.
In a nation plagued by crises after every election, whoever becomes president – fairly or otherwise – must learn to be magnanimous.
Nothing prevents a ‘handshake’ between Raila and President Ruto if it’s in full public interest. After all, not every handshake is about political positions. The bottom line is harmony. This is why Wanjiku detests sycophancy and is missing Mudavadi’s voice of reason. He should get back his groove.
-The writer is a communications practitioner. Twitter: @markoloo