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Mudavadi on ‘the Raila I know’

By Nzau Musau | December 5th 2019

ODM leader Raila Odinga Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula in a past function. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Thrice drawn by fate to work with “the enigma of Kenyan politics”, Amani National Congress leader has finally unfurled the complex political personality of ODM leader Raila Odinga.

In his autobiography Soaring above: The storms of passion, Musalia Mudavadi describes the inner workings of Raila, from his initial “cooperation” days of post-1997 General Election to the bombshell handshake politics of last year.

In Mudavadi’s eyes, Raila comes out as deceitful in his political dealings yet susceptible to similar games against him; blind to immediate concerns yet astute in rallying people around him; prone to sudden pronouncements yet focused on the bigger picture, often with him at the centre.

He says Raila “ignored the initial consternation” that his 1997 cooperation with Kanu generated in the rest of the opposition. The cooperation idea had been floated by his father, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga before his death in 1994.

“People like Mwai Kibaki, Kijana Wamalwa and Kivutha Kibwana wondered openly whether Raila was not upto some sinister move? Why did he want to cooperate with a government that was deemed beyond redemption? Negative vibes regarding the proposed cooperation came even from his own National Development Party,” Mudavadi says in the book.

The right move

He nevertheless credits Raila for the move, saying he had made the right dial at the time. His star was on the rise while conversely, the stars of those within Kanu itself were beginning to dim. The most troubled lot, Mudavadi reveals, was an axis of Cabinet ministers, the late Joseph Kamotho and the late George Saitoti.

Kamotho held several dockets including that of Education and Local Government, while Saitoti, a former vice president, held Finance, Internal Security and Education portfolios.

“They were extremely ill at ease. Throughout 2001, they resisted efforts to merge the two parties. However, President Moi overrode them,” Mudavadi says.

Unfortunately for Raila, he says, his star was growing “side by side” with that of Uhuru Kenyatta. And this while Moi was making it categorical that he would leave reins of power to youthful politicians. With Uhuru being a newcomer and “the reluctant politician”, Raila believed he was the chosen one.

“Raila clearly believed that he would be the third president of Kenya. While I have no clear evidence to this effect, I have always believed that Moi had promised him something futuristic,” he says.

As it was, Uhuru turned out to have been Moi’s choice, triggering a split within Kanu. Mudavadi describes as a faux pas (tactless act) his flip-flopping ahead of the election that saw him bolt out of Kanu and return shortly thereafter.

The election came and Mudavadi was consigned to political oblivion. He would be reunited with Raila again in Banana versus Orange’s campaigns of 2005 when a new party, ODM, was birthed from the spoils of the referendum.

In this pre-2007 election, Mudavadi describes Raila as a victim of tribal characterisation by ethnic-minded elite, pollsters and sections of media. For one, he says, Raila’s pre-2005 pitches for delivery of a new constitution promise was misunderstood for an attack on President Kibaki.

“They trivialised the quest for constitutional reforms to an attempt to wrest power from Kibaki, to give it to Raila. Even sections of the Press did not get it,” he says.

Later in post-referendum days, a picture would be painted, together with matching opinion poll results, that Raila was unelectable. Mudavadi says this notion partly informed his support for Raila after he lost the ODM primaries in circumstances he considered to have been choreographed.

In the primaries, Mudavadi would begin to come to terms with the political personality of Raila. By that time, Kalonzo Musyoka, one of the ODM luminaries had decamped with the party, forcing them to settle on an alternate ODM shell party owned by lawyer Mugambi Imanyara.

“The delegates list was completely gerrymandered. All along, someone’s key people in charge of the secretariat were guiding the outcome in a very specific and predictable manner,” he says of the ODM primaries.

A quick succession of events revealed the game plan. A surprise move to have the candidates running for the presidential ticket to address the party delegates at Kasarani did the trick.

The first candidate, Najib Balala, announced he was pulling out in favour of Raila as did the second, Joseph Nyagah. He says the move threw the other candidates, including himself and William Ruto, into disarray. The clear intent was that they, too, should pull out, he reasons.

“But Balala did more than this. He engaged in a lap of honour around the auditorium. He seemed to be in high spirits. It was clear that he had made a deal with Raila, I do not know to what good, however,” he says.

And what added to the show, Mudavadi says, was that Balala, currently Tourism Cabinet Secretary, did the lap of honour in tears.

“I have never known why he was crying. Was he happy that he had a load off his back, or was there some other reason? Maybe we will get to know someday. I was not amused by this game plan, however.”

In the end, Raila won the primaries and surprised them by announcing the formation of a ‘pentagon’, as well as that Mudavadi would be his ‘running mate’. Never mind there was no such position at the time. Immediately after the election, Raila pulled another card out of his sleeve, bringing Charity Ngilu into the picture despite resistance from within. He says this move brought a lot of confusion and cost ODM seats in the actual election.

Ngilu is the current Kitui governor. “All these pronouncements had probably been discussed silently behind the scenes. Some of us did not know anything about this until late. We heard of this virtually at the eleventh hour,” he says.

Later in the post-2007 election period, Mudavadi reveals, Raila was torn between giving him the deputy PM position or handing it to someone else. This, despite the clear message that had been sold during the campaign that Mudavadi was the running mate.

“He seemed to have quietly made promises to other people about the post-election dispensation.”

He says though Raila was not solely to blame for the rebellion in ODM that saw Ruto leave the party at the height of ICC, “his own utterances and those of his acolytes” did not help him at all. He also took some hot potato assignments like the Mau evictions with gusto, and to his own peril. Mudavadi says he, too, fell to the foul tongue of Raila’s associates.

“The build-up to my exit was characterised with scornfulness by some of Raila’s close associates. Jakoyo Midiwo and Otieno Kajwang’ were the most visible and voluble.”

He settled for United Democratic Forum, before later forming Amani National Coalition that ran against both Raila and Uhuru in 2013 General Election, fairing dismally. He would later come back to the Raila fold in the run-up to the 2017 polls through the NASA coalition.

Mudavadi seems to suggest that the NASA management committee that identified Raila as the coalition’s 2017 flag bearer may have been influenced from behind the scenes. In the book, Mudavadi says Raila on several occasions played them in the aftermath of the cancelled 2017 presidential poll.

While announcing that he was pulling out from the race, Raila surprised them as well as the nation that he would be making an important earth-shaking announcement on October 26, the day before the repeat poll. He says neither he nor his colleagues had any idea what that was.

Vague announcement

Later, it turned out to have been a damp squib. He announced that he would not recognise Uhuru after the repeat poll.

“But Tinga, that is what we have been saying all along. What is new about that? That cannot be the big announcement we have been promising the world?” he recalls  Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula quipping before Raila groped around for a response.

In place of the vague announcement, the team crafted a non-violent resistance message to be revealed at Uhuru Park that day. Again, at Uhuru Park, Raila pulled another card, announcing the transformation of NASA to National Resistance Movement.

“This was completely unexpected. We had not discussed it let alone agreed on it. He would explain to us later that seeing that the crowd was not sufficiently enthused by what he was reading, it had suddenly occurred to him he should make this proclamation,” he writes.

And then there was the matter of controversial swearing-in and later the handshake. Mudavadi says Raila kept swinging from one end of the pendulum to another on the swearing-in, depending on his audience. On one hand, he would agree to diplomatic pressure against it, but on the other, he would vouch for it in some meetings. At one point he was urging NASA principals to proceed to announce the postponement of the swearing-in while he was about to be sworn in at businessman Jimi Wanjigi’s house.

“Raila seemed to have been shocked to watch us on TV, calling off the swearing-in. He is reported to have said, Oh, so they are calling it off?” Mudavadi writes before the secret plan was called off.

He would eventually be sworn in, in similar deceitful terms, Mudavadi says, and proceed to undertake a political handshake behind their back.

“There was not even the slightest hint that anything of this kind could be going on. The handshake of Friday, March 9, between the two gentlemen, came as a shocker.”

In the book, Mudavadi appears to regret the 2017 boycott of the repeat poll. He reveals that there was no consensus on the matter.

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