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What a Kalonzo Musyoka 2022 bid means

By Jacob Ng'etich and Josphat Thiongo | September 9th 2021
Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka (centre), accompanied by Makueni MP Dan Maanzo (right), Kitui Senator Enock Wambua (left), addressing press conference at Wiper Party Command Centre on Wednesday, 25 August, 2021. [Samson Wire,. Standard.]

In the 2022 political matrix, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka might turn out to be a decisive factor in who succeeds President Uhuru Kenyatta come next year's polls.

Armed with an approximate 2 million swing votes from the Eastern region, should it fully rally behind him, the former vice president is once again placed with the historical burden of either gunning to be the king or playing the kingmaker.

Whichever option he picks, Kalonzo will decide on which side the chips will fall for all presidential hopefuls, including Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Yesterday legislators from his Wiper party declared that their boss is under obligation to run. He cannot back down or run behind anyone else anymore, they claimed.

While this may be interpreted in the context of the usual horse-trading between coalition partners, the possibility of the Wiper boss stretching it to a logical conclusion presents a lot of problems for other candidates. This partly because he had done it before, and he has everything to gain by doing so.

"Today we must put to rest wild speculations that our party leader would consider deputising Raila in the 2022 presidential contest. This speculation has no basis and it is not one of the options we are even thinking about. Should Kalonzo ever make the decision to support the ODM leader we will assure him of very painful outcomes," said the MPs in their statement.

After the death of NASA, Kalonzo has repeatedly said that he will be on the presidential ballot and he will not step down for anyone after being Raila's running mate in 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

Previously, the Wiper leader has been at crossroads with his political career, after three failed bids to land at the top and with age catching up with him. Besides these, he worries about the incremental gnawing of his once solid base by governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni).

Backroom endorsement

While his allies may have a full-throttle ticket to ride on to their respective seats, he may want it to fully galvanise the region around him for the future. In the recent past, he has made clear pointers that there is no way he could back Raila Odinga for the third time.

"As of now, it is unthinkable that one Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka would support Raila for the third time, if all fails I would rather retire and go back to my Tseikuru home," he said.

Pundits say he must get it right this time round if he is going to remain relevant post-Kenyatta presidency. Yet, with Raila enjoying wider acceptance, including backroom endorsement by President Kenyatta, things do not appear rosy for him. He has often been the target of derision for his political ambivalence and nicknamed ‘watermelon’ but the man who started politics 38 years ago has refused to be written off and could be the nexus between other political kingpins and the presidency.

Should he decide to go through to the ballot, Kalonzo's decision will have huge political ramifications of Ruto, Raila, Mudavadi and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi. For Raila, after the Wiper leader being his running mate in the two general elections, Kalonzo's candidature will deny him 2 million votes, critical enough to make him struggle.

Lower Eastern has slightly over 1.5 million voters going by the latest data from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). That number could rise to two million which is the number of adults enumerated during the 2019 census if IEBC conducts mass voter registration before the polls. In the 2007 disputed presidential election, Mwai Kibaki won the race by slightly over 200,000 votes which suggested that had Raila and Kalonzo partnered, they would have won.

It is Kalonzo who rescued Kibaki when he agreed to support his government when he desperately needed it. In 2013, Uhuru beat Raila with 800,000 and in 2017 by 1.5 million votes in a disputed election. A Kalonzo candidature will therefore weaken further the Raila chances and widen the gap should voting patterns remain the same.

Raila has recently tried to checkmate Kalonzo by approaching governors Mutua, Kibwana and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) hoping that help him secure his votes should Kalonzo bolt out. In April, ODM- in a statement signed by party county chairpersons from Machakos, Makueni and Kitui- said it was wooing Kibwana because he “espouses similar development and pro-reform ideologies” like Raila.

“Today, we had a fruitful discussion with Kivutha Kibwana about national and regional politics and crucially about emerging national and regional development issues,” the statement read by Kitui ODM chairman Peter Munyasya

On the part of Ruto, Kalonzo on the ballot, works form given that it will have denied Raila his strong challenger a critical constituency consequently clearing any hurdles for the DP in his quest for presidency. The DP has also attempted to make inroads in the region, including picking former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama as his UDA party chair.

As his Ukambani point man Muthama, has been reaching out to MPs, professionals, businessmen and grassroots leaders from lower Eastern for consultation on his bottom-up economic model. Some of the key leaders from Ukambani building Ruto’s network include Muthama, former Nairobi deputy governor Jonathan Mueke, MPs Vincent Munyaka (Machakos Town), Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East) and Vincent Musyoka (Mwala).

"He's in for a rude awakening this time round. We are delivering for the Deputy President. He may not have noticed because he's not on the ground," Mueke claimed yesterday.

Political analyst Ishmail Nyaribo says Kalonzo would be attractive to any party because he is amiable and can marshal significant support.

“Even if people fight him and he fights others, they seem to end their fights quickly,” said Nyaribo, a lawyer.

Raila and OKA leaders know the importance of Kalonzo and the numbers he brings to the table. Maanzo claimed that ODM was attempting to build bridges they had burnt, after realising they also need to cross the river.

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